When I tell people that I make my own chicken broth they look at me funny. It’s the same look that I get when I say that I have five garden boxes, or that I love parsnips, turnips, and rutabagas. Most people think that making your own chicken broth is equivalent to raising your own chickens (that is coming next year). But chicken broth is so easy, cheap, and efficient that there is no reason that everyone can’t do it. It’s also great if you are watching your sodium intake. You don’t have to add any salt if you don’t want to, the herbs more than make up for the flavor. It’s also very environmentally friendly. You are reusing what you would otherwise put in the trash to make yourself more (and more delicious) food. And think about the carbon that you are not using when the product doesn’t have to be manufactured, packaged, shipped, and then stored at your grocery store. I promise, if you try to make your own broth you will be pleasantly surprised.
The first thing that you have to do, and it will usually take a few months, is to save up all your chicken and turkey bones. If you have a rotisserie chicken (like with yesterday’s chicken salad) save the bones (but not the skin). If you have a large bone in turkey breast, save that. If you make a roast chicken, save everything but the skin (this includes the neck and giblets too). The same goes with your Thanksgiving turkey, save it all. Once you have a carcas, just put it in a plastic bag and put it in the freezer. Once you have 4-5 saved up, you can make a big vat of broth.
Another important part of this recipe is having a large stock pot. I am not talking a 1 gallon “large” soup pot. Oh, no. I am talking about the ginormous 5-10 gallon thing that your grandmother probably had. A pot so big that I snorted and looked in amazement when my mother in law gave me one (and revere ware none the less. I am thankful every time I do this). You can get them for fairly cheap at Bed Bath and Beyond or Target. We got one (that is a bit smaller) for our wedding. It is great if you can get it with a steamer and/or pasta insert. I use both of ours for canning and they work great. As long as you have a place to store them, this is a very worthwhile purchase.
I always wondered what the difference is between chicken broth and chicken stock. They are fundamentally the same, except that chicken stock is a bit more substantial. Broth is made with mostly the meat. Stock, on the other hand, is made with the bones and carcas of the bird. The long simmering of the stock gelatinizes the bones, and that gives the stock much more body and heft. It is perfect if you want to make chicken noodle soup. Stock makes for a much more substantial soup.
If you don’t have any home made stock on hand, store bought broth is your best friend. I keep a minimum of 3 boxes of it in my pantry. That way I always know that I have enough on hand. You can use it to make a quick veggie soup, or put in broth instead of water for much more flavorful rice, couscous, or quinoa. If you are using it where the broth is a center ingredient make sure that you flavor it up with herbs. It tends to be rather plan otherwise.
The other new technique in this recipe is a herb bundle. If you are lucky enough to be in the summer and have fresh herbs from your garden then that is the way to go. Pick several stems of each type of herb you want to use. Make sure that they are plenty long. Wash them and tie them all together with string. Be careful not to use colored string–otherwise you will end up with blue soup like Bridget Jones. Tying them together in this way allows for easy removal of the herbs later, since you don’t want them to stay in your broth.
If, like now, you don’t have any herbs in your garden yet (no matter how much you look for little seedlings every morning) you will need to make a herb packet. For this you will need some cheesecloth. You can buy this handy cooking fabric at your grocery store. All you have to do is pile up your dry herbs in the middle. Then gather the edges around and tie it in a knot just above the seasonings. Hang the excess out of the pot, held in place by the lid. You want to do a herb packet because otherwise you will have all those little dry herbs floating around in your broth. As you know, this is not what you want. By making a packet the flavor gets into the stock but getting all the little flakes out is super simple–they never get in in the first place!
- 4-5 chicken carcases. Include the gizzards, necks, and bones, but not skin.
- 1 onion, quartered
- 3 celery stalks, washed and halved. (Don’t be afraid to use the leaves–they have a lot of flavor)
- 3 carrots, peeled, halved
- Optional: 1/2 head of fennel (I don’t like fennel)
- 3-5 whole garlic cloves, paper removed
- 1 inch dime size peeled fresh ginger
- 2 bay leaves
- Salt to taste (I did 1 Tbsp, but it is up to you)
- Herb Bundle (take your pick, or add more, of the herbs listed): 5-8 sprigs (1 Tbsp dry) each parsley, sage, oregano, tarragon, marjoram. 10 whole pepper corns and 3 whole cloves (optional) in the cheesecloth if you are doing dry. Otherwise just toss them in.
- Anything else you want for spices. I also put in some fenugreek.
- Enough water to cover (probably 1-2 gallons)
- Put it all in the pot.
- Bring to a boil.
- Reduce and simmer for 6-8 hours.
- Skim off the gunk from the top every 15 min for the first hour. And then every couple of hours after that (I rarely have gunk).
- Put a small holed strainer or colander over another large container (enough to hold all the liquid). Pour the stock in so that the solids are strained out. I compost the veggies. After 8 hours all of the goodness has been boiled out.
- Put the container with the stock in a sink/larger container of ice water to cool it down. Technically you should cool it to 40 deg, but I’m usually not that patient. You need to cool it this way becuase if you put it hot into the fridge it will still be warm the next day, it won’t cool fast enough and bacteria might grow.
- Put it into the fridge overnight.
- The next morning skim off the solidified fat from the top.
- Put it into smaller containers and freeze. I usually put it into gladware. It is easier than plastic bags to store, in my opinion. But I have been known to put it in gallon bags too.
- Use any where that calls for chicken stock or chicken broth.