As I mentioned recently, one of the best parts about roasting chickens is using the leftover bones to make chicken stock. Making stock can be as simple as roasting a chicken or buying a rotisserie chicken, using the meat, and then boiling the leftover bones in some water for an hour or two (with whatever veggies I might have around), then straining it. That’s how I often make stock. I use it right away, or freeze it for later use. However, I occasionally want to sock away a larger amount, and buy the raw materials to make a big batch of stock from scratch.
So what is the difference between stock and broth? Though it is mildly controversial, the definition I’ve always understood is that stock is made primarily from bones, and that it very mildly seasoned. Broth is usually more seasoned, and made with both meat and bones. Broth is generally ready to serve, while stock is more concentrated and used as an ingredient or base (and is therefore more versatile). This is why I don’t add salt to stock–if it is reduced, it can often become too salty.
One of the most important parts of a good stock is to roast the bones before making the stock. This adds to the depth of flavor, and also allows the bones to better break down in the liquid. I started with the remains of the two chickens I roasted in my last post. Since I wanted to make a lot, I also bought about 5 lbs of raw chicken necks and backs. They are very inexpensive (even for organic), and they have a high ratio of bones to meat, which is perfect for stock.
Yes, those are chicken feet. I also roasted about 3 lbs of chicken feet. They are totally optional, but they are a fantastic source of natural gelatin, which causes your stock to be rich and have a great mouthfeel. I get mine from a local Mexican grocery store, and I’ve also found them at Asian grocery stores around Oakland. I have heard that butcher shops can be a source, but you wont find them at chain stores like Safeway.
As you may have noticed, much of what I cook is pretty loose in the recipe department. I’m certainly the type of cook who likes to throw things together, and have found that in most cases, everything works out fine. Stock is a perfect example of that. Buy some meat and bones. Roast them till they get brown and crispy. How long? It doesn’t really matter, because you will be cooking them again in the water. How hot? I think I used 400 degrees, but it’s not very important.
After you roast the meat, get out a pot that will be filled about 2/3 with your roasted bones. I used a 12 quart stock pot, and had 5 lbs of backs and necks, 3 lbs of feet, and the bones from two large roasted chickens. You certainly don’t need to make as much. I then added some vegetable scraps. I often freeze trimmings for later use, so happened to have some fennel tops and the top 1/2 of a leek in the freezer, so I added them. I also had just cut some corn off the cob, so threw in the cobs as well. At this stage, you don’t want to use good veggies–they will be boiled to death anyway, so don’t bother with your good stuff (that is phase 2).
Then fill up the pot with filtered water, and put it on to boil. Once it comes to a boil (it takes a long time in a big pot like mine), reduce to medium-low and leave it alone. For a long time. Like 6-10 hours. Did I mention this is a good Saturday project? The time is key, because you want the bones and other goodies to really break down, to give off all of their goodness into the stock. My goal is to have stock that really thickens in the fridge. You see this ?
The stock on the spoon had spent the night in the refrigerator. When it came out, it was the consistency of one of those jello jigglers, or a jello shot if you were that kind of college kid. This means it’s a really great stock, ready to be transformed into sauces, soups, and used as a base for many other kitchen adventures.
So anyway, let it cook for a long time. Poke around in there occasionally to take inventory, and don’t be afraid to nudge apart big chunks of things. Once it looks like everything is loose and broken down, turn off the heat and let it cool for a bit. Once the stock is warm but not going to burn you, strain it through a strainer and throw away all of the chunky stuff. At this point, you have a choice. You can decide you’re done and store the stock then. If so, you will want to strain it again through a finer mesh strainer, or even better, through cheesecloth or a dishtowel. This isn’t necessary, but does ensure the stock is really clear.
The other option is to store it overnight in a bowl in the fridge, then re-heat it to flavor and clarify it the next day. That is what I did this time. The next morning, I scraped off the accumulated fat from the top of the bowl (sorry–forgot to take pics of this stage…no coffee yet), then put it back into a pan to finish. I switched to my 6-quart stock pot at this point, as you lose a significant amount of volume due to evaporation and removing all the solids. Of course, you could add more water at this point, but there’s really no need. I’d rather let my stock concentrate and get really strong, so that it takes up less space. Then when I use it, I can dilute it at least 1-1 with fresh water.
I melted the stock down, then added some fresh veggies. I added a couple of sliced carrots, 3-4 stalks of sliced celery, a couple of cloves of garlic, and a sliced onion. I let it cook for about an hour to impart the flavor of the veggies, then lifted them out with a slotted spoon and transferred them to my food processor. Though they are a bit mushy to use for soup, they make a fantastic soup base as a puree (more on that coming soon!)
I then strain as described above to get rid of smaller bits, and am ready to store the heavily reduced stock. This time, I used the pressure-canner, which I’ll describe in my next post. But that’s definitely not necessary. You can certainly freeze any stock you wont use in the next few days.
I know this is a long post, but I hope it’s been helpful. The same process works with beef, veal, pork, or a combination (but have the butcher slice any larger bones to expose the marrow). Fish or shrimp stock and veggie stock are much faster and simpler, so we’ll save those for another day!