I think everyone has had enough of winter by now. We’ve had over 100 inches of snow in one month here in lovely MA and it has also been freezing cold. Even if they could manage to get themselves over the immense snow banks, it’s too cold for my little nuggets after about 10 minutes. I’ve had it. The only silver lining I can find is that I have really been on a roll in the kitchen.
With more time indoors and at home, I’ve had the ability to try new things or make meals that usually take a little more time. One meal my whole family universally loves is roasted chicken. Who doesn’t?? With these long days, I’ve had the time to roast a chicken once a week. One 4 pound chicken will give us 1 dinner and extra meat for lunches for the following few days. What I love most though, is saving the bones to make stock.
Making stock was one skill I always wanted to master. The act of making stock is so fulfilling. It is the best way to get back to our primal nature of using the whole animal. I feel like I truly honor the chicken by using it in its entirely, without waste. It is also a great way to access some of the best nutrients, such as minerals and gelatin. Although there is some debate around the benefits of bone broth or stock, everyone can admit that stock can make an ordinary soup into something wholesome and nurturing, with a whole depth of delicious flavors to boot.
They key to making delicious stock is time. The carcass needs to simmer at a low temperature for as long as possible to extract the nutritious and yummy goodness. I have fond memories of my grandmother’s stockpot working away on the stove. However, having two young kids and interest in leaving the house, this method just doesn’t get the job done. The solution is the ever-useful slow cooker.
All you need is your chicken carcass, water, a tablespoon of vinegar, salt, and an assortment of veggies for added flavor. Put it all in your slow cooker and let it do the work all day. Here are some tips I use to get the most out of my stock:
- Use quality water, whatever you would drink.
- Add vegetables to enhance flavor/nutrients. Typically, I always use onion, carrots and celery. However, I also save vegetable bits, such as, broccoli stems, asparagus ends, or kale stems. It’s a great way to reduce vegetable waste and add flavor to your stock.
- If using fresh herbs, add them for the last hour of cooking, since they are more delicate.
- Leave the skin on your onions to enhance stock color. Cool trick I learned.
- The longer your stock cooks, the better. I typically start it in the morning and end it after the kids go to bed (8:00 or so). You can also have it go overnight.
- Freeze your finished stock in 1 or 2 cup increments for later use.
- If you have a chicken carcass but you aren’t ready to make stock, freeze it. When you are ready, just pop it into the slow cooker. No need to defrost beforehand.
Getting into the habit of making stock, is a great way to enhance your recipes and feel good about the way you make the most of food. The slow cooker makes this daunting endeavor, easy and doable in our busy lives. It requires a little effort, but the reward is worth every drop. Enjoy!
- 1-2 chicken carcasses (bones with skin, extra fat removed)
- 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- Enough water to submerge chicken
- 2 tsp salt
- Assorted vegetables (carrots, celery, onion, broccoli/kale/asparagus stems, herbs)
- Add all ingredients to a slow cooker, except for any fresh herbs if using.
- Set slow cooker on high (4 hour) and cook for 2 hours.
- Reduce slow cooker to lowest setting (10 hour) and cook for as long as possible, 8 hours minimum is ideal.
- Stop the slow cooker and allow to cool down for a half hour to one hour. I usually remove the whole ceramic bowl containing the stock to expedite cooling.
- Set up a mesh strainer over a large bowl. Pour stock through strainer to remove chicken bones and veggies.
- Allow stock to cool and refrigerate overnight.
- Remove stock from refrigerator and skim any fat off the top. The stock should be gelatinous, like a bowl of jell-o.
- Use within a few days or freeze for later use.