Chicken Stock: Food of the Gods, or Just Frozen Convenience?

So, I may have waxed poetic about homemade chicken stock before. I may have gone on and on about how I won’t buy it again, because homemade is so much better.

Well, I was wrong.

I will NEVER BUY chicken stock, because what you can purchase at most grocery stores is chicken BROTH. A very very different thing entirely. Both give you that “there might have once been a chicken near this pot” taste, but chicken STOCK gives you so much more! If you have ever watched Good Eats, you have no doubt seen Alton Brown talk about the “lip-smacking goodness” of collagen, the main ingredient in chicken STOCK and completely absent in chicken BROTH.

Collagen is a compound extracted from animal bones using simmering water. Oh, yeah, this post is not for the faint or vegetarian of heart. I’ll do a grain next week. 🙂 Promise. It is also the original jell-o. I mean that literally – unflavored gelatin is primarily made of collagen (which is why you won’t see vegetarians eating jell-o, unless they made it using agar-agar or some other substitute). So when you take the gelatin-ness of collagen and thin it out, it turns whatever it is in very . . . lip-smacking (AB has a way with words!). You can very easily tell the difference between two bowls of soup, one of which was made with broth and the other with stock.

So, how to make it? Well, the traditional way is to simmer chicken bones, vegetables, and seasonings in water over very low heat (barely bubbling) in a huge stockpot for about 8 hours. It’s a good method, and I have employed it to make some excellent stock. But there is a shortcut.

Your trusty crockpot, which is designed for long, low, slow cooking.

Dump all your leftover bones (which you have been freezing, of course just for this occasion), a carrot, a rib of celery, a quartered onion, and some seasonings in your pot and cover with water. Make sure you have a little bubble room, but otherwise, fill it up. Remember, for this you are after the liquid goodness. Cook on low all day or overnight (but be prepared to wake up to a very weird smell: chicken first thing in the morning!:P) Now comes the hard part: straining and cooling. Strain into a large pot, and then pour into smaller (freezable) containers (I like 2 cup portions). These smaller containers will cool much faster that one big mass. I wouldn’t stick them all into your freezer right now, or you will have a very hot freezer. Stick them in your fridge overnight, and in the morning you should have wiggling chicken gelatin. Kinda disgusting to contemplate, I know, but you food and family will thank you.

Maybe not your family, but you will certainly know the difference. 🙂

And best of all? It was free, or nearly so. Certainly cheaper than $1 a pint!

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