Chicken Stock

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Chicken stock can be purchased at any grocery store in various forms.  None of them compare with freshly made stock.  Fresh stock has a richness and depth of flavor that those boxed, canned, and dried store bought stocks can only dream of.  If you're under the weather, stock truly, scientifically has restorative qualities.  If you desire higher quality and better taste, homemade stock is, once again, the way to go.

Since chicken stock is a base ingredient for so many of the soups I like to make, I didn't want to post any more soup recipes without first posting about chicken stock.

While time consuming, it just about couldn't be easier to make.  The one upside to the length of time that it takes is that most of the time is passive, leaving you with the ability to do other things while you make stock.

Start with chicken; I usually use a whole chicken, but you can use leftover bones and spare parts if you want.  The main thing is that you do include a lot of bones.  You can put in meat, but the bones are where the gelatin and marrow reside.  Place the chicken in a large pot- at least 7 quarts.  It's best if the pot is higher than it is wide.  This is a stock pot. 

Throw vegetables into this same pot.  Recipes vary, but almost all contain carrots, celery, and onion.  You can also use mushrooms or leftover stems and a whole slew of other veggies.  Cover all of this with water, bring to a boil, and then back the heat off to a slow simmer.  Skim the foam off the top of the stock and then simmer anywhere from 2-3 hours to an entire 24 hours.  You can also throw in herbs, such as rosemary, thyme, etc.  I like to throw these in at the end of the cooking process.  The recipe at the back of Jordan Rubin's book, The Maker's Diet suggests that parsley attributes health benefits if thrown in the last five minutes of cooking.  For best results in terms of the chicken meat, take the chicken out after about an hour.  Remove the meat from the bones and dump the bones back in.  This cooks the meat for you to use in soup, chicken salad, quesadillas, whatever, but doesn't overcook it.  Once we left the meat in 12 hours, and it wasn't useable.  It was dry and looked completely overused. 

The start of the stock's cooking

Once your stock has cooked, cool it slightly and strain it through a cheesecloth lined sieve.  This keeps out particulates that don't make for pretty and delicious stock.  Once that's done, you can put it into containers to be refrigerated or frozen, you can preserve it through canning, or you can use it immediately to make a soup. 
Seriously, while it takes some effort, make this stock.  It's wonderful.  I usually freeze it in 1 cup to 1 quart containers and take it out as needed. 

Completed- after about 12 hours

Basic Chicken Stock
3-4 lb chicken or chicken parts (includes back and neck)
2 onions, peeled and quartered
4 carrots, sliced
4 ribs celery, sliced
1-2 bay leaves
Cold Water
2 Tb. chopped fresh parsley

Place all the ingredients except water into a large stockpot.  Cover by at least 1-2 inches with water. 

Heat the pot on the stove on high heat until it starts to boil.  You are looking for the start of boiling; not a rapid, hearty boil.  Once the boil starts, turn the heat down to medium low or wherever on your stove the stock maintains a very gentle simmer.  Skim the foam or scum off the top with a fine mesh strainer or slotted spoon. 

After a total cook time of about an hour, remove the chicken meat and return the bones back to the pot.  Simmer anywhere from 2-24 hours, adding water as needed to keep everything submerged.  Add parsley the last 5 minutes of cook time.  Strain the stock through a cheesecloth lined sieve into a large pot and store in fridge, separate stock into containers for freezing, can, or use immediately. 

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