Posts tagged carcasses in your freezer
Posts tagged carcasses in your freezer
Warning: This is a post in which I strongly recommend keeping chicken carcasses and parts in your freezer. If this is not for you, you may not want to continue reading. Also, this may not be the right blog for you.
I understand that there are situations in which you might not be able to cook with homemade chicken stock. When I first moved, I had to buy a box of chicken stock. That’s okay. I also don’t want anyone to think that they shouldn’t be cooking something if they don’t have homemade stock. However, making my own chicken stock is integral to home cooking for me. The flavor is richer and more chicken-y, it’s a lot less salty, and the texture is better. Cooking with good stock is particularly important when you’re making soups or risottos or other dishes that are based on stock.
Chicken stock requires chicken bones. If you’re cooking whole chickens you have chicken bones already. First, you have the neck that comes in the baggie with the giblets. I collect all those chicken necks in a ziploc bag in the freezer. On the one hand, a bag full of necks in the freezer is kind of weird. On the other hand, you ate the rest of the thing, so it’s time to man up. If you cut up the chicken yourself, you probably have at least the spine left over, and possibly the whole back and wing tips. Wrap those in foil or plastic wrap and freeze them. Finally, you have the carcass of the cooked bird (of pieces of bird). If they’re heavily sauced, give the bones a quick rinse, but otherwise just wrap them up and freeze them. I remove and throw away the skin (I don’t know why), but save any leftover bits of meat with the bones. I wait until I’ve got two or three full carcasses in the freezer before making stock. If I’ve got just one or two and they seem meager, I buy chicken necks and backs at the grocery store. You don’t need a lot, maybe a pound. They’ll be cheap.
Lots of cookbooks recommend making chicken stock with a whole chicken. I have done this only once when I went to the farmer’s market and the farmer sold me a “stock hen,” which was basically just an old laying hen, because he didn’t have necks or backs. It was really small with not a lot of meat and pretty tough. I imagine it would have made a nice soup, but I needed chicken stock and it made a good stock. But otherwise, don’t buy a whole chicken for stock. Buy a whole chicken to eat.
1. Add the chicken bones and parts to a large stockpot. Add water just to cover the bones. Bring to a boil.
2. When it starts to boil, you’ll see a bunch of scum and foam rise to the top of the pot. I have a small skimmer spoon deal that I use to skim off the foam. Depending on what you’ve used in terms of bones and meat, you’ll have more or less foam. Keep skimming until it seems like you’ve got most of it, maybe 5 minutes. It’s easier to do this if you’re not trying to avoid vegetables and peppercorns along the way, which is why I boil just the chicken first.
3. Add the onion, celery, carrot, parsley, pepper, and cloves, partially cover the pot (put the lid on ajar), and turn down the heat so the stock is barely simmering, just a bubble or two at a time. I generally add maybe a teaspoon of salt at this point.
4. Simmer until the meat falls off the bones and the bones start to fall apart. I stir very occasionally to see how things are going and separate the small bones in the necks and backs with my spoon. Mostly I look for whether the cartilage in the bones is getting soft and dissolving a little. It’s easiest to see this in the leg bones. This can take maybe 3 hours. But it could also take longer.
5. At this point you can either cool the whole pot, and then stick it in the fridge, or roughly strain out the solids, pressing on them to get all the liquid out, and then refrigerate the strained stock. Either way, refrigerate for a day or overnight.
6. When the stock is cold, the fat will solidify at the top. Skim that off and throw it out (I think there are ways to render and use the fat, but I don’t). The stock itself should be somewhat solid (like meaty jello) at this point, that’s good. It will be fine if it’s not, just know that you should use more bones and simmer for longer next time.
7. I then reheat the stock, strain it through cheesecloth to get the small particulate out, and freeze it in 2 cup increments in ziploc bags in the freezer. You can thaw the bags in warm water, which is easier and faster than thawing stock frozen in glass containers because there’s more surface area. You can also freeze the stock in ice cube trays. That’s helpful if you make a lot of sauces that require only a 1/4 or 1/2 cup stock. In my trays, each cube is a little less than 2 tablespoons.