If you opened my freezer ten years ago you’d have found a few tubs of ice cream (my biggest vice) and a pack of garden peas (I love peas on their own smothered in butter). Today you’ll still find the garden peas but ice cream is no longer a freezer staple. I’ve begrudgingly accepted that I have no willpower with it and so ice cream is an occasional treat. Instead my precious freezer space is taken up by my home-made chicken stock.
After much experimentation with different store bought brands of chicken stock, across standard and premium ranges, I’ve learnt that nothing transforms a dish more than home-made chicken stock. I use it a few times a week for everything from pumpkin soup to slow-cooked lamb shoulder.
Ingredients – base
I call this a recipe but you really only need two essential ingredients – water and one whole chicken. I always buy organic chicken. If the organic versus free range debate interests you you’ll see why I insist on organic at the end of this post.
Ingredients – optional
Roughly chop and throw in some or all of the following into the pot to add an extra depth to the flavour:
- One to two carrots
- One medium brown onion
- One to two sticks of celery
- Fresh herbs – use whatever you have to hand – rosemary, thyme, bay leafs, parsley
What about salt and pepper? Add this too if you like but it’s not essential as most dishes you use the stock in will have their own seasoning.
Steps to prepare
- Break down the chicken. If you’re not confident doing this jump onto You Tube and find a video that shows you how.
- Reserve the bones and add them to a large pan with two litres of water. Adjust the amount of water depending on the size of the chicken. Two litres is a good rule of thumb for a chicken that’s 1.2kg to 1.5kg.
- If you’re using any or all of the optional ingredients then now is the time to add them.
- Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer for at least two hours. Cover wholly or partly to avoid losing to much water.
- Allow to cool then pour into individual containers. If you added any of the optional ingredients be sure to remove these first.
- Refrigerate any stock you plan on using within the next two days and then add the rest of your containers to the freezer.
- Defrost your stock as and when it’s needed over the following couple of months.
- I typically separate the stock into 250ml (one cup) sized servings, a common amount required in recipes.
- Label your stock with the date it was frozen. If you start to make this regularly, like me, then chances are you’ll have overlapping batches frozen at any one time. A label ensures you use the oldest ones first.
- Make your stock on a Sunday afternoon or another time when you’re relaxing at home.
- Dogs love home-made chicken stock! I always freeze some into ice cube trays as treats for the dogs.
- I collect plastic cartons and use them to store my stock. The tubs you get at the deli are a good option.
- You can keep stock in the fridge for a two to three days after preparing. So if you know you’ll need some in the next few days don’t worry about freezing it first.
- Bought a chicken for making stock and not sure what to do with the meat? The meat makes a tasty dinner when marinated in seasoning – see my recipe for simple Italian, Mexican and Middle Eastern marinades.
Organic versus free range chicken
I recently switched from insisting on free range chicken to insisting on organic. And not just because the flavour is superior. A chicken is raised in ‘free range’ conditions can still be subject to antibiotics, hormones and other supplements. Buying organic is the only way to guarantee your chicken is antibiotic and hormone free. Now I know you’re thinking ‘Over $20 for a whole chicken is expensive’ but consider this:
- A whole organic chicken for $20 can easily make four servings – you’d happily pay $20 for just two fillets of fish without having the same reaction to the price.
- Any recipe that calls for chicken stock goes to another level if you use home-made organic chicken stock. One organic chicken typically makes one litre of rich chicken stock – you’d pay up to $10 for this in a store.
- I’ve read that organic chicken contains a higher amount of omega 3 essential fatty acids – so you’re promoting good health and can cut back on the expensive fish oil products.
By Feast Wisely
Other recipes you might like that use chicken stock: