After a series of rather horrible heat waves we can finally feel the fall chill in the air, and I’ve already used up my supply of frozen homemade chicken stock on the first soups of the season. So the other night I dumped a box of broth in the pot, and it reminded me of why I go to the trouble with some things. Homemade tastes better. Doesn’t always… But when it comes to stock–even frozen–it does. Canned stock tastes like the can, boxed stock tastes–for lack of a better adjective–old. And when you’re not the one choosing which vegetables and herbs go into the pot, you can wind up with some funky flavors. Boxed vegetable stock always tastes so odd to me, and I forget, and I used it, and as I’m pouring it in, and it’s too late to take it back, and the smell of some weird vegetable hits me, and… I’m sad.
We buy a fair number of roasted chickens. They’re everywhere. I used to compost the carcass, but now I toss it in a pot with some veg and get a nice rich stock out of it.
Roast Chicken Stock (makes about 5 cups)
1 chicken carcass, meat, skin and fat removed
2 large carrots, roughly chopped
1 small onion quartered
1 stalk celery, roughly chopped
2 bay leaves (optional if you don’t like the flavor of bay)
5 or so black peppercorns
In a 2.5 quart stock pot, add all the ingredients and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and let cook for anywhere from an hour to two hours, depending on the flavors you’re getting. Taste it at half hour intervals and stop when it’s what you want. Don’t boil the stock or it will evaporate too quickly and you will get a cloudy stock. Don’t add salt unless it really needs it. Most store-bought chickens are salted, often heavily, and you will probably be adding salt to whatever dish the stock ends up in.
Ideally, let the stock cool to room temperature, strain, move to the fridge to chill, skim the fat, then freeze. I like to freeze all of my stock in ice cube trays so I can defrost it in small increments if necessary, as for stir-fries.