At this very moment, all of my autumn wishes are coming to fruition. We are at the cabin, Noli napping soundly upstairs, and Eliza and I sharing a cozy blanket on the couch. The Great British Baking Show Holiday Edition, in all of its sweetness, is on the television. Greg is hoping to change it to sports but we will just have to see about that. We are only here for a short interlude, but any time spent here is revitalizing and soulful. Just as this season should be. When we arrived here last night, later than expected, a warm meal was on all of our minds. It seems we are always rushing to feed someone these days. I assumed as such and so I made sure to bring with us, the fixings for one of our favorite soups, a brothy, warm you to the bones, chicken soup bursting with avocados, tomatoes, jalapenos, and lime juice. I’ll link the recipe here. It is a good one. Thankfully, especially because of two hangry little girls, the soup was quick to come together and filled us up to the brim before a sweet cabin slumber.
We are a bit soup obsessed this time of year. At least a couple of times a week, we are slurping and sloshing our way through dinner, dipping warm bread and dripping on our selves and, if you are Noli, maybe even on everyone else. Buying cartons of chicken stock, enough to satisfy our obsession, gets expensive. And, truth be told, they annoy me when they take up an inordinate amount of room in my grocery cart. So I decided to start to make my own. Over the past couple of months, it has become something of a ritual. Twice a month, I spend an afternoon simmering and tasting and skimming and shredding. Filling the house with the homiest of scents in preparation of filling our bellies with the savoryiest (not a word) of flavors. Not only do I so enjoy the whole endeavor, but it’s much more economical and the chicken stock is much more flavorful than the alternative.
Here are the particulars. The recipe that I have been working with yields approximately 4 32oz jars of chicken stock. When it comes time to make a soup, I dilute them with equal parts water. So basically, out of this process I end up with 8 of the cartons of broth that I used to buy, which would have cost me about $24. I also freeze about 3 ½ lbs of cooked chicken, costing $10. With the veggies and the chicken I pay under $20 total for the ingredients and subtracting the $10 for the meat, which we use for all of our soups as well as enchilada, tacos, etc., the broth costs me about $10 instead of $24. Over our soup eating months, that is about $170 in savings. The savings makes me happy but the care and love that goes into the broth, the simple ingredients and act of creating something from scratch to keep and to share, brings me even more joy.
- 2 5-pound whole roasting chickens
- 7 quarts cold water
- 3 whole yellow onions quartered and unpeeled
- 1 head garlic unpeeled and halved
- 6 carrots washed unpeeled and quartered
- 4 stalks celery with leaves washed and halved
- 6 dried bay leaves
- 4-5 whole star anise (can be found at most grocery stores and gives the best flavor the broth, trust me!)
- 2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- Any other savory herbs, I have thrown in both thyme and rosemary and they are wonderful
- Place all the ingredients in a large stock pot. Mine is an old one from when my family owned a restaurant and it is at least 20 quarts. And cover with 7 quarts of water.
- Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered for 2 ½ hours
- Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a large baking sheet to cool for a few minutes while the liquid continues to simmer.
- As soon as the chicken is cool enough to handle, separate the meat from the bones and place the bones back in the pot to continue simmering. *This took me a bit to get good at, at first the chicken was a bit of a mess, but after a couple of times, I learned to just use my hands and get in there, separating the skin and junk into one pile, the usable chicken into a large bowl and the bones back into the pot.
- Continue to simmer the stock for another 1 ½ hours.
- While the broth simmers, I get out my handy dandy kitchen scale and vacuum packer and separate the chicken into portions to be frozen. They usually end up being divided into two 1 lb bags and one 1 ½ lb bag.
- After the stock is finished cooking, strain it through a fairly fine strainer and into a regular size stock pot. Discard the solids.
- Refrigerate the stock overnight and scrape off the surface fat the next morning.
- The stock will be slightly gelatinous, more or less depending on how long it simmered for. This is why I add equal parts water to the stock for soups.
The stock will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months. I fill up 32 oz mason jars as well as some small 3 oz mason jars and freeze them. The large ones I use for brothy soups and the small ones I use in pasta sauces or creamy soups, when a little broth is all that is needed.
Hope you enjoy this process and its product as much as we do around here! MEB