Thursday, April 13, 2006

Making your own chicken stock – is it worth it?

I’ve been roasting chickens lately because I’m testing out recipes for this semester’s final project (I’ll be putting up the recipes soon, once the testing is complete). As a result, my freezer looks like a chicken carcass burial ground – Ziploc baggies full of chicken parts and bones stuffed in every corner. The only solution - chicken stock.

One of the first things you learn in culinary school is how to make stock. Chicken and veal stock are the base of pretty much every sauce and tons of other recipes, so it’s a basic skill upon which most of our other knowledge is built. It’s easy to make stock at school – we have giant pots and huge sinks and massive strainers. But is it worth it to make chicken stock at home?

The basic recipe:

6 quarts cold water
8 lbs chicken bones and parts (take of as much skin as possible)
8 oz chopped onions
4 oz chopped carrots
4 oz chopped celery
1 sachet d’epices (tie up a bay leaf, some parsley stems, a few sprigs of thyme, some peppercorns and a garlic clove in a little piece of cheesecloth)

Cover chicken with water and bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer. Simmer four hours. Add mirepoix (onions, carrots and celery). Simmer another hour. Add sachet. Simmer another hour. Strain, chill and store. Throughout the simmering process, skim off any accumulated gunk that collects on the top of the stock.

My chicken stock:

I blanched the chicken first, to remove some fat and other unpleasantness. (I did this by washing the chicken, placing it in a pot with lots of cold water, bringing the water to a boil, then turning off the heat and removing and rinsing the chicken. It seems like a superfluous step, but it leads to a clearer stock and a lot less skimming.) I put the chicken in the pot and started the simmering.

After four hours, the liquid level dropped considerably.

I added way too much mirepoix, but it doesn’t really matter.

I like to tie the sachet to the side of the pot, like a little life preserver.

This is what you strain out.

It may look like edible chicken and vegetables, but all the goodness has been cooked out and now dwells in your stock. Resist the urge to nibble. It will taste like wet paper towels.

The final product should be clear(ish) and yummy smelling.

You should cool it down in an ice bath rather than just sticking it in the fridge, otherwise it will become a salmonella breeding ground overnight.

I normally buy chicken stock – it’s usually between $2.50 and $3.00 for a quart of fancy organic stock. I ended up with about 4 quarts of stock. (Actually 3.5, because I spilled about a half quart on my shoes while trying to strain and chill and whatnot. Dogs were sniffing my feet in the elevator.) Considering the cost of the chickens (minus the value obtained by eating the meat for dinner) and the mirepoix, I estimate that I spent about $5.00 on my homemade stock.

The verdict: Making your own stock isn’t a huge financial windfall, unless you own a restaurant and thus have an unlimited source of chicken carcasses and require gallons of stock every day. Then, I'm sure the $7.00 per gallon savings would add up quickly. Nevertheless, homemade stock makes your apartment smell great, takes very little effort, and is a great way to pass a rainy Saturday afternoon. There's also a strange feeling of satisfaction - like building your own shelves or something - that makes food just taste better when you use your homemade stock.

Please ignore this picture of raisins. Thank you.


Blogger s'kat said...

I was really into the idea of making my own stocks, until I came into the acquaintance of LeGourmet Stocks (to be linked later). They are incredible.

An older foodie friend of mine, whom I very much respect, said, girl! I stopped making my own stocks when I found out about these. After tasting, I couldn't agree more.

Maybe someday I will make my own stocks. When I get time. And lots of cold weather, unlike we've had this winter.

9:50 PM  
Blogger Mona said...

Wow, that's amazing! Now I'm scared to take cooking classes :) I remember working with a catering company and my boss Karen flipped whenever she caught us throwing anything out-"save it for stock," "save it for stock!" alright already. now i see why;) so are you gonna make your own stock from now on? i might have to look into s'kat's stock.

3:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've only done it twice, but I liked making my own chicken stock. I was so proud of myself. ;-))))))

Ahhh! I didn't know you're supposed to cool it down in an ice bath first before putting it in the fridge. Interesting!



11:24 AM  

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