October 31, 2011

Stocking Up for Winter

I love Sundays.  Especially during the colder months.  For me it means that my husband and I are usually both home for the entire day.  Him watching football and me doing stuff around the house.  This past weekend was no exception as I spent the majority of the day in the kitchen making chicken stock, soup and fresh bread.  Due to health reasons we have recently had to make the change to a low sodium diet.  I don't know if you've done any research on the topic, but it doesn't take much for an average person to go over their daily sodium allowance of 2300mg.  That's only 1 teaspoon people.  I've learned the harsh reality that if you want something done right you have to do it yourself, so that means making what ever I can from scratch.  Don't get me wrong, this is something I love to do anyway, so now I just have a little added incentive.  Making stock is easy, cheap and very rewarding in the end.  All it takes is a few ingredients and some time and you'll be making some of the best soups you've ever had.  The total cooking time is around 4-5 hours but the time you actually spend in the kitchen is around 45 minutes.  I would like to start by saying that this is not exactly the traditional way to make it, but it's how I do it and it turns out delicious.  To start you need a whole chicken, about 3-4 lbs.  Rinse the inside and outside with water and put in a large stock pot (don't forget the neck and gizzard!).  Next, you want to add water until the chicken is covered by about 2-3 inches. Move the stockpot to the stove over medium-high heat so you can start adding the veggies.

From this point, the recipe is pretty forgiving so if you don't have exact amounts it's no biggie.  Roughly chop carrots, celery, onions, garlic and green onions.  When I say garlic, I mean the whole bulb, cut in half lengthwise, skin and all.  I know this sounds weird, but I like to think of it as my secret ingredient. 

Everybody in the pool!
Put all the veggies in the pot with the chicken and add palm full of whole peppercorns, several sprigs of thyme and rosemary.  Don't forget those bay leaves!  As I said before, we are on a no salt diet around here so I don't add any to the stock, but if this isn't an issue to you than feel free to add some here. Or, you can leave it unsalted and when you decide to use the stock for something, add it then.  Depending on what you're making, it may already have a high salt content.

Cover the pot and let the bird do it's thing for about 30-45 minutes until it's fully cooked.  A good way to tell the chicken is cooked is when the bird floats from the bottom to the top of the pot.  Remove the chicken and move to a cookie sheet to let cool. 

Lower the heat on the stove to medium-low and cover.  When the chicken is cool enough to touch, you need to start breaking it down.  I put the meat in a tupperware for later use in a soup, the bones go back in the pot to continue simmering and the skin goes to the doggies.  They love when momma makes soup! 

Continue simmering the stock for 2-3 hours.  When the stock is done, remove it from the heat and start removing as much of the bones and veggies that you can using a tong.  From here, there are a couple methods of straining you can do.  One is if you have another large pot, you can take a strainer and pour all the stock over it in to the other pot.  The other option that I like to use is to take a strainer and a large measuring cup and strain into individual containers for freezing. 

Depending on the size of the chicken you use, the amount of stock you get varies.  With this particular batch, I was able to freeze 5 quarts, plus use about 2 more for the soup I made later that night.  For fun, I'm adding a cost break down so you can see the affects this has on your wallet.

Whole Chicken - $3.43 on sale for $.89/lb
Onions - $1.89
Carrots - $1.09
Celery - $1.09
Garlic - $0.40
Green Onions - $0.59
Peppercorns - $0.50
Thyme - $2.00
Rosemary - $2.00
Bay Leaves - $0.50

Total cost for about 7 quarts of stock is $13.49 compared to if you purchase the boxed stocks at the grocery store for $4.25 each (totaling $29.75).  That's a savings of $16.26 which is over half the cost!  The pride you take in making your own stock is amazing, but when you add in the money you save, it's a win-win! I hope you enjoy making this recipe for your family as much as I do. 


1 whole chicken (3-4 lbs)
4-5 medium onions - quartered
5-6 carrots - roughly chopped
5-6 stalks of celery roughly chopped
1 whole garlic - sliced lengthwise
1 bunch green onion - cut in half
2-3 T whole peppercorns
2-3 large bay leaves 
10-12 sprigs thyme
1-2 sprigs rosemary
25 C water (give or take a few)

Rinse chicken under faucet and remove the innards.  Place the chicken and innards in a large stockpot and fill with water until the chicken is covered by about 2-3 inches.  Move to stove over medium high heat.  Add the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, green onion, peppercorns and bay leaves.  Using kitchen twine, tie the thyme and rosemary sprigs together and add to pot.  Cover and bring to a low rolling boil for about 30-45 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.  Remove chicken and place on a cookie sheet to cool.  Lower heat to medium low and replace cover.  When the chicken is cool enough to touch, separate it  and place the bones back in the stock and reserving the meat for later use.  Simmer for another 2-3 hours.  Remove as much of the bones and veggies that  you can and skim the fat off the top.  Strain the remaining stock into a large pot or individual containers to freeze for later use.  Makes roughly 7 quarts.