Taking Stock and Making Stock

As the year winds to an end, I’ve been thinking about all we’ve accomplished and all we are hoping to accomplish in 2012.  Despite a terribly rainy summer, we were lucky to bring in about 1/3 of the tomatoes we were expecting, and when I say that although it is a blessing, it truly was — many of our friends got no tomatoes after a wilting blight struck pretty much the entire area.  We planted two new fruit trees (cherries!) and six blueberry bushes (three high bush and three medium bush), and we did a first round of pruning on some old apple trees that have been on our property forever.  I also put in a strawberry patch and hope to finally get some asparagus in this spring.  I bought some year old roots this past spring (2011) but never got them in — does anyone know if they’d still be viable?

The chickens were really our greatest accomplishment, though.  In late April, 27 arrived from Murry McMurray Hatchery (26 Buff Orpingtons & 1 Spangled Hamburg “Mystery” Chick).  They all lived, though one of our girls had a bit of trouble at first, and we ended up with 2 roosters, 8 hens, and and 17 denizens of Freezer Camp, after a trip to the local Amish for butchering.

Abby and her four week-old flock in the hoop house. At this point, I was transporting them out in a plastic tote on warm mornings.

I will say that one of the biggest changes that these chickens brought into our lives was a need to really use their meat and eggs mindfully since we’d been so careful in their upbringing.  They spent their days in an open air hoop house that we built and their nights in their closed-off coop, making the voyage back and forth with the help of our Australian Shepherd, Abby, and the occasional carry-over from me or Jason (for our really stubborn birds).  At fourteen weeks, I selected out our best (friendliest) five hens and one rooster to keep permanently and moved them over into the A-Frame, so they could bond and I could get attached (I tried to maintain some distance from the meat birds since we couldn’t decide to keep all 27).  And four weeks later (right before the trip to the Amish), I selected an extra rooster and three more hens (two of which had started laying!), and they blended pretty seamlessly back into the flock of layers.  We chose our roosters for their gentleness with the girls and were careful in selecting a clear Alpha and Beta; we haven’t had a single cock fight, and it’s quite clear who’s in charge (Beta doesn’t seem to care and Alpha is pretty gentle with everyone).

Roasted, home-grown chicken.

As such, whenever I roast a chicken that we raised ourselves, I’m diligent in making stock and ensuring that we use every part of the bird before the carcass heads out in the trash.  Initially, I really struggled with what to do with three quarts of chicken stock every few weeks, but I’ve found a few quick solutions.  I either freeze it in quart bags (after it has cooled!) or turn it into soup, as I did yesterday.  I’m not sure why I didn’t start making stock sooner, as it is so simple; I think I may have been a bit scared of my Crock Pot, particularly leaving it on overnight.

So here’s my simple stock recipe.  Please feel free to modify it to your tastes.

Simple Stock from a Roasted Chicken Carcass

This recipe makes three quarts of chicken stock. Do note its color in this photo. One of the biggest differences I have noticed between our organic, grass-fed birds and the grocery store variety is the richer color and flavor of the stock!

Ingredients:
1 Chicken Carcass – Picked Clean (or Nearly Clean) of Meat (I use bones & skin)
–> Neck, Heart, Liver (Set aside before cooking & added raw to the Crock Pot)
1 Large Onion, Quartered
3 Carrots, Cut into Large Chunks
2 – 3 Ribs of Celery (I add this if I have it)
4 Cloves of Garlic, Peeled and Halved
Water to Cover Stock Ingredients

  1. Roast chicken  and enjoy with your family!  Save any meat that is left over for sandwiches, soups, casseroles and stews, separately.  There is no need to add this to your stock!
  2. Clean chicken carcass and place bones & skin in Crock Pot (I use our 4.5 qt. CP).

    Combine ingredients before adding water.

  3. Peel & cut up garlic, onions and carrots and drop into pot.
  4. Cut celery into large chunks and add to the pot (you may want to add a few of the leafy celery greens, as well!).
  5. Nestle the neck, liver and heart into the pot.
  6. Cover everything completely with water and place the lid on your Crock Pot.

    Cover ingredients completely with cold water.

  7. Turn Crock Pot onto low and leave on your counter-top for eight to ten hours (I usually cook it overnight).
  8. The liquid will range from bright yellow (grocery store chickens) to a deep brown (organic, home grown chickens).

    Eight hours later...

  9. Strain your stock through a metal sieve and discard bones and vegetables.

    I use a metal sieve and the bowl of my Kitchen Aid stand mixer. Just be careful if your stock is still piping hot (I usually let mine cool for an hour with the lid on before processing).

  10. Store your stock in the refrigerator for 1 week or the freezer for 2 – 3 months.  My choice method of freezing involves cooling the stock in glass canning jars in the fridge and then pouring the stock into quart freezer bags, sealing and laying them flat to freeze (so you end up with flat bricks of chicken stock that stack easily in the freezer).  Another method would be to freeze stock in ice cube trays (if you need smaller amounts of stock in your recipes) then break apart and place in freezer bags, working quickly so the stock doesn’t melt.

What is your favorite chicken stock recipe?

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