Anyone can make something from something. It’s making something from nothing that really impresses me.
That, and octopuses that can unscrew themselves from the inside of jars. You gotta admit that’s impressive, even with the eight-leg advantage.
When I say making something from nothing, I’m not talking about Kardashian careers or some dubious reporting on the worldwide web. I’m talking about making chicken stock.
For years, I purchased my chicken stock in tin cans from the local grocery store, aware that my recipes called for it but unaware that the store bought stuff wasn’t always so great. Often high in sodium and full of chemicals, commercially produced chicken stock isn’t necessarily the nutritional powerhouse I thought it was. If you don’t believe me, check out this ingredient list from Swanson, including MSG and corn syrup solids. Mmmm. Hydrolyzed soy protein.
As I became more aware of where my food comes from and why that matters, I started to make my own chicken stock. At first, I followed recipes from the internet that called for virgin ingredients like a pound of chicken wings, or a bag of carrots, or eight stalks of celery or two sliced carrots. Some even called for an entire, uncooked chicken, no joke.
But then I realized that that was a huge waste. Why use perfectly good food to make chicken stock when you can make something just as wholesome and nutritious using the (read: free) food scraps that you produce in the normal course of cooking anyways?
That’s right, folks: you can make stock totally out of leftovers, and your tastebuds won’t even know the difference. (Though your wallet will.) Here’s how it works:
1. Put an empty gallon sized ziplock bag in your freezer.
2. Every time you use an onion in your kitchen, add the onion skins and scraps to the ziplock bag. Every time you use celery in a recipe, add the leftover hearts and leaves to the bag. Every time you peel a carrot, add the peelings to the bag. (Though I mostly just wash my carrots, instead of peeling them, but that’s a blog post for another day.) In my experience, here are the veggies whose scraps are worth saving:
- onions/leeks/scallions/chives/shallots aka all the alliums
- winter squash
- herb stems, especially the ones Simon & Garfunkel sing about
- mushroom stems, though not the ones Led Zeppelin sings about
- corn cobs (seriously)
Skip anything really fragrant (I’m not mad about fennel or broccoli, for example), or anything close to rotting (don’t forget you’re going to eat the results), but most anything else is worth experimenting with. If you do a lot of cooking, you’ll be amazed at how quickly that bag fills up.
3. On the day after you’ve roasted a bird, or bought a rotisserie chicken, or somehow come across a bag of bones some other [legal] way, put the picked bones into a large pot. If you don’t eat meat, skip this step and just use the veggies.
4. Add the frozen veggie scraps – several cups worth, hopefully – and anything else flavorful you have hanging around, like a few black peppercorns, a bay leaf or some garlic cloves. Skip the salt for now.
5. Cover the bones and scraps with cold water. I always add a splash of vinegar at this point, since I heard once it helps extract more nutrients from the bones, but I’ve never fact checked this and don’t intend to start today.
6. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook on low uncovered for at least an hour, but go for 2-3 if you have the time and all your liquid hasn’t evaporated.
7. Strain the broth (I pour into the sink through a colander into a bowl to catch the liquid below) and throw away the bones/veggies, which have now been leached of their nutrients and aren’t worth reusing again.
8. Once the broth is cool enough to handle, I recommend pouring into 1-cup freezer containers that can be defrosted easily when you know you’ll need it. Other people store in plastic bags, which lie flat, but I’m not that fancy. Or, if you don’t want to freeze it for later use, cook with it immediately!
And, of course, step 9: Wonder why you’ve been buying chicken stock all this time when it’s so easy/cheap/hand-off to make yourself.
Do you make your own chicken stock? I’d love to hear from a convert who has finally taken the plunge!