Stock, aka the on-trend ‘bone broth’, is so useful. It can be used in everything from soups and casseroles to sauces and risotto. We use a lot in the winter when soup becomes a staple food in our home.
I used to buy stock in cartons from the supermarket, but for years now I’ve been making my own chicken stock for a fraction of the price, with the bonus of knowing exactly what is in it, and reducing packaging waste.
I’ve seen a lot of recipes for stock that ask for fresh whole vegies to be chopped and added to the stock pot. Maybe that’s fine if you have access to a whole lot of awesome vegies (ie am a better food gardener than me!) but I’ve always balked at using up perfectly good carrots, celery and onion ‘just’ for stock. I instead, I prefer to add vegie scraps that otherwise would go straight to the chooks or compost.
Here’s how I use my freezer and slow cooker to cook up a big batch of chicken stock, using leftover bones and vegie scraps, that lasts for ages.
Step 1: Save chicken bones and vegie scraps
We usually buy whole chickens or chicken pieces with the bone in, like chicken wings and drumsticks. (I prefer the taste of meat cooked with the bone, and believe it is more nutritious for the body. Plus The Kid and I both love gnawing on bones.) Any leftover chicken bones, from roast chickens, casseroles, barbecued chicken wings etc, are taken off plates at the end of the meal and saved in a ‘stock container’ in the freezer. I want to extract every ounce of goodness from these bones before I let them go.
Into this container also goes hard outside leek leaves, parsnip ends, celery leaves, and any other vegetable scraps I think will add flavour to the stock. When it looks like enough to fill your slow cooker bowl, it’s time for the next step.
Step 2: Stock making day (or night)
Get out the slow cooker and tip in whatever’s in the ‘stock container’ in the freezer. This will be a mix of cooked chicken bones and vegies as described above.
Cover it all with cold water and add a glug of apple cider vinegar.
You could make a perfectly good stock just with this, but sometimes I add a few raw chicken necks or a raw carcass too, to add more depth of flavour.
I always add a few fresh bay leaves because they are one of the few herbs we always have growing. If I have a lot of fresh parsley or thyme I might add some of that too. Sometimes I add a slice or two of fresh ginger and a few peppercorns.
The lid goes onto the slow cooker. Set it onto low, then leave it for the day, or overnight.
Step 3: Collecting the stock
Once the stock is rich and golden and the house smells amazing, turn off the slow cooker to let the stock cool slightly.
Strain the solids out by using a ladle to spoon the stock from the slow cooker into a colander sitting in a large jug.
The spout on the jug makes the stock easier to pour out into containers. Label containers and put into the freezer, or keep some in the fridge to use later that week.
I don’t bother with removing the fat, I believe some fat is good for you and it enriches those winter soups.
Having a stash of chicken stock in the freezer is like having money in the bank. It’s so satisfying to know you’re only a few soup-able vegies or pulses away from a delicious soup whenever you want it.
In this case I kept the slow cooker going and put some of the strained stock back in with these leeks and potatoes to make a slow-cooked potato and leek soup.