How to Make Organic Chicken Bone Broth/Stock
In the three months since the As Long As She Lives book launch, and my last blog post, I've been spending my time learning how (and how not to) market As Long As She Lives, developing my next project (which I'm dying to share!) and, unfortunately, struggling with severe fatigue. The latter should be at least partially alleviated by some semi-minor surgery I'm going to be having next Friday - at least, it should do once the general anaesthetic, which will likely hit me harder than the surgery itself, leaves my system. When I had my rather larger surgery last year, I recovered well and I give a lot of credit for that to the organic bone broth I made before the surgery and drank religiously for the month afterwards. At the time, I took photos and posted this recipe on another site and as I find myself revisiting the making of this stock for the same purpose, I thought I'd post it here, as well. I wrote this post as though I were sending the recipe to a good friend who has never cooked, may not even have much of a kitchen yet, but wants to learn, and I hope it doesn't come across as patronizing but I think many recipe books assume a lot of knowledge and miss steps which make non-cooks feel that there is some magical thing they are missing and puts them off, so I'm going to go into detail right down to how to prepare the vegies!
A warning if you are one of those people who likes chicken but doesn't like to see the carcass - I'm including pictures of the process so there will be carcasses, below! Of course, if you are one of those people you're not likely to be cooking for yourself anyway but I don't want to traumatize anyone!
I was always taught that good stock needs bones to be richest in flavour and now, as an adult, I know that bone-based broth has all sorts of health and healing benefits, so starting any soup with a stock you've made yourself is a great idea. I use organic everything in my stocks, particularly when cooking for post-op since getting the anaesthetic from your system plays a huge part in feeling better after surgery and doing so is a kind of detox - but, of course, if organics are too expensive where you live, non-organic will also work (though you may need more of some vegetables to get the same flavour.) I would suggest, though, that if you can at least get your chicken carcasses organic it will make a big difference in flavour and health. My organic butcher (T.O.M.S at South Melbourne Market) sells chicken carcasses for around $3 a kilo (it may change a little seasonally, of course).
I should probably also warn that, while I'll do my best to give you actual amounts, I tend to be an alchemist in the kitchen rather than a recipe follower so sometimes I will just show you what I think the proportions of, say, certain herbs should be but leave it to you to satisfy your own tastes as to whether you follow that - every recipe is adaptable, afterall!
Remember: all solid ingredients will be removed from the stock, so put in as much of a vegetable as is required/preferred for their flavour!
Okay, here goes:
INGREDIENTS for 2 litres of stock:
Filtered water - approx 2 litres, see the "Method" for how to judge.
2kg Chicken carcass bones
Salt in a grinder (I find grinding salt rather than sprinkling it or using pinches helps to add less at a time so that you can really judge what you need by taste and not add too much.)
4 medium carrots - for sweetness - (more if not organic or flavourful) peeled lightly and chopped in thirds or halves
2 young, large leeks - again, for sweetness and to accentuate the natural saltiness of the chicken - sliced 1.5 inches thick (note: I use leeks instead of onions in stock because when onions are cooked for an hour or more they begin to produce ammonia which makes the stock bitter - and not so healthy! I use onions when making broth and soup with the stock, but not in the stock itself.)
Celery - for pepperiness - : 2-4 whole stalks and their leaves, depending on flavour of the celery and your preference
Bay leaf, 1 large or 2 small, dried - for neutral warmth and to bring out the richness in the meat stock
Ginger, 4 x 1.5 square inches of YOUNG ginger - for a fresh, almost floral warmth. You can use older ginger if you like but it will give your stock a spicy rather than floral note.
Garlic, FRESH 3 cloves peeled and squashed (not chopped or minced, or from a bottle or tin - it makes a difference!)
NOTE ON HERBS: The ingredients above make for a neutral chicken stock which I can use across all sorts of cuisines but if you know you will only be using it to cook, say, French cuisine, or Thai, then feel free to add a few herbs and aromatics which suit the recipes you will be using it in, it will give those dishes more depth. Personally, though, I prefer to keep it neutral because I don't want too much garlic in my Miso, or Keffir Lime in my Cannelini Bean and Spinach Soup!
UTENSILS you'll need:
1 large, high-sided roasting tray
1 tall stock pot with a lid (mine is marked as 8 quarts and, as you'll see, was just big enough!)
1 wooden spoon, strong and long-handled enough to be able to stir all the way to the bottom of the soup pan and move anything which may be sticking
1 chef's knife or santoku for chopping
1 vegetable peeler
1 chopping board
1 water filter jug - always topped up as used!
1 Large strainer
1 Large, stable mixing bowl
1x 2litre or 2x 1 litre jugs or containers which will fit in your fridge overnight.
Room in your fridge overnight for the above jugs
Multiple soup spoons for tasting! (or one spoon you wash over and over.)
Step 1: Roasting the Bones (note, if you do not have an oven - as we didn't when we lived in Japan - you can skip this step and use the carcasses raw, but the roasting does give the stock a wonderful, deep flavour and colour. Of course, if you want a more "blonde" stock for a very subtle recipe, you can also skip this step)
Set your oven to 250C/450F and wait for it to heat.
Take your large, high-sided roasting tray and spread your carcasses out in it - my 2kg of bones made two layers in my roasting tray and that's fine, they do not need room between them.
Take your salt grinder and grind a light scattering of salt over the top of the bones - just a little, it will help draw out the juices. NOTE: That is the last time I will mention salt in this recipe. I prefer always to add salt to the dish I am making when using the stock, rather than making the stock itself salty - not every dish requires a lot of salt so, again, it makes the stock more versatile.
When the oven is at full temperature, slide your roasting dish in and let them roast for 45mins or until they are nice a brown and there is lots of juice in the bottom (as above). They will look a little dried out but that's okay - as long as they aren't burned, they're fine. If some burn on the edges, don't worry, just snap those burned bits off before you use them for the soup :)
Step 2: Preparing the Vegetables
(This can be done while the bones are roasting and won't take more than 5-10 minutes)
Carrots: Wash and peel them lightly (too deep and you'll take off some of the great nutrients just under the skin) or just wash them if they are young enough - leaving the skin on can add a bitter taste, though, so eat a little with the skin on and if it tastes bitter then peel them, if it's sweet then you don't need to peel them. Chop them roughly in thirds, or halves if they are small, they need to be chopped to expose the water to their flavour but not so small that they 0ver-cook, get too soft and disperse into your stock!
Wash and snap into large pieces - leaves and all!
Place an unpeeled clove of garlic on the chopping block and the flat of your knife over the garlic. Place the heel of your palm on the flat of your knife and - carefully - press down until the garlic underneath yields. You'll find the peel should now be loosened and all you need to do is remove it and trim off the little hard nub at the base of the clove (where it was connected to the whole bulb of garlic.) *Note: how you cut your garlic makes a big difference to the flavour you will get from it. Squashed like this and put whole into the water will bring out the sweetness of the garlic and none of the bitterness (which is maximised by mincing garlic, and even more so in those horrible jars of pre-minced garlic - avoid those if you can!)
Chop off the amount you want, carefully slice off the skin.
Leeks: If your leeks are very young you shouldn't need to wash anything but the outside and then chop the green top and the root off and slice them into 1.5 inch rounds. These will melt in the broth but will hold enough shape to strain out, unlike root vegetables like carrots or potatoes.
If your leeks are a little older, there may be dirt between the many layers that leeks are made up of in which case, do not chop off their top and root yet. First, set the leek flat on your chopping board, take the point of your knife and insert it in the first bit of white flesh under the green top - only pushing the point of the knife down to the centre of the leek. From there, cut a line down the length of the leek (always only to the centre) stopping before you get to the root. Now the root and top will hold the leek together while you spread open the leek and look at all those layers. You will likely see dirt between some of them. Hold this slit open and run cold water into the slit and you will feel the leek getting heavy as water fills all the layers. Turn the leek around and the water and dirt should come out. Do this until it is clean (as little as possible, since you don't want to wash all the flavour out) and then top and tail it and slice into 1.5 inch rounds (well, they will be little Pacmen now)
Step 3: Getting the stock going!
Pour an inch or two of the filtered water into the pot first (this will prevent the first things you put in from sticking) then add the carcasses and all your vegies, herbs and aromatics.
Pour in more filtered water until you have enough to just cover all your ingredients. They will start to float as it fills but get your spoon and push gently to see.
Put the lid on your pot. Turn on the hob to maximum and have a cup of tea while you wait for it to come to the boil.
As soon as it's boiling, turn the flame down until the pot is simmering - just bubbling gently on the top.
Note: If you have an electric stove which doesn't respond very rapidly to temperature changes, or if your biggest gas ring doesn't turn down far enough for simmering, move the pot to another, smaller ring.
Now you can leave the pot to simmer until it has the flavour you like. It will need at least 60 minutes to be worth checking for even a very subtle stock, but I like to taste mine at 60 and 90 minutes and usually leave it for about 2 hours. Be careful when tasting, to dip your spoon well into the broth as there will be a layer of fat on the top and it's the broth you want to taste!
During that time, you may find the water level in your stock falls enough to no longer be covering your ingredients. If so, boil some water in the kettle and add enough of it to cover the ingredients again - don't worry, you won't lose flavour :)
(For the eagle-eyed, the yellow pot in the background of the picture above is the beef stock I had cooked first and which was simmering away, nearly ready for straining when I put the chicken stock on. The house smelled amazing!)
Step 4: Straining the Broth
When the stock is ready to be taken off the heat it will look something like this:
At this point, turn off the heat and set up your large mixing bowl with your strainer over it. I usually set up my bowl in the (clean) kitchen sink in case of accidents. Now the trick is to pour the still hot stock (and so still fully liquid) through the strainer - stopping to empty the strainer if you have to - into the bowl beneath. This is most easily done by two people - one holding the pot, the other working with the strainer - and it helps if the one holding the pot has some strength because it will be hot, heavy and will have to be done gradually to make sure neither the strainer nor the bowl overflow!
When you have successfully strained out the solids, it should look something like this:
Step 5: Getting the Fat Out!
Chemistry does the heavy work in this step. Ladle the stock you now have into one or two containers which will fit in your fridge overnight. As it cools, the fat will float to the top and the stock underneath - if you've simmered it for long enough and used bones - will turn to jelly (bones are where gelatine comes from, afterall).
When you remove the containers next morning, you will find that you can gently scrape the fat layer from the jelly layer and your stock will then be pretty much fat-free and look like this:
Don't feel you necessarily have to throw out all that fat, though, it will be full of flavour and, as we are all learning, now, fat isn't the villain that the sugar companies paid to have the media tell us for all these years. Obviously you don't want to use a lot, but a teaspoonful in a stirfry or a tablespoon full in a stew will add extra flavour and won't add significantly to the fat profile because you will be controlling it.
That's it! You can then divide it up and store it as you wish :) That should include freezing any you don't intend to use in the next few days.
I hope I haven't missed any steps. I know it is time consuming - you really need a day when you can just be at home to watch it - but it is so very worth it if you can find the time.
Good cooking, happiness and health to you!