As a kid, my mom always made chicken soup (or turkey soup) after every single chicken or turkey we had. It was just part of the routine. The day after Thanksgiving, for example, the carcass was put in her biggest pot and in went all the different seasonings and it cooked and cooked and cooked for a day or two. Toward the end she would remove the carcass, cool it and skim the fat, then reheat it and add the veggies. Then we would have a meal of chicken soup, or chicken and dumplings, and she would freeze the rest in smaller portions so that whenever we got sick we had homemade chicken soup ready for us. It was a wonderful way to get the most from a chicken or turkey, and I continued to do it after I left home. Eventually, I shifted it over to just making the stock, not full-on soup, and freezing it. And then when I was gifted a pressure canner I began canning the stock.
I always have done it the way my mom did it and I have always thought that was how everyone did it. It wasn’t until the last year or so, as I have been following homestead-type blogs, and as I have collected a few homestead-type cookbooks, that I have realized that I make it different from some people (although I have found some people who make it like I do).
In one of my cookbooks, a whole chicken and the veggies and seasoning is used to make 3-4 quarts of stock, and it is only cooked a few hours. What!? Just 3-4 quarts? and just a few hours? I make way more than that with just one chicken. And cook it a lot longer. Maybe mine is blander than theirs (easily remedied when it is used in whatever soup or casserole I use it for). And maybe it doesn’t contain as much nutrition per cup as a more condensed version, but it is still healthier than from the store. And really, I am not totally convinced that it is blander or less nutritious. Either way, that recipe works for them, and mine works for us.
So I thought I would share how I make it. First, we eat a whole chicken, or a whole turkey. Afterwards, I put the carcass, with whatever little bits of meat are left on it, in my very large pot (I think it is a 16 Qt stock pot). I add water, usually about 3/4 of the way up the sides, or more if needed to cover the turkey carcass. Then I add some mixture of the following things (depending on what I have, but usually including almost all of them): the giblets, a few celery stalks (with leaves) chunked, a few carrots chunked, a large onion cut in fourths, parsley, thyme, peppercorns, egg shells (only from our fresh eggs and washed), salt, and a bay leaf. Then I get it boiling, turn it down to low, and simmer it, covered, for about 24-36 hours. Every so often I do some skimming of the grease and skin bits.
Then I pour it into another pot, through a strainer. I don’t bother using a cheesecloth, and thus my stock is cloudy, but we don’t really care about that. If it mattered for some reason to us I would pour it through a cheesecloth lined strainer so it would be clear (which I have done before). I then transfer the contents of the strainer back into the big pot, remove the mushy celery, onion, and carrots, add more water, new veggies and seasonings, and do the same thing over again. How much water I add the second time is determined by the state of the carcass at that point. I like to make stock until the bones are soft and somewhat bendable. So if it seems to be getting close to that point, I only add half the amount of water, but if it is still looking good I do another full batch. Usually after two times of simmering it for a day or so each the bones are somewhat bendable and I am done with the carcass. I think one time I got three batches out of a huge turkey.
I will say that the second batch is a bit blander than the first, so sometimes I cook it longer, add more veggies and seasoning, and/or leave the cover off for a few hours to condense it a bit.
I take the strained stock and put it in the fridge over night. Then I skim any fat that is left (it is solidified by the cooling and easier to remove). Then I use the pressure canner to can the stock, following the method in the Ball Blue Book.
Last Sunday, we had a whole roast chicken for dinner. I was able to can 10 Qts of stock from that carcass. *side note: all my reusable lids sealed wonderfully again. And all for the cost of about 4 carrots, 4 stalks of celery, a couple of onions, and some seasonings. A lot of which came from the garden. I’d say that is a great price!
We had recently run out of chicken stock in the pantry, so it was very nice to re-stock it…pun intended ;-). I am looking forward to Thanksgiving, first because it is my favorite holiday, but second so that we can put up a bunch of turkey stock for the winter. I must admit that I like turkey broth better than chicken or rabbit, so I really eek every little bit I can out of a turkey.
Now that I have put up that chicken stock, I am going to try my hand at beef stock for the first time ever. We saved a bunch of soup bones with some meat on them from the butchering of the steer last summer and I am anxious to give it a go. Some of the recipes I have seen have made very small amounts of stock, just like the chicken recipe. I will keep searching and researching today to see if I can do the same thing I do with chicken and increase the amount I get without decreasing the flavor. I really like to get every ounce of stock that I can out of the bones.
Have any of you ever done beef stock? How much can you generally get? Do you run it more than once (ie add more water and go again) with beef bones?