Homemade chicken stock is wonderful and an essential part of our "pantry" these days. It's the linchpin for most of the soups we make - and let me tell you, we never have canned soup anymore. Why would you? They're bland, poor representations of the original products used to make them, and more often than not over-salted for preservation. Homemade soup, made with homemade stock ... there's no comparison, and once you begin making soup at home, I'll bet you'll never stop.
We made Artichoke and Parmesan Soup for the appetizer for Thanksgiving dinner last year, the base of which was homemade chicken stock, and the Italian Wedding Soup posted earlier this year shouldn't be made without homemade chicken stock. Making stock is practically effortless, you don't even have to peel the vegetables, and it pays dividends the entire time it simmers. The aromas that float throughout the house are subtle yet divine.
Most of you know by now that I attended cooking classes with Patricia Wells on her farm in Provence. You also know that I have a sizable library of cookbooks - a number of which (7) were written by Patricia. In each cookbook, she always includes a recipe for chicken stock and in each there are always variations, which really tells you the flexibility there is in making stock. Why did I gravitate toward Patricia's recipes versus others? Her clear instructions and tips, like using a pasta pot fitted with a colander which makes it easy to remove the ingredients and start the straining process, putting the bouquet garni in a wire mesh tea infuser, and always starting with cold water for a clear stock - all invaluable tips. And, her recipes for stock generally yield 2-3 quarts which "fits" my kitchen and freezer.
Try it, you'll find the assembly a snap, the aromas divine, and the clean up easy, especially if you use the pasta pot with a colander. It's fall. It's soup time. Start a pot of stock, take a long walk in the crisp fall air with all of those crunchy leaves, and come back to a house that smells of love - for surely you're making this for those you love.
Homemade Chicken Stock*
Makes 2+ Quarts
4 pounds raw chicken parts (I use chicken wings)
2 large onions, halved but not peeled
4 carrots, scrubbed but not peeled, cut into 2-inch pieces
4 ribs of celery, with leaves cut into 2-inch pieces pieces
1 head of garlic, halved but not peeled
1 leek, white and tender green portions, halved lengthwise and rinsed, cut into 2-inch pieces
Pinch of salt
12 whole pepper corns
Bouquet garni: several bay leaves, fresh celery leaves, sprigs of fresh thyme, and parsley, encased in a wire mesh tea infuser
- Place the chicken in a pasta pot fitted with a colander and fill with 5 quarts of cold water.
- Add all of the remaining ingredients, ensuring that the water covers them. If not add a little water.
- Bring to a gentle simmer, uncovered, over medium heat.
- Skim to remove any scum that rises to the surface. Add additional water if necessary to replace the water removed. Continue skimming until the stock is clear. (This can take up to an hour.)
- Continue to gently simmer the stock for another 2 ½ hours.
- Lift out the colander with all of the ingredients, allowing the stock to drain from the ingredients but do not shake. Discard ingredients.
- Line a large colander with a double layer of dampened cheesecloth and place it over a large bowl. Ladle - do not pour - the stock into the colander to strain off remaining fat and impurities. Measure the stock and if it exceeds 2-2½ quarts, return to moderate heat and reduce.
- Place stock, in a bowl, in the refrigerator. When it is chilled, spoon off all traces of fat. Transfer chilled stock to covered containers. The stock may be refrigerated safely for 3 days or can be frozen for up to 3 months. Do not forget to label the containers with the date.
Tips for Stock Making from Patricia Wells:
✓ For a clear stock, always begin with cold water and bring it slowly to a simmer. Never allow a stock to boil or it will be cloudy, since the fat will emulsify. Cold water also aids in extracting greater flavor.
✓ For the first 30-60 minutes of cooking, skim the impurities that rise to the surface of the stock as it simmers.
✓ Use a tall pot, for it will limit evaporation. I always use a large pasta pot fitted with a colander, which makes it easy to remove the stock ingredients and begin to filter the stock.
✓ Once the stock is cooked, strain before cooling. Allowing to cool with the vegetables and herbs will darken and cloud the stock.
* This recipe is an amalgamation of a number of Patricia's Chicken Stock recipes with reliance on those in Patricia Wells At Home in Provence (New York, NY: Scribner, 1996), The Paris Cookbook (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2001), and Vegetable Harvest (New York, NY William Morrow, 2007).