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Chicken Soup Stock

Soup stock is something that many people think of as outdated to make and lots of effort. In reality, it takes hardly any effort, though it does take quite a bit of time. Fortunately, you can be off doing other things while it simmers away on the stove. And once you have it, it's a super yummy thing to add to a zillion other recipes. Much better than using that "chicken flavoured" salt and MSG powder.

Getting the ingredients
Roasting a chicken is an ideal way to get bones for soup stock. Save all the bones after people are done eating. Put them directly into the freezer. You can save up from several meals this way, but you need at least 1 whole chicken's worth to make a good stock. Neck and giblets and pan drippings can also be saved in the freezer. I generally have 1 big tupperware box on the go. Save up vegetable trimmings if you don't have a compost, rather than throwing them out (I often have leek and fennel tops and mushroom stems). Broccoli and asparagus shouldn't be added in too large a quantity as your stock can end up tasting weird. (I have broken the broccoli rule, but you have to plan what you're going to make with the stock later). You can use this same method for beef or pork stock, but I only ever have enough chicken bones for stock-making purposes. Don't mix meat types or the stock will taste funny. You can probably get away with adding turkey since it's also poultry, but I've never tried it. If you just buy soup bones directly from the butcher, roast them in the oven at 400°F for an hour to brown them first.

Day 1
Put all your bones in your largest pot and fill it with water. Bring it up to nearly boiling, then turn down to simmer and cover. After a few hours, turn off the heat and leave it until the next evening.

Day 2
Turn up the heat and add your vegetable leftovers if you have any. Add a whole peeled onion, a couple carrots, and some celery. Often I only have the onion, so I just use that. After you've got it back to boiling, turn it down to simmer and add some leafy herbs (avoid the dusty powdered kind). Thyme, oregano, tarragon, and marjoram are all good. Rosemary and sage are good in small amounts, but too much can make the soup bitter or resinous. You can also add some pepper. I tend to avoid adding salt since I'll salt whatever my final dish is that will use the stock and I don't want it to be too salty after all the chicken stuff has cooked down.

Keep adding water to keep it within 1 inch of the top of the pot and make sure that it stays simmering. Simmer this until you go to bed. Turn off heat and leave to the next day.

Day 3
Turn up the heat and bring to a boil. When fed up, pour it into a big bowl, keeping the lumps and bones back. Leave the bones and veg in the pot to cool before discarding (you can pick out any meat you want to save for soup, but I find this too fiddly to be worth it). Cover your bowl with a plate and put it in the fridge as soon as you can pick up the bowl bare-handed. Make sure you put it where it won't get knocked or you'll have a dandy mess.

Day 4
Take out cold stock and carefully remove the fat that's at the top. If it's good stock, it should have set up like jelly. At this point, I freeze it in 1 cup amounts for later use. Make sure to freeze it or use it promptly (within the next couple days) because soup stock is a good culture medium for bacteria. It has lots of protein which makes for a balanced meal, even if you just add vegetables.

On the Weekend (Alternate Option)
Instead of doing this over 4 days in the evenings, you can do it on the weekend instead. Plan for at least 4-5 hours of simmering both days. Add the vegetables at the start of the second day, then chill in the fridge that night. It develops more flavour if you take the longer weekday method or give it more time on the weekend.

Note to Vegetarians
Following the weekend method with just a load of vegetable leftovers, along with the onion, celery, and carrots, will result in a nice veggie broth (though obviously you add all the veggies on day 1).

Uses for Soup Stock
I use 1-2 cups whenever I make soup (even if it's something like carrot soup) to make it a more well-rounded meal. It's also good for cooking beans/lentils in, using in spaghetti sauce, using in risotto, etc, etc. Think of soup stock as instant flavour for just about anything (savoury) that you're cooking where you might otherwise add water.
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I'm definitely bookmarking this, and am going to start saving my veggie scraps rather than composting them :)

girl with glasses

February 2009

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