October 10, 2011 by Stacy McDonald
In the McDonald household, “Chicken Pickin'” time is a highly valued family tradition. Basically, it’s the time when children (especially those who look like they need a “job”) are chosen to gather around the table (little children too) to “pick” chicken meat off the bones after making rich, homemade chicken stock. When it’s all finished, we bag up the shredded chicken, put the rich, golden broth in mason jars and store it all in the freezer for cooking over the next few weeks or months (depending on how much is made).
While some people these days think chicken broth comes in a can, once you taste homemade stock you’re ruined for life! You can’t find anything close to this on a grocery store shelf! Plus most commercial broths are loaded with MSG and sodium, and none are as rich and tasty as homemade!
Homemade Chicken Stock
Start with two whole 4-5 lb. Chickens, cut up with the bones exposed. Or, you can use chicken backs, wings, legs, thighs, necks, or gizzards. You can ask your butcher for a good price on cheaper cuts and he may even chop it all up for you. Cutting up the bones helps the marrow to escape into your broth.
- 6 quarts of water
- A small handful of fresh garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
- A bundle of celery with leaves, coarsely chopped
- 2 whole yellow onions, coarsely chopped
- A hand full of coarsely chopped carrots
- 1 C. fresh chopped parsley
- 4 bay leafs
- 1 T. dried thyme (or fresh)
- A few teaspoons of dried oregano, basil, rosemary or other favorite herbs (or fresh)
- Fresh ginger (optional, but very good if you’re making broth for someone who is ill)
- Sea salt
- Fresh ground Pepper
- 2 T. Juice from fresh lemon or lime or Raw apple cider vinegar
Place everything in a large stock pot and bring to a rolling boil. Once it’s boiling, cover the pot and turn down the fire. Simmer on medium-low for about 2 hours, or until done. Remove chicken and let cool slightly in a large casserole dish or jelly roll pan. Allow broth to continue to simmer on low during this time. Gather any stray children who look like they need something to do and put them together at a table to “pick chicken” off the bones. Once the chicken is picked, divide it into one quart bags for later use in soups, casseroles, and other recipes.
Now, take all the bones and scraps and put them back into the broth. Simmer down to a manageable amount, and place the whole batch into a crock pot for an overnight simmer. In the morning, strain through a fine mesh strainer, dispose of bones and vegetables, pour broth into mason jars, cool, and refrigerate. Once the broth is chilled, you can easily remove the hardened fat layer from the top.* Use or freeze as desired.
The overnight simmer is optional, and the broth will still taste phenomenal without it; however, if you’ve ever had stock that is simmered this way and this long, you’ll see why we go to the extra trouble. Also, the longer it simmers, the more marrow is removed from the bone and the healthier and richer the broth is. The more “gelatinous” the broth, the more marrow it contains.
Chicken broth is not only good for your favorite recipes, it’s fantastic for anyone recuperating from an illness. It’s warm, easy to digest, delicious, and filled with a ton of immune boosting herbs and spices. This stock enhances your immune system and provides you with easy to assimilate minerals. The marrow inside the bones contains nutrients that feed your bone marrow. When your bone marrow is nourished, you create healthier immune cells and can better fight off colds and other viruses.
*Since my chickens are organic, I sometimes save the fat separately and use for making roux for gumbo and creoles. Other times, I leave it in for a richer broth.
Tips for Healing:
If you have just had a baby, supplement your meals by drinking two cups of this rich broth each day for several months. If you are recovering from an illness, surgery, trauma, or fatigue good rich marrow-filled broth is an excellent meal choice while you recuperate.
The more fresh garlic the better!
Add a Tablespoon of an acidic ingredient to your stock (wine; lemon or lime juice; or raw apple cider vinegar), it helps to leech the minerals from the bones.