A step-by-step guide for making chicken stock, a staple in any non-vegetarian kitchen. Chicken stock is used as the base for many soups and sauces, as well as adding flavour and richness to risottos, stews and pasta dishes.
Homemade chicken stock
To make your own chicken stock, follow these steps:
To make basic chicken stock, you will need bones from two chickens, water, 1 medium onion, 1 medium carrot, 2 sticks celery, 15 coarsely ground black peppercorns and 1/2 of a bay leaf.
Remove as much fat from the chicken bones as possible. Do this by slicing off the chicken fat with a standard, sharp kitchen knife. You will not be able to remove every ounce of fat from the bones. Do not worry; you will skim much of the remaining fat off of the stock before you are finished.
Place the bones in a large stockpot. Pour water into the pot until the bones are completely immersed. Turn the hob on to a high temperature, and watch the stock carefully to ensure that it does not come to the boil at any point. Boiling the water will cause fat to churn in the pot rather than rise to the top where you can skim it off. When the stock appears to be about to come to the boil, reduce the heat to low. The stock should simmer at a very low heat. The goal is to have only one bubble rise to the surface per second, but a low simmer will suffice.
While the water is heating, begin to prepare the vegetables. Keep in mind it is in your best interest to keep the vegetables in moderately large chunks as they will be simmering in the pot for at least 45 minutes, and small pieces of vegetable will lose their flavour quickly. Begin by removing the top and bottom of the onion, peeling and cutting it in half. Discard the top, bottom and skin pieces. Slice the onion into large chunks.
Peel and slice the carrots. The carrots should be sliced into fairly large chunks.
Celery leaves, especially those on the outside of the bunch, can be extremely bitter and will do nothing to improve the taste of your stock. Remove and discard these leaves from the celery sticks. Then, slice the celery into pieces.
Combine the onions, carrots and celery in a mixing bowl. Add the coarsely ground peppercorns and the 1/2 bay leaf to the bowl.
Looking at the simmering stock, you will notice a yellow layer of fat has risen to the surface.
Use a ladle to skim this layer off. Discard the unwanted fat. This photo shows how the stock should appear after it has been skimmed.
The stock will need to simmer 2 hours total. After the stock has simmered for 1 hour and 15 minutes, add the vegetables to the pot. Bring the stock back to a simmer. While the stock simmers for the final 45 minute stretch, constantly skim the fat off the surface as it becomes visible.
Strain the stock through a fine sieve or alternate straining device (muslin laid inside an ordinary colander will work fine).
The finished stock should be a light tan colour, translucent and have little or no fat floating on the surface. The stock is now ready for use. A great way to keep your stock fresh and at the ready is to pour it into ice cube trays or bags and then freeze them. This way, the stock is broken up into manageable amounts. You can use one or two cubes when making a sauce, or melt down all of the cubes for a scrumptious soup base.