Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Making Stock from Scratch

Sorry, but there is not one single Thrive ingredient in this "recipe". Okay, it isn't even really a recipe - it's more of a method. But I think it is really important that every cook knows how to make their own chicken stock from scratch. Sure, you can buy it in a can or a box, full of things your can't pronounce, for a couple of bucks. Or you can use the things you already have on hand to make yourself a nice big batch of chicken stock for FREE! How is it free? Well, because you're going to make it out of things you otherwise might throw away.

Don't worry - I'm not telling you to make chicken stock out of garbage.

The truth is, everyone is starting to feel the financial squeeze of our current economy. I find myself making different choices at the grocery store - choosing generic over brand name, going without a few luxuries, and making things from scratch when I can. So here's a great way to save yourself a few bucks and make a base for a fabulous meal all a the same time. And the best part: your crock pot does all of the hard work while you sleep!

Are you convinced yet? Good, let's get started.

First, get yourself a gallon sized freezer bag. For the next week (or more) throw all of your vegetable scraps in this bag and keep it in the freezer. By vegetable scraps, I mean the tops you cut off raw onions, the ends of the zucchini, potato peels (as long as they aren't dirty), a wilting celery stalk, that sad little limp carrot in the bottom of your vegetable crisper, even the "guts" out of bell peppers. When your bag is full, it's time to make a chicken for dinner.

Put a whole chicken in your crock pot and cook it on low all day. Don't worry about adding water - it will cook in its own juices and be deliciously tender by dinner time. As you serve the chicken, add all of the skin, bones and discarded meat back into the crock pot that still has the chicken juices in the bottom. Pour in the bag of veggies you've been saving and add enough water to cover everything by about three inches. Put the lid back on and cook it on low all night long. In the morning, pour everything from the crock pot through a large strainer with a large bowl underneath it. Discard all of the solids and put the stock in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours. Skim the fat solids off the top of the stock, and you're done!

Several interesting things can happen at this stage. One, your stock could be green. This will happen if you use a lot of green vegetables, or vegetable greens (like carrot tops). Don't worry - it's perfectly fine and will taste delicious. Also your stock might be very thick and gelatinous. This is also perfectly fine.

You've got a couple of options when it comes to storing fresh chicken stock. I generally use mine right away and make a big pot of soup. You could freeze it in small containers for later use, or even freeze it in ice cube trays. Once the cubes are frozen solid, pop them out and store them in a zip top bag for up to 6 months.

This recipe could easily be adapted to make beef stock (collect beef bones from steaks and roasts until you have 6 or 8 of them), seafood stock (use shrimp and/or crab shells) or just use the veggies to make a vegetarian stock.

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