Chicken Stock

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Now I don’t know about you, but I have a passion, some may say obsession, for using up and transforming food.   And I have to say there is very little that beats the satisfaction you feel when making a chicken stock.  It’s versatility has no limits, and if you want to intensify the flavour, you just allow the liquid to steam off.

So, this is how I do it.  Firstly, find a pan that is solid and happy to have heat underneath it for a long time.  I have a cast iron pan, which I think is perfect for stocks, but anything with a heavy bottom will be fine.  I then throw the chicken carcass and any other chicken bits that have not been devoured, into the pan.  Next I chop up a couple of onions into quarters, skins on.  Skins on?  Well, they add flavour and to be honest, you are going to sieve the whole lot eventually.

I also add celery sticks, and carrots.  Once again chopped with as little effort as you wish.  I’m not sure that chopping improves the flavour but I have style issues, and I think it looks better and therefore makes me feel as though I know what I’m doing.

As far as seasoning is concerned salt, whole peppercorns and a couple of bay leaves are all I usually add, although I have been known to occasionally include chillies, as chicken stock with a kick is great for soups.  Cover the whole lot with water and pop the lid on.

Now then, the next bit is the key to chicken stock success.  Put on the hob, bring to the boil and simmer.  For at least six hours.

I’m actually quite keen on simmering the stock for eight hours, often starting it off in the evening, turning it off when I go to bed, and then finishing it off the following morning or evening.   I’m not sure it makes much difference, but as it’s a third of a day this, once again, gives me pleasure and reassurance.  I’ve often wondered how people worked out optimum timings for such things.  I guess it’s trial and error.

Anyway, once the stock has cooled, but not gone cold, sieve.  If you leave it until it’s gone completely cold, the liquid turns into a jelly like substance (something to do with the meat fats) and it sticks to all the stuff that’s in there.  Pour into pots.  When the stock has gone completely cold, you can, if you wish, scrape off any excess fat. My personal opinion is that the fat from meat in a stock truly enhances the flavour of whatever you may be cooking but I am aware that for whatever reason, not everyone shares this opinion.

As to the type of container required, I have varying sizes of plastic pots in the freezer with stock in them, but that’s only because I have plastic pots in various sizes.

And that’s it.  Job done.  Just to add a final thought.  I guarantee the next time you cook a meal that requires chicken stock, and you take your own home made one out of the freezer, you will do so with a rather beautiful, self satisfied grin.

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