Thursday, November 10, 2011

Soup's On!

What does one do with a freezer full of year-old chicken neck bones, feet and backbones?  Well, if you’re 85% of the “normal” population, you probably don’t even have those things in your freezer, because you would have:
A) tossed those pieces out when you finished your Walmart pre-cooked chicken
B) never got those pieces in your package of “fresh” Smart Chicken or Perdue from the supermarket
C) the Tai Noodles with Chicken take-out only came with chunks of chicken breasts.
But, the rest of us will make it into Chicken Stock!  And if you’ve never made chicken stock, it’s about time you did.  It’s easy and oh-so-yummy.  Forget what you’ve tasted out of the can. Homemade is like chicken soup orgasm!  Like you’ve taken a chicken and just sucked the chicken-ness out of it and put it in a bowl for you to slurp up on a cold, damp afternoon.  Almost makes you wonder exactly what they do to the stuff in the cans at the store to make it taste like it does.
So, how does one go about making Chicken Stock?  Well, you can go about it in a number of ways.  First, one must acquire a chicken, or suitable parts of a chicken.
A)   Go outside, pick a particurally nasty rooster, lop the head off, pluck, eviscerate & clean it.
B)   Dig through the deep freezer and find the not-quite-freezer-burned bag of chicken parts you bagged up last year for soup.
C)  Go to the supermarket and buy a whole chicken or pieces of chicken (cheapest parts are fine; if legs are on sale, go with the legs….if wings are on sale, go for the legs).
Next, go through your fridge.  Got some of those not-quite-ready-for-tossing veggies sitting in the back?  Take those carrots, onions, celery, wash the funk or hairy things off them, chunk ‘em up and put them aside.  Got some green onions or a clove of garlic?  Great.  Now go find a few bay leaves, salt and pepper.
Toss the chicken parts, veggies and bay leaves in a big pot, about two teaspoons of salt, several dashes of pepper and add water just to cover everything.  Turn on the burner, bring it to a boil then turn it down to a slow boil or simmer, just depends on how long you want to keep watching the pot.  When the chicken comes off the bone easily (like when you pick up a drumstick, the meat just sloughs off), strain the soup through a sieve into another pot and then pick the meat out of the strainer and put it in a container in the fridge for later use.  Save the veggies for the chickens or compost heap (you weren't going to throw that in the garbage, were you????)
I know this isn’t an exact recipe, and I know it drives some people crazy when there aren’t exact directions (for example, ME!), but honestly, I don’t follow any recipes for soup stock anymore.  I’m sorry. 
But, here is what looks like a good recipe for Chicken Stock, and it basically sounds like what I did, had I taken the time to actually measure out my ingredients.
Actually, I did do something else differently.  I used a pressure canner to cook my chicken stock.  It’s faster and I feel it gets more of the chicken-goodness out of the bones if it gets pressure cooked.  Same ingredients, just tossed into the pressure cooker and cooked at 10 lbs. for about twenty minutes (or more).  Technically it’s longer than what is recommended in the recipe book, but I like to do some other things with the “leftovers” from the soup. 
So now you’ve got your chicken stock.  Taste it and add salt & pepper if needed.  You can then slurp it all up or put it in the fridge for a few days or right into the freezer.  If you’re planning on canning the stock, then you’ve got a little more work to do.
I put the cooled stock into containers in the fridge.  The next day I’ll skim the fat off the top (oh, the shame!!) and re-heat the stock until boiling.  I’ll have cleaned quart jars, lids and bands ready and the pressure canner ready.  When the stock is at the boiling point, I pour it through my milk strainer fitted with a filter, put the lid and band on and into the canner it goes.
Straining the hot stock into clean hot quart jars, ready to go into the canner.
The chicken stock needs to be pressure canned at eleven pounds of pressure for twenty-five minutes (longer for high altitudes, check your canner instruction booklet for more info.).  After the time is up, turn the heat off or carefully move the canner over to a cool spot on the stove and let the pressure drop on its own.  When the pressure has dropped to zero, open the canner and place your homemade chicken stock on the counter for the night, making sure that each lid has “pinged” and sealed.
"Pinged" and sealed jars of homemade chicken stock.
You now have stock ready to be used whenever you get the hankering for chicken soup or for making other homemade dinners.  Remember that chicken you picked off the bones?  Plop it in a pot with the stock, some fresh chopped veggies and some egg noodles or rice or barley.
I’m exhausted from writing this post.  Better get myself a second bowl of soup so I don’t waste away to nothing (as if).


  1. Chicken soup weather around here. Think I'll dig out my chicken parts from the freezer :-)

  2. Chicken stock orgasm??? Sounds like a winner!

  3. Best post ever! Like you we have odd stuff in the freezer like beef knuckle bones, pig feet, oxtail (which really just came from an old milk cow) etc...we do sell many of those items in our little farm store but mostly to immigrants from other countries who now live in Illinois. They all learned to use the WHOLE animal in their home countries.

  4. Thanks for the tutorial - its gonna bring a ton of people to your blog! :)

  5. dr momi, I just KNEW I wasn't the only one with "parts" in the freezer!

    SciFiChick, Well, looking back at my choice of descriptive words, maybe it wasn't the best. But I write it as I feel it and at the time, it sounded good.

    Donna, I bet with your store you get a LOT of "parts" accumulating in your freezer. Good to know that there are some people that know how to use those parts. It's such a shame that more people don't utilize what is right in front of them and instead toss it in the garbage. Almost makes me cry.

    MamaTea, uhm, who's coming?? Are they coming soon? Do I have time to put my hair up and maybe brush my teeth (cups hand over mouth and hopes NOT to smell like garlic from dinner last night)?? I haven't even milked yet and there's chicken poop on my front porch!!! Aaaauuuggghhhh, the PRESSURE!

  6. Oh goodness, the comments are as entertaining as the post! LOL!!
    I actually stuck a roasted turkey breast carcass in the slow cooker the other day with some chunked up veggies and seasoning to make turkey stock. It turned out GREAT! I hate to admit it but I was once one of those people who just threw it away! Oh, the shame! ;-)