Before I outline the process involved in making our own chicken stock I think it is necessary to explain why we would go to such great lengths when there is chicken stock available at the grocery store:
1. it's more frugal
2. it's more environmental (no boxes of what is essentially water being shipped around the country)
3. no MSG!
4. no god-knows-what-other chemicals
5. you can control the amount of salt
6. it can be used for Asian soup (which boxed celery flavored stocks can’t)
7. it’s a lot better, and I mean a lot
So here’s how we did our latest batch: first we bought a several pound bag of chicken feet from an organic farm at our local farmer’s market. (Note: you must be strong willed and strong stomached to stir a boiling vat of chicken feet.) (And if you aren’t lucky enough to have a local farmer who sells chicken feet try looking at ethnic markets, I recently saw them for sale at an Asian market.) Next we bought a huge package of chicken legs (bone in and skin on of course) at the grocery store which was on sale for $.79 a pound!
I started the stock by covering the chicken leg parts with just enough water so they were submerged. I brought it to a boil and then simmered it covered (or uncovered, probably doesn’t matter as you’re going to want to reduce it later) for about an hour. I then removed the legs and let them cool.
The reason I cooked these for only an hour was that I wanted the meat to still be usable and if it is cooked for too long it becomes pretty much flavorless. So while the meat still retained some flavor I boned and skinned it and ripped all the nice pieces off (with my bare hands…not a pretty sight to see) and threw them in a bowl. I then threw the bones and skin and all the other little bits back in the pot of water with the frozen chicken feet and simmered that uncovered for at least another hour.
The useable chicken bits I bagged and froze for future use in soup or chicken salad, making sure it was well labeled as it would otherwise be quite a mystery when dug out of the back of the freezer six months down the line.
When the stock had cooled enough I strained out all the bones and was left with astoundingly golden chicken broth which I put in a smaller pot in the fridge overnight. The next day when I removed it had a nice half inch of fat on the top which I skimmed off with a spoon. The fat went into a small pan so I could cook out the moisture over low heat. The fat then went in the fridge for some future use…although I’m not sure what yet.
The stock also got warmed again but just enough that it could be poured into several containers to be labeled and frozen.
Although I find plain chicken stock to be the most useful, if you know you are going to use if for Asian soup (Japanese, Chinese, etc.) you can flavor it with some garlic and ginger while it is still cooking.
And a note on salting: you should probably wait until the end of the cooking process to salt, because if you salt it early on, as it reduces it can become way too salty. In which case you might as well go out and buy commercial stock with its 900 mg. of salt per serving.
But beware the homemade chicken stock: if you make it you will become so spoiled that you will find it impossible to go back to the store bought kind and you will be forever burdened with the task of locating and then cooking down scary chicken parts for your stock.