This year, step away from the box – boxed chicken broth, that is.
Simmer chicken pieces (or bones) for a few hours with carrot, onion celery and herbs, then strain, cool and freeze. The house will smell heavenly and you will have “liquid gold” in the freezer to use for fantastic soups, stews, risottos and more.
Making Broth is Easy and Healthy
Making homemade chicken broth is easy. Most of the time is hands off while it simmers on the stove. The big reason to make it is taste and control of ingredients. Homemade tastes much better than anything store bought. You control whether it’s a rich or light in flavor. You control the sodium level. That would be zero in homemade.
If you read the labels on most store brands, you will be shocked at the sodium content and other ingredients (like sugar). Not healthy.
Broth or Stock?
So is it broth or stock? These days the terms are used interchangeably. Traditionally, chicken broth is made with meaty chicken pieces and chicken stock is made from chicken bones.I also make broth from the frozen, saved carcasses of roasted chicken. The broth is not as clear, but it tastes great. Plus, it is thrifty.
What Kind of Chicken?
When making homemade stock I often use a whole, cut-up organic chicken. I’ll buy the two packs at the warehouse store because their prices are good on whole organic chickens or buy them on sale. I also use bone-in chicken thighs and legs.
Check with the butcher and ask if they have chicken bones or parts for sale. It will usually be backs and necks from chickens they have cut up. Some cooks even add chicken feet, which adds great body to the broth. They all work, as long as there are bones. Use what you can get at a good price.
Prepare the Chicken
To prepare your chicken, rinse and remove as much skin and any extra fat as possible. That means less skimming and fat at the end. If using a whole chicken, you’ll need to cut it up into pieces. Follow the photos. Use a sharp French or chef’s knife or a cleaver.
How to Cut Up a Whole Chicken
Start by freeing the leg-thigh major piece above the joint. Cut through the skin and cut above the joint. Bend the chicken in your hands to tell where it is. The joint will pop out. Remove the skin then cut this larger piece into the leg and thigh.
Next, cut off the wings, again above the joint. Next, cut off the breasts. Start by slicing through the center breast bone. Free the breasts from the body and cut them in half crosswise.
Lastly, cut what is left of the body in half crosswise. You will end up with twelve pieces. After cutting up raw poultry, immediately wash and sanitize your tools.
Bones are important because they contain collagen protein. That’s what gives the broth body, flavor and richness. When you simmer your broth for at least 4-5 hours or longer (I usually simmer mine for 8+ hours), the collagen breaks down and releases into the broth. When cooled, good broth will be wiggly like gelatin. That’s because of the collagen.
What is That Scum?
The brownish, foamy scum that appears when you first begin to simmer your broth is impurities being released. Skim if off and discard every few minutes until it’s gone. Skim, skim, for a good clear broth.
Add Aromatics, Skip the Salt
Next, add your aromatics and herbs. I add carrots, onion, celery (all organic), a dried bay leaf or two, black peppercorns, fresh parsley and thyme sprigs. What don’t I add? Salt. Skipping salt allows you to add the right amount of salt in your final dish to meet your tastes. A no sodium broth is also good for people with sodium restrictions.
Add Boiling Water as Needed
As your broth simmers over a few hours, the water level will drop. I keep an electric kettle of hot water going and add water as needed.
Keep it at a Simmer
Never cook your broth above a low simmer. If you boil or stir it your broth will be cloudy. Just let it happily bubble away, filling your house with heady fragrance.
Finishing the Broth
At the end of simmering, your broth will be golden and clear. Carefully strain out the spent bones, meat, vegetables and herbs. Discard them, as they have given their best to your broth. Place the strained broth in a large stainless steel bowl or another pot and place it in a sink of ice water. This will help it cool quickly.
To speed the cooling, place a trivet under the bowl or pot for ice water circulation. Stir occasionally until it’s cool. From there, refrigerate and use within three days or freeze. You can use muffin tins for small measures, canning jars and larger containers. Measure it out, label (masking tape and a Sharpie should always be in the kitchen) and freeze for up to three months.
In a pinch, we may all need to occasionally resort to a good canned or boxed brand of chicken broth, but try making homemade. It’s the best.
Helpful links and information:
Golden French Onion Soup, recipe here
Tuscan Vegetable Soup, recipe here