Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 8 hours
This chicken stock recipe is simple, flexible, and easy to put together. For ingredients, we use the remains of our roast chicken, all the bones, the neck and back, and a variety of vegetables and herbs from our garden. The finished stock is wonderful.
The Secret Weapon
Stock is only as good as its ingredients, and pastured chicken makes excellent stock. However, the secret of the very best stock is chicken feet.
Most people recoil from the idea of throwing gnarly old chicken feet into their stock, and I used to feel the same way. For the longest time, after processing chickens, I saved the chicken feet as a treat for our farm dog. Bando loves chicken feet.
However, several of our customers began to request the feet of their chicken to use for stock. I knew these folks to be really good cooks, so I tried it myself. Now the dog gets no chicken feet, and the stock gets all the feet. Sometimes we make stock out of only chicken feet, and it is excellent.
Making your own stock allows you to control the flavors. We met a wonderful chef in Mombasa who took all the vegetables and herbs in the kitchen that were past their prime and added them to her amazing stock. She said the wider variety of vegetables she added, the more complex the taste of the stock.
The ingredients in our stock recipe are merely a guideline; please feel free to experiment with your stock based on the ingredients you have at hand. We have added every type of left-over veggies and herbs to our stock, from corn on the cob (cob and all) to carrots, and anything else that grows in our gardens. After we strain the veggies from the stock, we place them in the compost bin. But first, we distill from them every last bit of flavor and nutrition.
The Right Concentration of Stock
Your finished stock should be considered “stock concentrate”, and may require a little thinning with water. Grocery store stock, what most of us are used to, is pretty thin. Your homemade stock will be much more robust and intense—one cup of your stock will be worth about three cups or more of grocery store stock.
Thin your stock with water to your desired level of intensity; maybe one cup stock plus two cups water. We use the sight method (clarity of the stock in a jar) and the taste method (sampling with a spoon). Try to not eat all the stock during your sampling, as I learned the hard way.
- Skin and bones left over from a roast pastured chicken
- 2 chicken feet
- 2 medium-sized onions, peeled and quartered
- 4 whole garlic cloves, peeled
- 3 whole carrots, peeled
- 4 celery stalks, cut in half
- Various veggies bordering on ruin (we used corn, sweet potatoes, and squash)
- 2 whole bay leaves
- Herb bouquet we used thyme, parsley, and dill; sage and tarragon also pair well with poultry
To prepare: Place ingredients in a crock pot and submerge completely in water. Cook on the low setting of your electric crock pot with the lid on for 8 hours. Or, place ingredients in a cast iron pot, submerge completely in water, and cook in oven with the lid on for 8 hours at 200 degrees. You may have to add a cup or two of water due to evaporation while cooking.
Many chicken stock recipes call for removing the thin layer of fat that congeals at the top of the stock after it cools. If you use a grocery store chicken, you should remove the fat. With this recipe, however, there will be a very small amount of fat (if any) because the chicken is pastured. If any fat congeals, it is the good healthy fat you want in your diet. We stir this into the stock and it is great for flavor and health.
Aftter stock cools, strain vegetables, chicken bones and feet, and herbs, and pour liquid into an airtight container (we like mason jars). Thin with water to desired level of concentration. Freeze for up to 2 months, or use immediately. If you freeze the stock in jars, leave a little head space so the stock can expand as it freezes.
We are not able to provide accurate nutritional information because there are so many variables in this recipe. The amount and type of produce, herbs, and chicken parts will vary widely, and also the final concentration of stock will vary according to taste.
Good chicken stock is as healthy as its ingredients. When we make stock from the chicken and vegetables and herbs we grow on our farm, we know there are only good things in it, and we feel free to use as much of it as we like.
By using chicken feet, your stock will be much richer in collagen, calcium, glucosamine chondroiten, and other essential minerals. The health benefits of adding chicken feet to the stock are as great as the taste benefits.
More about Chicken Stock:
A good stock adds richness, depth, and flavor to the dish. However, a mediocre stock can diminish, rather than enhance, your dish. If you are going to the trouble to prepare an excellent meal, it’s worth it to have a good stock on hand.
The supposed benefit of grocery store chicken stock is that it is easy and inexpensive. The negatives of grocery store stock are the taste and health properties. You will never find a stock in the store as good as what you make in your own kitchen.
To that end, the stock you make in your kitchen will definitely be cheaper than grocery store stock, because you are using items already at hand. Even better, you can use chicken parts and produce that would otherwise be thrown out, and get a lot of value from them first. And it takes about the same amount of time to prepare your own stock as it does to wheel the cart down the grocery store aisle and reach for a container of stock (not counting the overnight simmering—but hey, the crock pot didn’t have anything better to do).
Good chicken feet can be hard to find. The best way to get a good supply of feet is to call your local farmer and reserve them. Ethnic grocery stores or markets sometimes carry them.
When you get the feet, you can throw them into the stock exactly as they are. You do not need to remove the outer skin from the feet, or cut off the toe nails. One of our wonderful customers told me she clips the nails of the chicken feet, so they appear more aesthetic in the cook pot. But there is no need to pedicure your chicken feet, just throw them in the pot and put on the lid.