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The magic of chicken stock.

I've mentioned chicken stock a few times before, specifically in the post on how I heal my kids when they get sick. I don't love making chicken stock as much as I love making bread. Making bread helps me to relieve stress, helps me feel grounded, and is one of the things I do around my house that make me feel productive. Making chicken stock only happens because 1) it's really easy, 2) it's too cheap not to, and 3) while there isn't much fun in the process of making it (like there is with making bread- I love kneading and seeing bread dough rise), I love the way it makes my house smell as it simmers on the stove.

Making your own chicken stock is so easy and cheap there is no real reason not to. It's also a superfood, which is why we eat a lot of it in the winter and on the rare occasion we get sick. What is in chicken stock that is so magical? Well, some things we know, and some we don't. For one, we know that the minerals and other compounds that come from the bones replace trace minerals we loose when we are suffering from certain illnesses. But the miracle that is chicken soup has been around for hundreds of years, and no one is 100% sure why it works- just that it does. And the store bought stuff, in most cases, is devoid of many of the healthful minerals that make a good stock so healthy (plus they taste like water to me now).

Here is my recipe for Chicken Stock (adapted from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon) and the price breakdown... keep in mind I bought everything on sale, which makes it cheaper, but this is not hard to do.

2 whole chickens or 2 family sized packages of BONE IN chicken pieces- 6.80 for just under 7 lbs.
1 lb of carrots (6-7 carrots)- .69
1 bunch celery- .99
3-4 onions- .50
Garlic and Bay Leaves (optional- I didn't count these in the cost because I couldn't remember what I paid for either)
Parsley, fresh or dried- .25
Splash of Apple Cider Vinegar (a big splash, between 1/4 and 1/2 cup, but I don't measure)

The amounts I have listed above are for a 12 quart stock pot- if you don't have a pot that big halve the amounts I have listed above and use an 8 quart pot.

When I use a whole chicken I usually take a pair of kitchen shears and cut the chicken roughly in half down the back and breast.

Put all of the ingredients except for the parsley into the stock pot. Cover with water- in my 12 quart stock pot I fill it almost to the top to allow for some reduction. Try to make sure everything is covered with water by at least an inch or two.

Allow this to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Then bring pot to a boil. At this point pay a little attention to the pot and skim of any foam/scum that rises to the top- this will occur as the pot is beginning to boil, and is usually done by the time the boil becomes rolling. Skim off as much foam/scum as you can, but don't stress if you can't get it all. Then cover the pot, turn it down to 2 or 3 (or that's what I turn it down to), and let it simmer. Check every once in a while to make sure it's simmering, but not violently boiling, and adjust the temperature accordingly. Let it simmer for at least 7 hours, up to 24. Since we don't have a gas stove I usually let ours simmer overnight.

Once the stock has simmered, strain the stock from the solids. This is the trickiest part if you made the full recipe, since it's a big pot and a LOT of liquid. I usually set up two big bowls with two colanders over them, since I don't have a single bowl big enough. Then I carefully pour the stock through the colander. Once I've got it all strained the stock will usually all fit in my Thatsabowl (it's a super mega tupperware bowl- I love it despite my distaste for plastic, because there are many things I do with it that I can't imagine a non plastic vessel of its size handling... or me handling a non-plastic vessel of it's size!). I put the lid on it and put it in the garage fridge (you could also put it outside providing the temp isn't above 40 degrees, just check it often because you don't want it to freeze yet).

Don't throw that chicken away! Fish the chicken pieces out and set them to the side until they are cool enough to handle. Then carefully pull the meat off the bones and freeze it. I vacuum seal it so it keeps better, but any container you have should work. This meat isn't exactly full of flavor, but it's fine for chicken enchiladas, chicken salad, or any other saucy chicken dish, and it would be horribly wasteful to toss all that good meat!

Another thing I like to do at this point is take some of the smaller scraps of meat, a few of the carrots (not the onions or celery, they're not good for dogs... also, cooked chicken skin isn't supposed to be good for dogs either, so I fish that out), and mix them with as much of the bone and marrow as I can mash. The ends of the bones and most of the smaller bones should be soft enough to mash with a fork. I mash all of this together and feed it to my dog. Remember, it's not healthy to feed a domesticated dogs bones. Wild dogs can eat bones because they consume them with the flesh and hide, which buffers their digestive tract from the bone fragments, but simply feeding a dog a bone can cause bone fragments to lodge in the stomach or intestine- not a vet bill I want to pay! But the portions of the bones that are soft enough for your dog to eat are safe, and I know my dog loves them. When I start taking the meat of the bone she's there as fast as a cat when you start opening a can of tuna.

Once the stock has cooled fully there should be a layer of fat on the top, and the stock itself should be kind of jello-ey. Scoop or skim the fat off the top, then portion into your choice of containers or freezer bags... this is one of the few applications I still use bags for, because the volume of stock I make wouldn't fit in the freezer otherwise. I try to reuse them if they stand up to the freezing. Anyway, I usually put 2 cups in each bag, which is about the amount in a can of broth, but that's a matter of preference. I sometimes also will freeze some in cupcake tins and ice cube trays so that I can have smaller portions on hand, but I don't use those as often as the larger bags.

The last time I made this recipe it cost me a total of $9.23 to make, and I got 20 cups of stock (that's equal to five boxes of the store bought stuff), 6 cups of cooked chicken, and one super yummy treat for my dog.

Can't really beat that price.

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