Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Chicken Stock

A while back I took Caprial and John's cooking class. One of the things they said was best to do was make your own stock. I didn't ask them why they sometimes used the boxed stuff on TV (answer: sponsorship).

Anyway, they recommended getting a pressure cooker and throwing a pound or two of wings in, with some water, carrots, onion, bay leaf, celery, etc. In an hour you've got stock.

Well, we're already a little gadget happy in our house (not all are mine, but I have to admit to owning 20 or so bamboo utensils), so I didn't really want to get a pressure cooker. Plus, I'm kind of slow in the kitchen, so "whipping up" stock to use for that meal seems like yet another impediment.

I decided to make a big batch of stock and freeze it. So I ordered a "case" of wings from the co-op (which is 20 pounds) and waited. It came as a single block of frozen wings - kind of difficult to deal with.

I started thawing the wings in the oven, and when possible, I split the bunch in two. I used half the wings for stock, and roasted the other half for making stock later. Five pounds of wings, a chicken carcass from the night before, two onions, four carrots, four stalks of celery, and some bay leaves simmered in the 10 quart pot for most of the day. After straining off the solids, I had nearly 7 quarts of stock.

I did want to compare this process to buying stock from the store. Turns out, on sale, a quart of organic, free-range chicken broth will cost around $2.29, regularly nearly $3.29 - and the google search shows cases selling for $3.50 a quart. The wings cost $22, plus the carrots/celery/onion, and the cost is about $2 a quart - even cheaper than the lowest sale price I could find.

Not to mention, the homemade stock is miles better than the store bought. The store bought stuff is pretty much just colored water, and the homemade is so thick with goodness that it has the consistency of jello when cool.

Cooking tasty meals is a lot easier when you have some good staples on hand, and stock is certainly one of them.

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