We eat a heck of a lot of chicken breast in our household, so I definitely want to make sure we get our chicken breasts at a decent price. Depending on market conditions and brand it seems like we can pay anywhere from 2$ to 5$ per pound of the stuff, which is a pain.
On thing we’ve started doing is buying the bone-in, split-breast chicken, especially when we get it on good sale. Not only are these cuts a heck of a lot less expensive (even considering the extra weight of the bones), but we also end up with lots of extra chicken bones that we can turn into stock. We pick them up on the cheap, take them home, butcher them, and toss the various bits in the freezer until needed.
We keep two big plastic bags in the freezer. One is filled with chicken bones, and the other is filled with old vegetable peelings and vegetables that were about to go bad but we froze them at the last minute. If we’ve got half an onion that’s been in the fridge for a few days and we don’t have any plans to use it, we throw it in the freezer. Buy more carrots than we can reasonably eat before they get rotten? In the freezer. Some fresh herbs left over that we don’t have a plan for? In the freezer. You’re digging through the fridge and Oh No! There’s some old bell peppers hiding under the tortillas? Throw it in the freezer. Every couple weeks we can take the contents of these bags out, toss all the stuff into a big pot with some other bits and seasonings, and we get chicken stock.
- A pile of chicken bones and parts
- Various vegetables that still have good flavor, even if the texture and appearance is a little off (carrots, celery, onion, turnips, tomatoes, etc)
- Herbs and seasonings (Sage, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, peppercorns, garlic, salt, etc)
Put the stock pot over medium-high heat. Add some oil, onions (if using) and chicken bits. Let these things get a little bit brown, for added flavor. Add in your other vegetables and seasonings and add enough water to cover. Bring the pot to a boil, and boil/simmer for a few hours. Strain out the liquid into a container and put it in the refrigerator. Later, when the stock is cool, skim off the congealed fat from the top of the stock.
- Everything solid is being strained out, so don’t worry about chopping your vegetables nicely. Toss in whole carrots or celery stick, snapping them in half if they’re too big for your pot. You don’t need to peel your carrots either, just give them a quick wash to make sure the dirt and other bits are off them.
- Depending on salt content, the stock should freeze well and keep for a long time in your freezer. Your stock should keep for several days in your refrigerator as well. If you have the equipment, you can put it into quart jars and pressure can them at 11 pounds for 25 minutes, depending on your altitude.
- Chicken skins have lots of flavor, but that flavor is mostly trapped in the fats, which will be skimmed off later. Don’t bother putting chicken skin in with your stock, it adds nothing to the final product.
This is a pretty darn cheap alternative, considering the store-bought stock can cost upwards of 2 dollars per quart.
We’ve done the same thing with beef and pork bones too, although we tend to eat less beef and pork than we do chicken and sometimes it can be best flavor-wise to leave the bones in these things.
Next time I’ll talk about what to do with a big container of chicken broth.