Basics

Homemade Chicken Broth

I managed to make it from last autumn all the way to late August without a single sign of sickness and then boom! Days after realizing how much unused sick time I had at work, I came down with one nasty little cold. Though I count myself lucky that I made it almost an entire year without any sort of ailments, I still couldn’t help but be annoyed by the sudden appearance of a minor virus. But as luck would have it, I had just made a large pot of chicken broth when this cold appeared, and thank goodness, because no matter how good western medicine is, there’s nothing more comforting than a big bowl of soup.

And while I was enjoying my soup, it came to me that I’m constantly saying on this blog to use homemade broth, yet I have yet to post a single recipe on how to make any sort of broth. So here’s my first: homemade chicken broth. It really is a miracle concoction and so simple to put together. There are so many ways to make it, so I will show many variations as I go.

First, a quick word on the difference between broth and stock. It is my understanding that stock is primarily made with bones, vegetables, and aromatics. It is generally used as a base for a recipe. Broth, on the other hand, is made with meat, as well as bones. It makes a richer product and can stand alone. For this reason, I prefer using meat, as well as bones.

You must start with the right kind of chicken. I only use local chicken, when possible, to make broth. Sometimes I use a whole chicken, if I want a bunch of leftover chicken to add to soups, stews, salads, etc. Or, if I don’t want a lot of chicken leftover, I just use chicken thighs. Chicken wings are another good choice or anything with dark meat. That’s where the rich flavor comes from. Just make sure to select cuts that still have the bones.

Along with the chicken, I also always add the following ingredients:

  • 2-4 carrots
  • 2 celery ribs (plus leaves)
  • 1 whole onion
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • kosher salt (this is not a time to skimp on salt!) and pepper (either whole peppercorns or freshly ground)
  • various fresh herbs, such as parsley, rosemary, thyme, and bay leaves (I use whatever I have on hand.)

That will give you a basic broth. You can also add any of the following. Each item will change the flavor.

  • mushrooms (dried or fresh)
  • leeks

I love adding leeks to broth but seldom have them on hand.

broth-12

Now you simply have to fill the pot with water. I place all the ingredients in first and then add the water. I fill it until it almost reaches the top, but leave room for the water to boil without boiling over. Once the water comes to a boil, turn the heat down so that it continues to simmer. You don’t want it to be at a rapid boil, but you also don’t want it to fall flat. Just a simmer is perfect. I partially cover the pot, so that steam can still escape. (If using a slow cooker, completely cover the pot.) It it starts to cook down too much, you can always add more water. And the longer it cooks, the better it’ll taste. How do you know when it’s done? If you can snap the chicken bones in half, it’s done. I cook mine until the vegetables are mush and the chicken is quite literally falling off the bone.

But of course, usually I’m in and out of my apartment all day, so unless I’m enjoying a lazy day at home, I don’t want to leave a pot on the stove all day. That’s where a slow cooker comes in handy. My slow cooker is small, so it doesn’t make as much broth as my large stock pot, but there’s really nothing better than coming home from work to the smell of chicken broth that’s been simmering all day.

broth done-12

When the broth is done, I pour it through a strainer to remove all of the chicken pieces and vegetables. Often I use the broth as a base to soup, add it to sauces and stews or drink it straight out of a mug. My favorite way to enjoy chicken broth is by making my great-grandmother’s pastina soup, which will be my next post.

Made more broth than you can use in one recipe? It’ll last in the refrigerator for a few days or you can freeze it. Just be sure to leave extra space in the jar/bowl for it to expand in the freezer. And try freezing it in different size containers (even ice cube trays), that way if you ever need just a small amount of broth for a recipe, you don’t have to defrost an entire jar.

Be creative. Don’t think of this as a bread recipe, in which forgetting a single ingredient will ruin the entire thing. Try different vegetables, cuts of meat, and aromatics until you get the broth you want. Or, if you’re like me, just use what you have on hand, and you’ll get a slightly different broth every time.

 

 

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