Chicken stock is a staple ingredient in a homestead kitchen. Many cooks utilize the boxed or canned stock available at the grocery store or even bouillon cubes or granules. While these definitely offer convenience, making your own stock is easy and delicious. This also allows you to make the most of good ingredients that may otherwise go to waste. Below I’ll show you how I make my own chicken stock as well as how I preserve it for storage through pressure canning.
The first step takes place sometime in advance. Whenever I cook a recipe requiring a whole chicken I put aside any of the unused pieces; primarily the back, neck, and wing tips, and store in the freezer until I have two or three chickens worth of scraps. For this batch of stock I had the parts of two chickens. The vegetables and seasonings I use are what I commonly have in the kitchen and are the flavors I enjoy. You can add or omit any that you’d like to fit your taste.
Scraps from 2-3 whole chickens
1 large onion
5 celery stalks
4 large carrots
2 Tbsp minced garlic
2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp pepper corns
STEP 1: Place the chicken parts, coarsely chopped vegetables, and seasonings in a large 16 quart stock pot.
STEP 2: Add twice as much water as it takes to cover the vegetables.
STEP 3: Place this pot on high heat until it reaches a boil. Reduce to a very slow simmer and allow to cook down until the meat has fallen off the bone and the veggies are almost completely cooked down. This usually takes about six hours.
I gauge the amount of time it should simmer on whether or not it looks like something I could still turn into chicken noodle soup. If the veggies have broken down such that they no longer look appetizing then it is done.
STEP 4: Now to strain out all the veggies and seasonings. I do this by placing a wire strainer over another large pot.
After straining the stock you’ll end up with your wonderfully seasoned liquid in one pot and the remains of your chicken and vegetables in the strainer.
These vegetables will be fed to our hog who will love this yummy addition to her regular morning chow. If you don’t have a hog it can be composted. Now there may be a large amount of fat on the top of your stock. You’ll want to skim that off and the easiest way to do that is to cool the liquid overnight and allow the fat to become solid. It will then be very easy to scoop out with a serving spoon.
Step 5: It is now time to preserve your stock. You can freeze it or you can can it with a pressure canner. I elect to can my stock as our freezer space is reserved for garden vegetables that don’t can well and meat raised here on the farm. It is very important that whenever canning you follow tested recipes and follow the instructions of your canner. Canning involves not only sealing the jars, but also rising the temperature high enough for the heat to penetrate the food at a temperature that will kill any bacteria. These temperatures are reached only under pressure and therefore you cannot can stock (or any other non-acidic food) in a water bath canner safely.
I use an All American pressure canner and follow the recipes for stock found in both the All American book and Ball Blue Book. Both require the canning of quarts to be done under 10 pounds of pressure for 25 minutes.
I prepare by cleaning and heating the quart jars in the dishwasher. While they are washing I heat the stock again on the stove, begin to heat the water in the canner, and sanitize the lids. I want everything to be hot and ready to go when the jars are done in the dishwasher. This is because you want to put hot liquid into hot jars. If you put hot liquid in cold jars you risk breaking them as the temperature changes too quickly in the glass. This could happen if I didn’t heat the liquid until after the jars were cleaned and cooling while the stock heated. When the jars are ready, I fill them with the stock leaving one inch of head space. This gives room for the stock to expand during the heating process while in the canner. When it comes out of the canner and cools the air will contract and cause the lid to seal.
I then put the the lids on the jars. They’ve been simmering in a pot of water so I use the magnet stick to pull them out and place them on the jars. I then use the screw rings to secure the lids in place. The jars are then placed in the canner and the canner lid secured. Follow the instructions of your canner, but mine require that it be allowed to build up pressure until a steady stream of steam comes out the pipe for ten minutes then the weight be placed at ten pounds for 25 minutes.
Once the jars have been in the canner for 25 minutes at ten pounds. The heat is turned off and the canner is allowed to reduce to zero pressure. The weight is then removed and the remaining steam allowed to escape and set for five minutes. I then remove the canner lid and allow the jars to cool for two minutes while remaining in the canner. The jars are removed and set on a towel on the counter and allowed to cool for 24 hours. During this time you’ll hear that classic “pop” of the lids sealing as the liquid inside the jars cools and creates a vacuum.
Once the jars have cooled for 24 hours, check the lids for sealing by pressing the middle of the lid. It should be sealed tightly down and not pop up when pressed. If it does, you’ll need to either refrigerate that jar for later use or re-can it. For jars that have properly sealed, remove the rings and place the lids in a place where they can be stored upright without any other items stacked on top of them.
I hope this tutorial gives anyone interested the confidence to take their canning beyond your basic garden vegetables. This stock will be a delicious addition to your homegrown kitchen staples.
Happy homesteading and God bless.