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Chicken Stock: 12 hours [Dec. 17th, 2010|12:01 am]
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Today I made chicken stock.   I read something recently about how the times given for recipes in books and on TV aren't really how long it takes (oh, dammit, another header design I didn't want just popped up here on the "post" page!   Just now.   It's far more distracting than the one before.  Anyway.)    So anyway, recipes guesstimate how long something takes, and it's longer.

But today, I made chicken stock in 12 hours, counting cleanup time.   Most of that time, it was simmering away on its own, and I was a) writing, b) doing laundry, c) goofing off online, d) watching "The Big Bang Theory."    So the 12 hours does not by any means 12 hours spent on my feet, stirring and tasting. 

Today's hindrances: waking up with a migraine that didn't let go for hours, demands by other people to do other things, competing chores.   Today's help: husband able to help with some chores (boning out the chickens while I kept writing, and pouring from the 20 quart pot to the 12 quart, when I got to that point, and carrying out the bones & other stuff strained from the stock.  And he did the laundry.)

So: I've been making chicken stock for years, so I have experience and equipment now, and I had purchased all the remaining components of the stock itself the night before, on the way home from choir practice.   This shortened prep time because I knew what I was doing.   At 9 am, about, I had finished breakfast, cleared the space, and brought out the monster pot (20 quart pot).  Pulled the two good-sized chickens (in shrink-wrap) out of the fridge, unwrapped them,  removed any heart/liver/etc. stuff from cavities, washed them out, put them in the pot along with heart/liver/etc.  One had a complete set; one didn't.   To that added (rough-chopped) the leafy ends of two bunches of celery, and "enough" of the stalks (chopped), a very large, stout carrot (cut into four or five pieces), two onions (quartered and peeled),  a whole bunch of garlic (cloves with a tip cut off),  half a dozen bay leaves (they were smallish), and almost all of two coarsely chopped bunches of parsley.   Then quite a bit of black peppercorns.   And then enough cold water to cover.  

Then put the lid on the pot, brought it to a boil, turned it down to simmer, and left it alone, with occasional inspections, until it was clear the meat was cooked.   At this point, the chickens were pulled out, meat removed and put in a steel bowl which was put in the fridge for cooling (foil covered.)  Bones went back in the liquid and cointinued to simmer several more hours until the big carrot could be easily cut with a wooden spatula. (Means all the flavor's out of them thar vegetables.)   

At that point all the easily removable vegetation and bones were removed from the pot into a colander over another steel bowl, pressed to remove the liquid, and discarded into (you guessed it) another steel bowl.  (Yes, I have a lot of steel bowls.  Very useful.)   The liquid went back into the main pot.  This continued until nearly all the "stuff" was out of the big pot.   Then left the lid off, and let the big pot simmer away (another hour or so)   to reduce the liquid to below 12 quarts (next pot size down.)  

The (washed) colander will fit over the top of the 12 quart pot, so the contents of the big pot were poured into the smaller pot, leaving all the lumps and leaves and piece of onion that had escaped earlier removal in the colander.  Then the 12 quart pot was left to simmer until the liquid reduced to the level I wanted (~7-8 quarts.)   This is sort of guesstimation, and the choice of amount is purely arbitrary and cook's choice.  

With the right amount in the pot, the next step is cooling.    I put cold water and ice in the sink, and put in the pot, then pulled the chilled chicken meat out of the fridge and started cutting it up for packaging & freezing.  Again, cook's choice: I put mine up in 2-cup amounts of cubed meat, each 2 cups in a 1 quart freezer bag, and four of such bags in a one-gallon freezer bag (keeps me from losing a packet of meat all the way to the bottom...)  By the time the meat was cut up and packaged and in the freezer, the stock was cool enough to put in the fridge for its overnight cooling...which makes it easy to lift off the layer of fat (hardens overnight) and thus package salt-free, almost fat-free stock/broth.   I took another break before starting the big cleanup.   But by 9 pm, everything was clean but the pot the stock was in, in the fridge.   The big pot was back in the pantry, the measuring cup back in its place, some things still drying in the rack.

In between,  I worked on the book (some progress made, once the headache eased around 11 am), did some other chores,  spent more time on the internet than I should've,  handled some business stuff,  watched a little TV...so the whole 12 hours wasn't spent slaving over a hot stove.  In fact, little of it.   In fact, I wasn't pushing to get it done "as fast as possible" so I didn't start cutting up the chicken meat as soon as it was cool enough (for instance)--there was time wasted here and there in the process while I did something else.   I now have four frozen packets of cooked chicken, each enough for a recipe that might be a chicken casserole, chicken enchiladas, chicken salad, chicken soups of various kinds.....and tomorrow will have at least six (I'm guessing, but conservatively) quarts of chicken stock for making various things.  

Would I have accomplished more on the book if I hadn't made stock today?   

Probably not.   I woke up with the migraine well before dawn, and even when the pain eases, migraine affects my writing for a solid 24 hours or more...once I can write again, I'm slower.  My head still feels full of goo, kind of overstuffed.  So interspersing strolls to the kitchen to see how it was coming along didn't really prevent anything (for one thing, I can hold the story in my head and think about it while walking those few yards and back.)   To me, old-fashioned slow cooking (making bread, making stock, making soups or stews or chili or slow-roasting meat)  doesn't interfere with writing much because I'm here anyway...and it just needs checking on now and then.   Other cooking--cakes, cookies, grilling--does require immediate attention for the full time of prep and isn't as compatible with writing.  For me, anyway.   I've burned some of those things, because I went back to the computer to write "just a sentence or two" and got carried away until the burning-sugar smell came from the kitchen.

Some of you may wonder why I keep talking about making stock and making soup and I think it's because I hear people talking about what a lot of work it must be.  And it's really not, although the amount of work will seem different to those who live in a neighborhood with a lot of good eating places within walking distance than it does to me.    Consider that if I can save a trip to the nearest full-size grocery store (20 miles) by cooking in batches and freezing in recipe-size portions, that's a 40 mile round trip I've saved--an average of an hour's driving time, plus the time spent shopping, plus the cost of gas (a couple of gallons.)    While I was sick, I was able to make up meals from components in the freezer and pantry.   Beef stock, cooked beef, chicken stock, cooked chicken, cooked ham, cooked turkey...all ready to be combined with canned, fresh or frozen vegetables.   So anyone who's home for a day could--if they wanted--make some stock.  and the next miserable day of snow/sleet/storm, or extreme heat/humidity...there's a meal, almost effortless.  Instead of being limited to what's in the store...you get to make it up the way you want it.   Spicy, bland, in between; with or without any of the ingredients I use...with the ones you want.

So back to timing.   This 12 hour chicken stock could undoubtedly have been made in less time if I'd not been doing other things.   And if you try it for the first time (in a smaller amount--nobody should start with a 20 quart pot unless they've got at least a stout helper and preferably an experienced advisor)  you will be done in 12 hours. 


[User Picture]From: alexandralynch
2010-12-17 06:34 am (UTC)
I do stock regularly in the crock-pot. It makes a smaller amount, but I can just put it on the counter and let it go without worries. In fact, the happy odors of chicken stock are diffusing through the house tonight. I'll strain it tomorrow and make chicken stew to take to my birthday party on Saturday.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2010-12-17 01:54 pm (UTC)
I'll bet a crock pot does make nice stock. Smaller amounts are perfectly reasonable for those who a) don't have freezer space and b) don't feel the need for a lot of stored stock. My mother, who worked full time, got a freezer in the early 1950s and started doing big batches of things any time she had a "free" Saturday, and I picked up the habit from her.

Happy Birthday in advance.
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[User Picture]From: pyg_klb
2010-12-21 03:19 am (UTC)

My easy crockpot chicken

I bought a new Crock-Pot (TM) last winter, and found that it runs hotter than my old one. Recipes that would cook on Low all day were done in half the time.

I've turned this to my advantage. I can stick a frozen chicken in with the usual souping ingredients (frozen veg scraps and water), and by evening, the chicken is thawed and cooked, and the rest is stock.
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[User Picture]From: danceswthcobras
2010-12-17 06:50 am (UTC)
Am not recommending liver in stock; it turns bitter. In the amounts you've stated it will be barely noticeable, but the liver is best saved for other culinary uses as it does not add anything nice to a stock. The heart, gizzard and feet (scald and scrub first) are nice additions, and sometimes I also use the heads in stock if I am already defeathering them with an initial scald, or if I plan to do a really fine strain on the stock. The latter isn't practical for large quantities of stock.

Rooster combs in my house always get prepped and saved in the freezer for a historically inspired braised dish I do of cock's combs and diced home cured bacon or ham in Perigord black truffle sauce, which is freaking delicious. Since I am scalding the combs anyhow, this usually leaves the heads in pretty good shape for stock making. If I'm doing a batch of retired laying hens, I am less likely to painstakingly scald the heads as there are no yummy combs worth processing and saving.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2010-12-17 02:00 pm (UTC)
You have more chickens than we ever had! And I had no idea cocks' combs were good to eat. I made stock out of ours, but not as thoroughly as you did (there's always more to learn...) My one innovation, after finally tiring of plucking, was to just skin the bird. We knew people who were avid fishermen and tied their own flies; they were quite enthusiastic about the feathers on roosters (we had colorful chickens at the time; now we don't have any and get eggs from a neighbor.) Hang the skins on a fencepost for the ants to deal with, and then the dried skins with feathers to the fishermen. Everyone was happy, including the person who hate-hate-hated plucking, esp. pinfeathers: me.

Including the liver in the stock was Tradition in our family, probably because one chicken liver per batch didn't produce enough bitterness to be noticeable. But I'll keep that in mind hereafter.
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From: joycemocha
2010-12-17 02:43 pm (UTC)
If I ever have meat chickens again I will skin them. I spent my teen years helping my mother butcher the fryers we raised for winter meat during the summers, in quantities ranging from 50 to 150 birds per summer. In that quantity plucking becomes a nightmare.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2010-12-17 03:16 pm (UTC)
OMG yes! I don't even want to imagine (and yet--even doing only a few at a time--I CAN imagine what more would've been like.)
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From: joycemocha
2010-12-17 04:09 pm (UTC)
I think my mother's record was 15 chickens in a day. Normally, we did 10, in batches of 5.
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[User Picture]From: danceswthcobras
2010-12-17 10:26 pm (UTC)
That's about what we do, maybe six to a dozen birds at a time. It's a very manageable couple hours work.
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[User Picture]From: danceswthcobras
2010-12-17 10:16 pm (UTC)
Actually I live in an apartment and don't keep any chickens. I buy chickens and take cull roosters from local small farms and backyard chicken keepers. Processing is easy even in my small kitchen.

I do skin older roosters especially if they are pretty. I salt the hides and stack them to dry, mostly for trade to costumers and folks who make steampunk hats and jewelry. But a scalded young chicken is the easiest thing in the world to pluck; they just about wipe clean of feathers with no effort atall. Dunk and swish in scalding water, cool under cold water in the sink, wipe off the feathers, and pass them to the gutting table. Only takes a few minutes and rarely leaves pinfeathers.

Cock's combs in a sauce made from glace de viande (heavily reduced, unsalted thick beef or chicken stock), port wine and cream simmered together with black truffles is both historical and delectable. Prick the combs before parboiling to tenderness, then drain and simmer in the sauce. After parboiling you can also crisp them up by sauteeing them in butter with parsley and serve on a bed of buttered parsley puree with mashed potatoes.

I'm getting hungry now for cock's combs, and the bag in my freezer is, alas, only half full. Fortunately I have another chicken processing day scheduled this weekend, so I may have enough to make my delicacies. Yay!
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[User Picture]From: blackbyrd2
2010-12-17 07:11 am (UTC)
One of the Cook's Illustrated issues from last year talked about chicken soup, and how they experimented with different ways of getting the chicken flavor. Surprisingly, they found that using ground chioken provided the best method of generating an intense chicken flavor- better than bones, better than dark meat alone. White meat worked best, short of using ground, but it ends up with so much flavor boiled out of the meat and the meat gets tough. After straining out the veggies and ground chicken, they put the fresh chicken in for about 20 minutes- just enough time to fully cook it and make it tender, not so long as to make it tough.

I've tried a variation of this in cooking chicken breasts for soup, and it works pretty well. I haven't yet tried making the broth with the ground chicken.

I realize this wouldn't provide you with packets of cooked, frozen chicken meat, but thought you might be interested anyway.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2010-12-17 02:30 pm (UTC)
I saw this in a TV show (Cook's Country or America's Test Kitchen, which are both affiliated with the Cook's Illustrated magazine.) In the show, they were talking about how to get store-bought chicken stock to taste more like homemade, for making soup with, and my thought after watching the show was "What an appalling waste! Just make the stock." They added the ground chicken and some of the stock vegetables--and then discarded it all. Waste of chicken and the money spent to buy it, I thought (I'm less opposed to tossing out the vegetables into the compost heap, though at leaner times in our past, we used to eat them, too. We'd grown them or paid for them and they weren't going to be wasted.)

In fact, that show may be one reason I keep wanting to write about making stock instead of buying stock and enriching it...just make it in the first place and it won't need enriching. Watching the two pounds of ground chicken become just flavoring...was actually painful ("Waste not, want not!" though since my mother started with store-bought chickens, we never went as far as [info]danceswthcobras above. What went in the pot went in our stomachs.) My other concern would be contamination: ground meats are always more likely to harbor bacteria (more surface area) and unless you're knowledgeable, careful, and grinding your own chicken meat (or working with the increasingly rare good small butcher shop) the chances of Salmonella in ground chicken seem to me to be higher than E. coli in ground beef.

OTOH, if someone has access to plenty of chickens, it may be that using ground chicken to intensify a stock is a good use of old roosters. I remember making stock from the older roosters--always a good flavor anyway, but the really...um....dominant roosters, after cooking, were still tire-rubber consistency. For Savage Sam, still tire-rubber consistency after dicing. (Sam was an exceptionally beautiful--and very dominant, not to say vicious, rooster. Sam made dinosaurs-as-bird-ancestors believable. He killed and ate snakes, attacked dogs and humans, and we were all glad when he earned pot-hood. His mother was a game hen who once chased a cat up a tree.) If I'd known to grind their raw meat, I could have had stock as good or better, and just tossed the remnants of ground chicken without guilt (depending on where I tossed them, of course.)
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[User Picture]From: danceswthcobras
2010-12-17 10:24 pm (UTC)
Because salmonella is endemic in many tissue types in birds and reptiles rather than being primarily a lower GI tract and surface contaminant like E. coli that is not typically found in unbroken muscle or organ tissue, I'm not sure how much your risks of that specific pathogen are increased. But using ground chicken for stock strikes me as pretty silly. Why bother when you can take a cleaver to the whole thing, hack it into a few convenient pieces and toss it in the pot bones and all? The bones will give you better flavor in any event.

I put a small flock of older Muscovy ducks in my freezer recently, and I found that an excellent use of the tougher animals was to skin them and grind the meat. I made a luscious Muscovy sausage with diced apples, bell peppers, ginger, garlic and crisp water chestnuts, and stuffed some lovely portobello mushroom caps for roasting. The bones and the tough, gristly skin went into stock. I did pluck rather than skin them because they store better in the freezer that way, even though I figured I'd be stripping them and using the meat later down the road.
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[User Picture]From: green_knight
2010-12-20 12:14 pm (UTC)
I read these posts because I am just that step removed from the tradition - I don't make stock (I've tried, but found the results disappointing - a lot of work for not much gain. Instead I save the liquid when I cook up a batch of meat: it's enough 'stock' for my needs.) But for a writer of fantasy, this is invaluable - you describe not just the process, but the rhythms of it, what needs brainpower and what can be relegated to someone else, where an inexperienced cook might slip up or an experienced one get much better results from the same starting point.

And putting liver into stock is just the sort of thing my city-bred Fey character might do...
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