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.