A Nice Vat of Chicken Stock

What with it getting so chilly and all (predicted highs in the low seventies for Friday and Saturday), I’ve been hankering to make a big batch of gumbo. The thing about gumbo is, I like best to eat it in the cold-weather months (the real cold-weather months, not this low seventies stuff), but okra is a summer-to-early-fall crop. Last year someone gifted us with two pounds of fresh okra late in the summer–just enough for a double batch of gumbo. I froze most of the gumbo, and we happily ate it through the winter. Then a couple of days ago, my mother-in-law sent a bag of okra home with my daughter–again, two pounds, exactly what I need. We just butchered our hog, so we have plenty of smoked sausage ready to go. Perfect timing.

Gumbo starts with chicken stock, so I’m making that today. I’m including my chicken stock recipe in this post, and if you’re interested in that recipe and want to go right to it, you can find it here, with ingredients and procedure all compact and straightforward from start to finish without a lot of pictures and digressions and maundering on about the virtues of chicken stock and how I like to use it.

If you don’t mind the maundering, read on.

I make chicken stock in large vats. I figure if you’re going to make a gallon of chicken stock, you might as well make two gallons and preserve whatever portion you won’t use right away. The hands-on time isn’t much more, and the clean-up time is the same.

Making chicken stock requires some planning. I let mine simmer a full twenty-four hours, taking the meat off the bones and returning the bones to the pot after a few hours or so. I don’t want to be lifting sections of chicken out of a steaming pot, laboriously removing the meat, packaging it into fridge containers, and schlepping the bones and ooky parts back into the pot right at bedtime or before church. I want to allow sufficient time for the task–about an hour–and have a nice audiobook to listen to while I work. Then when it’s time to pour up the finished stock, I need enough fridge space for the gallon pitchers to chill, and enough time to deal with the clean-up. I’m home a lot, so this isn’t hard for me, but it does take some forethought.

I started this batch at 8 a.m. I’ll take the meat off the bones around noon, and tomorrow morning I’ll pour up the stock and put it in the fridge. Then the morning after that, I’ll remove the congealed fat from the cooled stock and get started on the gumbo.

Note that I leave the skin on the onion. This adds color to the stock.

24-Hour Chicken Stock

  • 2 whole chickens with giblets
  • 2 gallons cold water
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 2 large yellow onions, skin on, quartered
  • 4 carrots, cut into chunks
  • 6 celery ribs with leaves, cut into chunks
  • 1 bunch parsley

Place chicken in a large stainless-steel stock pot. Add all other ingredients except parsley. Cover; let stand for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer for a few hours.

Using tongs, take a section or two of chicken from pot. Remove meat; return bones, skin, gristle, and ooky bits to pot to continue cooking. Repeat with remaining chicken. Gizzards, hearts, and livers can continue cooking or be removed for another use.

Let the rest of the chicken continue simmering for a total of 24 hours. About 10 minutes from the finish, add parsley.

Pour stock through a large fine-mesh strainer into a large bowl. Dispose of chicken bones and vegetables. Pour stock into two one-gallon jugs, adding water as needed to replace what has boiled off. Refrigerate stock until fat congeals at top. Remove fat.

***

Here’s how mine looks now that it’s been simmering a couple of hours.

It’s important to remove the chicken meat within a few hours or so. If you let it simmer the full twenty-four hours, all the moisture will cook out and it will become a desiccated mass not fit for man or beast. The important thing with stock is not so much meat as gristle and bones. By the end of the cooking time, the vinegar will have leached out the minerals from the bones, and the gristle will be gone completely, dissolved into the stock with all its nutrients.

In the morning, I’ll have two gallons of lovely, flavorful, nutrient-rich stock, ready and waiting to be made into gumbo.

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