I try to have some homemade chicken broth in my freezer at all times. I use it all the time – for soups and stews, to make grains, to whip up a last-minute gravy. It’s endlessly useful, and it’s really not that much trouble to make. I find that a batch lasts me 3-4 months. I know you can buy broth at the grocery store, but I really like knowing what goes into my broth (locally raised happy chickens and vegetables) and being able to control the amount of sodium in it. If you use store-bought broth, go to your pantry and check out the sodium content; it’s pretty scary.
The other night I noticed that I was down to my last few pints of broth, so it’s been on my radar to find some time to make a batch. I was able to make it to the Wednesday farmers’ market at the Triangle this week so I got a whole chicken from Smith and Smith. My plan was to make the broth that afternoon, and then let it cool and ladle it into jars after the kids went to bed. I got home from the market around 5:00 and put the frozen bird in my biggest soup pot along with a wide variety of veggies. You can pretty much add anything; here’s what I put in mine:
The outside leaves of a head of cabbage
The tops and leaves from several celery stalks
The tops and tails from the carrots I just got, and a couple of misshapen whole carrots
Mushrooms stems that I saved from making stuffed mushroom the other night
A couple of fresh bay leaves
A handful of fresh basil
Several cloves of garlic
I had everything in the pot except the water when my husband came home starving. I had planned broth, but not dinner. Oops. It was clear we were going out for dinner, so I had to figure out what to do with my pot ‘o chicken. I didn’t have time to add water and bring it to a boil, plus I don’t feel comfortable leaving the stove on when no one’s home. The pot wouldn’t fit in the fridge and there was no way I was decanting that whole mess into a Tupperware – even if I had one big enough. I figured the chicken was frozen and would be fine sitting on my counter for a couple of hours. (Disclaimer – always thaw your meat in the fridge, not on the counter. Really.)
We got home at around 7:30 and I added water to my ginormous pot and started her to boil. By 9:30 the house smelled delicious and I had visions of what I was going to do with all of that broth. If I was one of those people who could stay up late and still be functional the next day, I would have let it boil for longer, but after about 2 hours I called it done. I strained the broth and let it cool for a while on the counter before putting it into the fridge for the night.
I didn’t have a chance to ladle the broth into jars for a couple of days, which was fine, though you shouldn’t wait more than 3 days before using or freezing it. This batch made about 34 cups of broth. It makes me stupidly happy to think of the money and trash that I’m saving by making my own broth and putting it in reusable jars, instead of buying it in boxes. Imagine what 8 quarts of organic chicken broth would cost? I spent $17 on a chicken and, except for the onion, just used vegetable scraps that would otherwise have gone into the compost. It makes me think of that kids' book, Stone Soup. “Soup from a stone, imagine that!”