Chicken Broth

If you’re the Suzy Homemaker type (did my dad make up that name, or is it something retro-famous, like Grandma Moses?), you probably make your chicken broth at home already. But if not, read on. And actually, even if you are, go ahead and read the post and learn something new or teach me something new. 😉

The cool thing about making your own broth is that it boils down to (no pun intended, of course) being basically free. The only thing you’re paying for is the water to fill the pot.

No, really, it’s true. I make my chicken broth 100% out of scraps – vegetable scraps and a chicken carcass. So, if you think about it, those are leftovers from meals you would have had regardless. These pieces of that meal were going in the garbage anyway, so all we’re doing here is saving them from that odorous death and turning them into something highly profitable to ourselves.

Some of the nicest chicken broths on the market today still list a whole gamut of ingredients that raise my eyebrows. Take Pacific Natural Foods’ Organic Chicken Broth, for instance: what is “Organic Chicken Flavor”? What’s that made out of? And why do we need Organic Chicken Flavor AND Natural Chicken Flavor? Is the organic one NOT natural? And why on earth are they sweetening the broth? Why did they add yeast to it? What’s this “Natural Flavor” business at the end?

The nice thing about making your own broth is the control you have over the ingredients used. If you only buy organic vegetables and organic chicken, your chicken broth will automatically be organic. You don’t have to pay extra for it, and you don’t have to wonder about all the rest of these sketchy ingredients.

It’s super simple: keep a gallon-size plastic bag or some type of container in your freezer, and whenever you cut up vegetables, add the scraps to the bag. When you cut up an onion, put the unused base and tip into the bag. If you peel your carrots, give them a good scrub first and put the peels in the bag. Mushroom stems. Celery bases and leaves. Green onion greens. These are the kinds of things you want. Cabbage, field greens (like lettuce or arugula or spinach), broccoli, etc. are not good choices for broth.

Then there’s the chicken. Have a nice roast chicken or turkey meal – a whole carcass is what you’re after, not miscellaneous bones. Make sure most of the meat is removed. If you don’t have time to make broth the day or two following that meal, wrap the carcass in plastic wrap, seal it in a plastic bag, and stick it in the freezer until ready.

When you are, empty the bag of vegetables into a large pot, along with the carcass. Fill with water and bring to a boil. I like to put in a bouquet garni consisting of things like thyme, tarragon, possibly oregano – stuff like that. Nothing too strong or oily, like mint or rosemary. If I don’t have fresh herbs on hand, I use dried. Think in large quantities, though. Chicken broth, as seen above, is normally highly flavored. If you don’t set those flavor levels here, you will find future meals disappointingly bland. Speaking of which, throw in a good amount of salt. And I add about a half-teaspoon of whole peppercorns to float around in there.

Bring to a boil, turn down the heat, and simmer for at least an hour and a half, if not more. I leave the lid cocked on top, so that I don’t lose too much of the liquid. Stop cooking when you are happy with the color and intensity of flavor. Let cool and package in plastic containers or freezer jars – store in the freezer until ready to use. I use 2-cup yogurt containers that have been washed and dried. It’s always nice to know how much broth is in each one, so that if a recipe calls for 4 cups, you know how many to pull out. If you have a bigger family, you might want to package in quart-sized containers.

If I were to give you Joshua’s review on chicken broth, I think you would start to doubt the genuineness of past scoring. Naturally, Joshua has not tasted my chicken broth plain. However, the closest thing to that was a chicken noodle soup I made him one night when he was feeling down and out, and he raved about it as the best he’d ever eaten. I think that just about says it all.

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