Old Fashioned Chicken Stock

Originally published on 3-26-13 and moved here for easier mobile viewing.

I’ve seen several food shows that demonstrate how to make homemade chicken stock. While chicken stock has been a staple around the world for time out of mind, it’s still not the easy breeze a 30 minute TV show can make it seem. I’ve been doing this for years, and I’d like to fill in a few holes for first timers. This is going to be a lengthy recipe post with 19 pictures, and some think “overkill” while others weep with relief. THIS is how you make a really good old fashioned chicken stock.

Mine starts with a ceramic glazed cast iron stock pot that I ordered from Ginny’s ®. (NOT being paid to link that. I just really like this pot.) Best pot ever for super slow simmering. The heat distributes well, and you don’t get hot spots like you do with metal pots. If you prefer metal, try to use the thickest heaviest pot you can find so you can control the simmer not running away into a rolling boil on low heat over 2-3 hours.

If this is your first time, the first thing you do is schedule this adventure for a day where you’re not stressing against a time crunch. Do NOT plan the next meal around this, it’s too much work until you get used to it. People in the old days didn’t have technology and hectic lives, or this might never have been invented. I know, nothing like giving you a recipe that is arduous and time consuming, but it’s THE BEST chicken stock you ever tasted in your life. All your other recipes using chicken stock will benefit.

I like using Smart Chicken®.  It’s a little more expensive, but looks and smells almost as fresh as a farm chicken I butchered myself and froze back. Whatever chicken you buy, make sure it fits into the pot comfortably. I’ve made mini versions of this with a cornish hen in a large saucepan, whatever takes your fancy. If you don’t have a whole chicken, use a bunch of chicken pieces with the bones still in, wings and legs are good for this. Part of the flavor comes from the skin, fat, and bones, not just the meat.

Rinse your chicken very thoroughly under lukewarm running water, inspecting it carefully for wax (looks yellow), pinfeathers, giblets and/or neck hidden in the inner cavity, etc. Be careful of broken rib and backbones if you reach inside. (If you do cut yourself on a bone, stop immediately and wash your hands with soap and water and cover the wound before you continue. Getting an infection in your skin from raw meat sucks, and getting your blood all over other people’s food is gross.) I like to pull out the stringy goop and cut off the tail and the big wad of excess skin on both sides of the open cavity. After rinsing, place the chicken directly into the pot. Throw away all the extra stuff not going into the pot, and wash your hands and the sink with soap. I wash my hands a second time just to be sure. I grew up on a farm, and we didn’t know back then about raw meats and cross contamination. I threw up a LOT. Be smart and save yourself a bad tummy ache later.

After that is all cleaned up, it’s time to prep veggies. Use a fresh knife, not the chicken knife. Make it a habit to use different utensils for meats and veggies, even if you know it will all be cooked together. Why? Because, in this instance, you only want half of a large onion and 2-3 stalks of celery. Don’t contaminate what you don’t use right away with a meat knife. You’ll also want a couple of large carrots, peeled and cut in half. I like stuffing carrot and celery inside the chicken. Wash your hands immediately after touching the chicken again. Put the rest of the veggies into the pot.

I use 9 flavoring ingredients in my stock-
1 t. salt
4-5 peppercorns
1-2 bay leaf
1 T each of rosemary, thyme, basil, parsley, and oregano
1/2 t. garlic powder

On TV shows they tie these up into sprigs and/or a little bag. Making chicken stock is a lot like making tea. Steeping the loose leaf herbs slowly with plenty of room for them to circulate and swell brings such a beautiful aroma and flavor that tying it all into a little bag seems like a crime. Doing that doesn’t really save you any time or work later, because you still have to strain the stock when you’re done anyway, right? May as well go for gold.

When all your ingredients are assembled into the pot, pour water over it all up to 1-2 inches from the top. You want to leave some room in case you walk off and it boils, which I’ve done on more impatient days. You’ll also need splash room, which I’ll get to in a minute.

Put the lid on and turn the burner on low. Trust me. If your chicken was already thawed, 3 hours will be about right on low. If it was frozen solid, give it 4-5 hours, but still keep it on low. If you are using chicken pieces instead of a whole chicken, or cooking a cornish hen in a smaller pot, maybe two hours is good. You’ll get the hang of it.

About halfway through the cooking time, one to one and a half hours for the big chicken, you’ll want to turn it over. It will cook through just fine without turning it over if you leave the lid on, but turning it gives all the meat steeping time in the stock for flavor and juiciness. Some of my biggest messes have happened while I’m turning a hot chicken over in a scalding stock bath, so be careful about burns. If you do get scalded, immediately get ice or at least cold running water onto the burn before it blisters. Your skin will literally cook from that high temp, and you must cool it quickly so it will stop the cooking. Heat denatures protein, breaks the molecular bonds, and the ice or cold water will stop that process. Never ignore a burn, even if it doesn’t hurt that bad. It will hurt bad later when your nerves recover from being cooked alive.

Here’s a good way to turn a chicken. Use a long handled heavy gauge slotted spoon and a very long fork, one in each hand. Guide the fork into the inner cavity while you brace the chicken with the spoon. When you have the fork inserted well enough to move the chicken, lift slightly (lifting higher creates a bigger splash if the chicken slips), and turn like a spit while you use the spoon to help maneuver it on over. Resist the urge to stand real close to the pot for better leverage or bracing or whatever, that is a mistake and you could wind up having to change your clothes and ice your chest and stomach. (Twenty years of experience…) Once the chicken is turned enough to go on over, use the spoon to ease it on down. Put the lid back on and walk away again.

Your chicken will be cooked through soon after, but it’s not ‘done’ until it easily comes apart when you press the spoon down into the mid back. When you’ve reached this stage, turn off the burner and let your stock rest with the lid on. You can take the chicken and veggies out now if you want, or you can let them cool a little in the stock. It will all stay hot for a good hour because the heavy pot is so efficient at holding the heat in.

After an hour, you need to go ahead and get the chicken out onto a plate. It’ll still be pretty warm, but you can cover it in plastic wrap at this point to hold in the moisture and cool on the counter for half an hour. Never put hot food into the refrigerator. Hot food can shatter glass shelves in the fridge, and can encourage mold growth in foods it touches or sits near, because they’ll become less cool being next to something hot and can take too long to cool back down again. Since your chicken just came from a long simmer, it is sterile coming out of the pot and won’t spoil while it’s cooling down on the counter, but don’t leave it out longer than a couple of hours. When it is cool enough to comfortably handle, I put the chicken into a gallon storage bag into the fridge to deal with later.

Strain the veggies out of the stock into a bowl using a slotted spoon, and keep spooning through until you’re pretty sure you’ve gotten the bay leaf and all the stray layers of onion that have floated off. Throw all that away. It might be tempting to think you can use it later somehow, but trust me, it’s not worth it. The flavor and nutrition have steeped out of the veggies into the stock, they’ve done their duty. Throw them away.

Straining stock isn’t hard. Some recipes say to strain through cheesecloth, which is expensive and way messier than this needs to be. Unless you are hoping to make a clear consume or broth, you just don’t need that extra stress. I use a large mesh strainer with a handle so it will sit over a bowl. I set the bowl in the sink so I don’t have to clean up what I spill, and from there it’s a matter of tipping the stock pot just right so all the liquid goes through the strainer. Then I carry the strainer to the trash, clap the crap out, and immediately wash it with soap so I don’t have to mess with it later. The faster you get that strainer cleaned up, the less you’ll hate straining stock. If you leave that strainer sitting around until the chicken fat hardens and the herbs dry, it will be impossible to clean and you’ll never make chicken stock from scratch again.

I really like using tupperware for that stock, put a lid right on it and set it into the fridge. You can leave it alone there up to 3 days, but after that you either need to cook with it or freeze it back. Stock spoils faster than just about any food on the planet. If you open it and it has spoiled, you can’t salvage it. Throw it out because it will only poison you now, no matter what you do. You can kill germs with heat, but mold is a molecular structure that can survive heat and wreak havoc in your body. (Grain molds can cause brain damage if bread is made from moldy grain. Don’t cook mold!!!!)

All the fat in the stock floats to the top, and in the fridge it hardens into a skim on top, which is very easy to remove while it’s still cold. Use a spoon to skim it off and throw it away. What’s left is technically an aspic and wiggles like Jello. It melts right back into stock as soon as you heat it up, and it’s now ready to go into your recipes. You can measure it out by the cup and freeze in ziplock bags. I froze this batch into a quart bag to use in stuffing next Thanksgiving.

The rest of the herbs that got through the strainer all settle at the bottom of the aspic, and will stay there as long as you don’t tip the bowl or disturb it as you ladle the stock into bags. When I get down to that stuff, I just pour the dregs down the sink and flush a little water after it. With the fat and other solids removed, this small amount won’t cause a clog.

 

Blue Christmas- or, buzzkill, don’t read this

I loved holidays growing up, especially Christmas. I still love holidays somewhere inside of me, but big changes sideswiped me a few times and I see all those pretty lights from a different angle now. I mostly just say I’m tired, but really I think I just know too much. I think a lot of us sit back quiet in the festive shadows knowing too much.

Three of my worst Christmas memories are from working late night hotel desk. 1- Getting frantic whispered phone calls from women terrified of men at home about to beat them, begging for a room without having any money or a credit card, having to turn them down because I knew from experience we’d only be calling the police later anyway for domestic disturbance on hotel property, firmly telling them to call 9-1-1 before I’d hang up and knowing they wouldn’t… 2- Police dropping vagrants off at the hotel in the middle of the night because there was no other legal recourse and spending the rest of the night dealing with the Christmas tree being trashed by someone with schizophrenia and several officers having to subdue the mayhem while families cowered in their beds listening to the noise on Christmas Eve. 3- Working Christmas day and not being able to leave my job to attend my completely disabled & speech deficit mother being airlifted to hospital when I was the nearest and also her durable power of attorney, because my boss was a very bad word that I’m not going to say.

A few years before that we nearly lost one of our daughters over Christmas between two hospitals and a 200 mile emergency medical transport. We were split up for nearly two weeks, didn’t even bother decorating the tree or wrapping presents, cried every day.

A couple of years before that my sister lost her oldest child not long after Christmas. We’d known it was coming for years, but that doesn’t make Christmas any easier after it’s all over.

I think about other people going through hard things around Christmas. Hospitals are full of people having a really bad holiday. I’ve always thought that one day I’ll be a volunteer in a hospital and spend all my holidays there being a helper for families going through bad stuff.

And then there are people stuck at home. I never used to think about this until I became stuck at home myself for about 3 years. I needed assistance bathing and dressing and had to be driven places. It was all very depressing and sad and very difficult to look at Christmas lights and be happy.

I am in a very good place this year. My health is coming back, and we are far enough past losses to be springing back and looking forward again, especially with brand new grandbabies. But still I remember that there are silent people all around me, everywhere I go, who are very sad. I remember being very sad. I want to give everyone a hug.

Some of us don’t decorate for Christmas. Some of us don’t join in the singing and festivities. But we do watch. Even if we grump about it, we know we would still miss it if we didn’t get to watch. Those little bright lights are really important in the dark.

If you are having a very bad holiday and are afraid and feel you need help of some kind *right now*, please check out Lifeline or Veterans Crisis Line, or if you are outside the United States international Suicide Hotlines.
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Holiday Ice Cream

So you miss making ice cream in your cute little electric freezer, now that summer is over. Do not despair! Here is how you make awesome holiday ice cream.

Start with a package of Winter Oreos and a box of Junior Mints.

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Coursely chop the mints and crush one strip of Oreos in a bowl. Don’t worry about the mess on your hands, licks right off. Set these aside.

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Dump these ingredients straight into your canister and stir them-
1 cup sugar
1/2 pint whipping cream
2 cans evaporated milk
1 tsp vanilla

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Stir in the crushed cookies and chopped mints. Carefully set the ladder into the canister, put the lid on, and set it securely into your freezer. Add ice and salt around the sides of the canister according to your freezer’s directions and plug it in.

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You wind up with this, try not to slurp it all down right away like an awesome milk shake. The candy might have globbed up a little but don’t worry about it. Pour it into a freezable container with a lid that seals well, give it a good stir to break up the globs and evenly disperse the cookie and candy lumps, and set it into the freezer for a few hours or overnight to ripen and firm up your ice cream.

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And voila- holiday ice cream!  Enjoy!

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Holidays with Diabetes- Easier Than You Think

I’m not a professional dietician- but I AM wildly successful at controlling my diabetes without meds. Before you blow me off, let me just say my mother wasn’t. I have plenty of incentive.

So you’re invited to a huge feast, and you’ve got diabetes. Or you’re cooking for a big crowd, and you’ve got diabetes. The social pressure is on to stuff your face, and every cell in your body strains for the magical sensation of sweet and savory, tart and salty, the nostalgic flavors and aromas and all the good cheer that food can bring, because, let’s face it, sometimes that’s the best part of getting a lot of people together. Some of you will argue that the booze is the best part at this point, to which I give a polite nod.

At every feast, it’s cool for people to say they ate themselves into a coma. Have you ever wondered why you get so sleepy after lots of food? It’s not the turkey! Ever since I got a glucose monitor and became a little scientist, I have been mapping the feel goodity of food. And I discovered something just a little scary- the sleepy ‘coma’ feeling usually comes after a big BIG carb load, and that’s when your blood sugar goes way WAY high, despite any medications you might be taking to keep it down. Normal people think they can get away with this, but they get sleepy, too. What gives?

I think that sleepy coma thing is the same reaction as people have to drinking alcohol, namely, the body shuts you down before you can send yourself over a toxic cliff. You fall asleep! Carb processing takes a little time. A carb overload, as everyone knows, results in FAT when you don’t use it up. So what’s a little fat, it’s just one meal, right? That isn’t the problem. The problems is in between the eating and the fat. For about two hours after you eat, your body does a complete inventory of incoming proteins, fats, and carbs. Nothing sits around too long or it makes you sick, so the body is constantly processing. Sometimes you get a bigger than normal shipment in, it takes a little longer to unload the truck and unpack all the boxes, and during all this, your pancreas and liver are working overtime to make sure YOU don’t get a toxic buildup of raw materials dumping into your bloodstream. Like carbs.

Carbs are necessary for energy, although your body can switch to burning fat and even protein when it has to. Any carbs not being used right now or in the immediate future have to be stored as quickly as possible, and since the pancreas and liver help with this filtering process, they overwork and get backlogged. If you’ve heard of ‘fatty liver‘, this is one way people get it, and it’s actually very common. Thanx to years of meds and diabetes, I have a liver condition called NASH. Many people have no clue they have a liver condition until their livers are very sick. I’m not paid to link this next site, but for the morbidly curious, it’s pretty good info. Signs and Symptoms of Ten Common Liver Diseases

In the last two years, I have turned myself completely around, lost 50 pounds, and have the best blood work in years, plus I made it through holidays last year without gaining a single pound. I didn’t exercise much last winter, either, although I’m not advising you to *not* exercise. I’m currently in a program at the fitness center and feel so much better. But what I’m saying is, even with diabetes, I flew through holidays last year without any blood sugar problems. HOW????

I think a lot of diabetics aren’t aware that proteins and fats don’t spike your blood sugar. They’re also not aware that there is a big difference between fast carbs and slow carbs. It’s really weird, but ‘healthy’ carbs that take longer to digest can actually keep your blood sugar higher for a longer time than fast carbs. Maybe you’ve heard of ‘high glycemic’ carbs. Those are legumes (beans), all grains, most fruits (berries are generally ok to eat), and the kinds of veggies that fall into roots (potatoes and carrots) and gourds (pumpkin and squash). On the other hand, leafy greens (letttuces and spinach), brassica (includes cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli) and a few other kinds of things that you might like in salads, like radishes and olives, barely bother your blood sugar at all. If you like charts, you can find a glycemic index of some kind all over the internet.

Here comes the easy part.

The real scientists who came before me have figured out you can get away with about 10 grams of carbs per meal or snack roughly about every two hours without noticeably spiking your blood sugar, unless you’re completely insulin dependent because your pancreatic beta cells literally can’t produce your own insulin. Basically, you can have a cup of milk, as long as you skip all the bread, potatoes, corn, gravy, stuffing, and dessert. THAT SUCKS, you say. Ok, ok, you’re right, that sucks. But I still really figured it out. I am a cookie addict. For many years, I haven’t made it through a whole day without a cookie. Or two… J’adore cookies! When I found out about the glycemic thing and the 10 grams of carbs guideline, I thought ah-HA, but they can’t make me stop eating cookies! I would break a cookie in half and wait a couple hours and eat the other half. I wound up eating cookies all day long that way.

And that’s the secret.

First of all, it was thrilling to see my random and then my fasting glucose drop down all by itself without medication or exercise. I tried meds for 11 days and the doctor pulled me off, turns out I am excruciatingly med intolerant. And at the time, I was also too exercise intolerant to move around a whole lot. I wasn’t that overweight, only 236 pounds (mostly from steroid meds), but coming from several generations of diabetics full of all kinds of complications, I know you don’t necessarily lose a leg or your vision before you lose your life. Or worse, have multiple strokes and lose your ability to function and wind up in a nursing home for years. Because that happened to my mom. She was on the sorta skinny side when the strokes hit, but her glucose easily hit the 300-400′s all the time. Her blood stayed ‘sticky’ all the time from her inability to process carbs properly, and that caused complications galore. She loved her pop and her flavored coffee and breakfast sweets and holiday goodies and mashed potatoes and bread…

Remember, diabetes doesn’t always make you fat, and plenty of bigger people don’t even have diabetes. And remember, if you HAVE diabetes, YOU have problems processing carbs. Your poor body is trying to keep up.

When I got into the habit of breaking my carb loads down into much more manageable chunks, I discovered it was getting easier and easier to do it all the time, even during holidays. Once you get used to actually feeling better (seriously, lost 50 pounds in 4 months ~doing that~), you suddenly notice how gross you feel when you ‘carb out’. Like headaches. Wow, I couldn’t believe how that cut down my headaches. And heartburn. I spent years treating heartburn, and while everyone thinks it’s from fatty rich foods, I have proof that a goodly carb load is miserating for heartburn spiking back alive after you haven’t experienced it in awhile. Also, my skin problems went away all by themselves, my liver enzymes went back to normal, my hair started growing in better, and I started feeling so much better that I was able to get out of the house and go shopping again. I went from driving a mobile cart around the store to walking around, and now I can walk all over a store before I get tired.

See, when you constantly carb load with diabetes, you are diverting your body’s priorities away from other things, because your body is constantly working on *saving your life* (and ultimately failing). That sleepy ‘coma’? That is a desperate scream from your body to STOP, yes, even for normal people. I never used to know what it was like to have energy after I ate a meal. I have energy *all* *the* *time* now because my body no longer has to divert all its resources to frantically scrubbing my blood while everything else goes to pot. I know this sounds ridiculous to some of you, but can you think of a better way to describe what is actually happening after a person with diabetes eats a big meal?

You can still eat pie and cake and gravy and creamed corn and all that stuff if you are diabetic, no one can stop you. But I’ll tell you a secret. It’s healthier if you simply just eat all the bacon you want ~instead~. Because that’s what I did. I lost 50 pounds eating butter and bacon. I know that’s *bad*, and I’m terrible for saying it. But I have the bloodwork to prove it worked for me. Triglycerides are fats made from carbs. You can lower triglycerides by cutting carbs. In the meantime, there are other ways to eat that are still very satisfying, like the Rosedale diet and the ’caveman diet‘, also called the paleo diet.

A couple of myths about diabetes that annoy me to no end, because I’ve played the little scientist with my glucose monitor, is that eating protein with carbs slows down digestion so your glucose won’t spike so badly, and eating cinnamon holds down blood glucose. There are more myths out there, but your body is no fool! There is no ‘trick’ that allows you to carb load without consequences when you are diabetic. Even normal people will get fatter when they carb load if they don’t work it off right away like athletes, so no, there’s no magic trick. Adding protein is good, yes, because people who carb load probably don’t get enough protein anyway, but simply just eating protein doesn’t give you free meter space for pie. Everything you eat with carbs impacts your entire body when you are diabetic.

The best way into this is small steps. I gradually cut down my carbs and kept spreading them out through the day so I wouldn’t feel like I was torturing myself. One good way to feel satisfied about holiday food is go ahead and cook it, but not all on the same day. Spread it out through the week, make the whole week a holiday, spread the wonderful taste through your life. And why not? Why not have pumpkin pie in the summer? Why not have eggnog in the spring? Maybe the reason we gorge is because we never get it otherwise, and it’s ~so good~. But that makes it not as special on the holiday, you say. And I say, Ah, but it makes the rest of the year *more* special. Get used to parceling out the wonderful food through your whole life, get used to smaller rewards and feeling better, and holidays become a breeze. You don’t have to torture yourself with celery and grapefruit, all you have to do is count your carbs. Two or three bites of pie every couple of hours as long as you keep the rest as proteins, healthy fats, and low glycemic veggies and berries, and you can eat all the pie you want, around the clock, for days and days and days, as long as you only eat two or three bites every two hours.

One site that really helped me at the beginning was Blood Sugar 101. I was drowning in too much information until I found that site. Good luck with your stuff. I’m almost up to three years since I was diagnosed, and my doctor can’t even tell on paper any more. My first year was full of huge changes and surprises, second year has been pretty sweet. Hugs to all of you still struggling with how to manage your diabetes. This works. Please try it.

This post was originally published on November 14, 2012 on my grandfortuna blog.