If chicken soup is for the soul, then my family is fairly soul-full. Ever since we butchered our own chickens in the summer of 2019, we’ve had plenty of chicken parts in the freezer to make homemade chicken stock.
We raised 70 broilers in a chicken tractor and then butchered the whole flock in a day. Some of them we cut into pieces: breasts, thighs, wings, legs. When you cut the birds into pieces, there are parts such as the backbone, neck, and ribs that can be bagged to make chicken stock. I also make stock with the leftovers after cooking a whole bird. “Want not, waste not,” as they say.
When you know you have good chicken that’s raised on your land, then you want to get as much good out of that healthy source of protein as you can.
Making your own chicken stock is fairly easy, it’s just time-consuming. I try to fit as much frozen chicken bone mixture as I can in my stockpot at a time. This usually is about two freezer bags full. I cover the frozen mixture with water and put it on the stove. As it thaws, I stir it around until everything is submerged. You can also add celery stalk, carrot pieces, onion, salt, and other things if you want a fuller flavored broth. However, this is not necessary, because you will add vegetables and spices to the broth later when you prepare your soup.
I get the mixture up to boiling and then lower it to a simmer. It should simmer at least four hours, but the longer you let it simmer, the more good you get out of it. I stir it every once in a while. This is a project I choose when I know I’ll be home all day. You don’t have to watch or stir the stock often, so it’s definitely a project where you can let it sit while you go about the rest of your day.
Once you’ve let the stock simmer as long as you desire, you can remove the pot from the stove to remove the bones and other chicken parts from the broth. CAUTION: Be very careful removing chicken pieces while the broth is still hot. You can wait until it’s cool, but I never do. I use tongs to remove all the big pieces and set them on a large cutting board. Then I use a handheld strainer to try and get as much of the bones, cartilage, and skin out of the broth as I can. (You don’t want these pieces to be in your soup!)
The next step depends on your plan for the chicken stock. If you want to store it, let it cool completely before dividing it into freezer bags or other storage containers for the fridge or freezer. I like to measure mine out in various amounts and then mark the bags with how much each bag holds. Many recipes ask for specific amounts. Then I can just take a bag out of the freezer with that amount.
If you want to turn your hot chicken stock into soup, put the pot back on the stove and let it simmer while you chop your vegetables. You can turn up the heat once you’ve added all your ingredients. Suggested ingredients for chicken soup: carrots, celery, garlic, onion, noodles or barley, frozen peas, salt, pepper, plenty of other spices to your taste.
I always check the broth to see if I should add some water to it. When you have a lot of skin in the stock, adding water will make the broth less oily. I prefer more depth of flavor, so I usually add a little chicken bouillon to my broth, too. I like Better Than Bouillon, because it doesn’t have MSG.
Remember all those chicken pieces cooling on the cutting board? Once cool, sort through it and pick off all the good chicken meat. There’s usually plenty of chicken meat left, so you can use it to put into your soup either right away or freeze for future use.
Using your own chicken stock full of vegetables and spices makes for a very healthy meal. Often we eat this soup when we are fighting sickness. Obviously, you can also make chicken stock from store-bought chicken leftovers, so start stocking up in your freezer.