Much of my cooking the last few years has involved various forms of soups and stews. When you've got a good broth base, a little bit of food can stretch a long way in a hearty soup. At first, I'd buy cans of broth---but when I was buying eight or more cans per meal, storage became an issue. Then I switched to bouillon cubes or granules---but the additives made me nervous and I had little control over the flavor. Last year, I started making my own stock and found it to be the least expensive, most flavorful, and healthiest option I'd tried. In fact, I spend just pennies every time I make a huge stock pot full, as I use scraps* that I've saved in the freezer.
Homemade Chicken Stock
Chicken, Vegetable, & Herb Scraps (frozen or thawed---doesn't matter)
3-4 bay leaves
splash of vinegar
large stock pot
Making your own stock is so simple that I feel a little silly writing this out. Still, it's something I didn't start doing until my mid-30s so I've got to assume this information will be valuable! So basically, just put your chicken, veggie & herb scraps, splash of vinegar (to draw out more nutrients from the chicken carcass) and bay leaves in the pot and fill it with water within 3 or 4 inches from the top. You don't have to cut anything up---just put it in there frozen, if you'd like. Put the pot on a back burner to boil. Once you've got a good boil going, turn it down to simmer and leave it for several hours. You'll know it's done when you've lost a few inches of water and the water has turned a beautiful golden color.
Now you can bag it in quart size bags and freeze, or preserve it in jars with a pressure canner. I'm thinking I'll start saving plastic food containers to reuse, but for now I use quart size bags. I usually get 5-6 quarts of stock each time I make this. I stand them up inside a baking pan and let them freeze, then I retrieve my baking pan and I'm good to go.
Using the stock is simple...just remember to thaw first!
When you're ready to use it as a broth base, add your own blend of seasonings. Some that we love include: salt, pepper, bay leaves, garlic, thyme, basil, and marjoram. I don't add any extra salt or seasonings when I'm making the stock because I don't always know what I'm going to use it for. This also helps me not over-salt the soup as I don't have to remember whether or not I salted each batch.
*A note on scraps:
Chicken: Oftentimes, I pick up a rotisserie chicken from Walmart to use in chicken taco salad or our favorite creamy chicken soup. If I go during the right time of day, I can get one from the day before at half price (about $2.50). I save the bones and skin from these in the freezer in a gallon-size freezer bag until I have saved up enough vegetable scraps to make the broth. Of course, you can always just pick up some fresh chicken on sale---but be sure to buy it bone-in and boil for awhile to get all the important nutrients out of the bones.
Vegetables: We always have a simple vegetable tray made up to serve with lunches. Usually just carrots and celery, with a separate bowl of cucumbers. When the carrots and celery start to dry out or turn a little brown at the edges, I put them in the freezer bag with the chicken bones. Onion scraps often come from leftovers on hamburger night (tomatoes, too) or from the other half of the onion when a recipe only calls for a small bit (this is becoming rarer---ha!).
Herbs: use stems and "less fresh" herbs from your garden.
Once you get in the habit of saving scraps, you'll find that there are actually lots of things you'd normally throw away that can be saved for a soup base or even a casserole.
Thanks for visiting the Homemaking Party! Have a beautiful week!
Looking for more great Trim Healthy Mama Recipes? Try these!
Got one to share? Let me know and I'll add it to the list.
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List of THM Breakfast Ideas
Chicken Ranch Omelette
Chocolate Peanut Butter Candy
Homemade Ranch Dressing
Make Your Own Chicken Stock & Broth
Zesty Burger Spread
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