Friday, February 11, 2011

Chicken broth, chicken soup, and an eco-friendly chicken stock

Many soups started life as just a bunch of leftovers -- minestrone, tortilla soup, etc. Often, soup is not made for it's own sake, but because there's a bunch of stuff that no one wants to eat the way it is.
From time immemorial, soups and broths have been the worldwide medium for utilizing what we call the kitchen byproducts, or as the French call them, the 'dessertes de la table' (leftovers), or 'les parties interieures de la bete', such as head, tail, lights, liver, knuckles and feet. -- Louis P. De Gouy, The Soup Book (1949)
I've never read that book, and I'm afraid to ask what part of the animal the 'lights' are.

Since soup was historically made of leftovers, the cooks didn't often start with a broth. Instead, they made the broth right along with the soup. But, in the modern world, we make stock and broth ahead of time, keeping it on hand in case we want to make soup at a moment's notice. Sometimes we even buy stuff just to make broth, or worse, are forced to buy broth in cans. Buying broth isn't the end of the world, but you can do better.

Chicken broth (or the chicken soup starter kit)

I learned how easy it is to make broth from an old recipe for Matzo Ball Soup, which was really tasty. I don't know that Matzo Ball Soup is a leftover soup recipe, but most people say matzo isn't the tastiest of stuff, and since it seems to be cooked already 'stale,' you decide.

This recipe is Matzo Ball Soup, hold the matzo balls. A purist would make the balls, then not use them. However, you do not have to do that. it's just the broth you want, so the broth you will make. According to science, it should taste nearly the same, either way. Yet, if you want to make Matzo Ball Soup, make this stuff and use google for the ball part.


1 chicken
1 onion, halved
1 bundle of parsley
3 bay leaves
10 peppercorns
1 tsp salt
3-4 quarts water


Remove the bag of giblets from the chicken and set them aside until you get down to the next recipe. Feel free to put them into the broth if you'd really eat them, but do you really want to find a heart on your spoon, nestled between a carrot and potato? You choose. But, be extra careful with the liver; it's gross and makes things taste like liver.

Put everything in a big pot...

I used my slow cooker. Fool proof!
...and bring it to a simmer. Allow it to gently simmer for an hour and 30 minutes, but do not boil it.

Remove the chicken from the broth (yes, that liquid, formerly water, is now actual broth. True fact!) and set aside. At this point, you have chicken broth, so you can strain it, make soup or whatever with it, put it in jars, or freeze it in tupperware-like containers.

Allow the chicken to cool until you can handle it comfortably. Do what you will with it, but if you pull the meat off for soup, salad or what have you, make sure to save the skin and bones! See below...

Chicken stock (eco cooking at it's best)

We made chicken broth in the previous recipe. Chicken broth is light and clear(ish), made by gently simmering chicken and a few simple ingredients (see above). Chicken stock, on the other hand, is rich and bold, made by long simmering of chicken bones, skin, and misc. I usually use the parts of the chicken that one usually won't eat (go grab that bag of giblets you set aside for later).

In this chicken stock, we go green, mean it's eco friendly; recycling ingredients and using things that only a compost bin would (and will still) appreciate. Now, to make this stock its very best, I need you to go back in time a month or so and start then! So do that now, okay?

Now that you've gone back in time a few weeks, get a big zipper bag and stick it in the freezer. Every time you cut up veggies or chicken, I want you to pull out this zipper bag and put all of the scraps in there, then stick it back in the freezer. It's all fair game; chicken backs, necks, giblets, chicken skin, chicken bones. All of it.

In addition to the chicken, put all veggie remnants in there, too. Onion skins, onion tops and bottoms, that ugly outside layer of onion that you don't want to chop because it's sorta funky, garlic papers, garlic cloves that are too small to waste time peeling, parsley stems, carrot tops, zucchini ends wilted lettuce leaves, wilted anything! All veggies that aren't beautiful -- yet aren't spoiled -- are perfect for that zipper bag.


1 chicken carcass or about that in misc spare parts
scraps of veggies, herbs, and stuff


Put everything in a big pot...

...and bring it to a simmer. Simmer, but do not boil it. Allow it to gently simmer for many hours. ...and 30 minutes! 

At this point, you have chicken stock, not broth. See how rich and thick it is? It's pretty hearty stuff, with tons of flavor for adding to sauces and things like that. 

Cool it, strain it, make soup or whatever with it, put it in jars, or freeze it in tupperware-like containers.

In closing

You now have what it takes to make chicken broth and a chicken soup base (just add your stuff) AND chicken stock, and if you do it in the right steps, all using one bird.

As a recap, broth is light and thin, made from simmering chicken, vegetables, herbs, and spices. 

Stock is hearty and bold, thicker and richer, and made from long, long simmering of chicken, chicken bones and skin, vegetables, herbs, and spices.

Do you have a favorite use for stock or broth, one or the other? Let me know!


  1. I make stock at least a couple times per month in my slow cooker, and I use the remaining carcass after roasting a whole chicken (which I do about every 10 days). I toss in a couple of carrots, a couple ribs of celery, a peeled and quartered onion, a couple of bay leaves, and about 1 Tbs of peppercorns. Fill the slow cooker with water, and cook on low as long as possible. After straining, I pick over the bones and get all the meat. The stock in this case is really really rich because the meat/bones have already been roasted. I could eat a gallon per week ... oh! Wait ... :)

  2. Julie, I use my slow cooker, too. The pan shown is actually my West Bend slow cooker pan.

    Sometimes I slow roast the chicken and veggies first before making my stock. It makes for some really good flavor.


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