The Basics of Chicken Stock
A Quick Primer By S. John Ross

It's folly to buy chicken stock in a can! You pay 75 cents for a few cups of brine saturated with month-old chicken fluids, when you could have a gallon of fresh, healthy stock for the same price. It's also easy to make!

Start with fresh chicken. You don't need to buy anything expensive - just get backs and necks. They're available in the meat section; ask the butcher if you can't find them. One dollar will buy you enough backs and necks for a pot of soup that will feed a large family. The same goes for turkey - which makes my favorite broth for noodle soup!

Put the backs and necks in a pot. Chop up a few cloves of garlic and a large yellow onion and toss them in, too. Add some black pepper and a bay leaf. If you want, you can even add carrots (they add color as well as flavor) or celery. You don't need to peel the onions or the garlic, either - just chop them open and throw them in whole (wash them first, though). The skins are good for stock! This is also an excellent use for garlic that dried out too much for normal use.

Add no salt.

Pour cold water into the pot, to cover the solids plus an inch or two. Bring the whole thing to a boil. There will be a foam that forms on top - skim that off with a spatula or slotted spoon. Lower the heat to a vigorous simmer and cover the pot. Simmer it for two hours, watching it carefully so it doesn't boil (watched pots don't do that).

Strain the soup, discarding all the solids and keeping only the broth. If it's important that the stock is perfectly clear, you can stir in some fresh eggshell and egg whites and then strain it out again - that'll do the trick. It can also be strained through a coffee filter in a colander.

The finished broth keeps well frozen or refrigerated. Salt it to taste, depending on the recipe. About 1 teaspoon of salt per quart will do the trick for most tastes.

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