After making beef stock, chicken stock was the next thing to tackle on my to-do list. Because this was my first time, I wanted to do it right and 'by the book'. In this case, 'the book' being Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats, of course. I wanted to track down some happy, pastured chickens, and I knew just where to go. If you happen to live in the Milwaukee area (or even in the Madison area), then you should check out Ruegsegger Farms. I was referred to Ruegsegger Farms this summer by Annie Wegner LeFort, master food preserver, pastry chef, urban homesteader, among other titles. They specialize in 'all natural meats'...pastured chickens, grass-fed beef, pastured pork, and many other animal products. And what is extra special is that you can place an order early in the week and pick it up at your local farmers market (St. Ann's Center on a Saturday morning, anyone?). They even deliver! I've placed several orders and have been more than pleased every time (seriously...try their bacon! Yum!).
For this recipe, I ordered their stewing hens (which are old egg layers and come 2 in a pack) and a package of chicken feet. Honestly, I wouldn't know where else to go to get chicken feet. I guess my backup plan would be an Asian market. After watching Top Chef last week, Casey fried up some chicken feet for dim sum (and apparently they weren't very good...) that she got at an Asian market, but I think that was in New York. I don't know how popular chicken feet are in Milwaukee.
The beginning is going to look familiar. You start out just like the beef stock. I was using my giant pot and 2 chickens, so I really considered myself as doubling the recipe. Otherwise, you would only need to roughly chop 1 large onion, 2 carrots and 3 celery stalks.
Here are my 2 stewing chickens, still in their packaging.
|L to R: Chicken, neck, innards (gizzard and liver?) and wings|
The lovely chicken feet. I know. They look disgusting, but at least they had the nails trimmed off! The feet are important to broth because they add lots of gelatin (which is what you want for a thick, healthy broth). Don't worry. You strain them out. I won't make you eat them. I did have fun with them, though. While they were cooking, I'd fish them out and tease my son with them. He thought they were funny. If you want to read more about chicken feet, check out this post at Nourished Kitchen.
You'll need 2 tablespoons of vinegar. I chose raw apple cider vinegar.
Hmmm...I seem to have stopped taking pictures at this point. I don't know what happened. I'll just talk you through it. Put everything in your pot, cover it with filtered water, and let sit for about 30 minutes to an hour so the vinegar can do it's thing and get some of those wonderful minerals out. Then you can add more water if you want, bring it to a boil, skim off the icky stuff that floats to the top, then turn down the heat so that the water is just simmering. Leave it on for 6-24 hours.
Mine ended up cooking for about 16 hours because I had to go to work. I ended up setting an alarm for 3:30 in the morning to turn off the stove so that the stock could cool.
After the stock cools, you strain it through a fine strainer. I put it in quart jars and some juice pitchers, then into the fridge. I was expecting there to be a thick layer of fat at the top, just like the beef stock, but there wasn't. I don't know if the chickens I used weren't fatty, or if chicken stock just doesn't produce as much fat. There was a slight layer of fat on the top that I just skimmed off the fat with a spoon.
I froze the stock in plastic freezer bags and ice cube trays again.