by Tammy Taylor
I made a delicious slow cooker chicken dinner recently. Now y’all know I like the Cook-Once, Eat-Twice method of cooking so after supper I sectioned off the larger pieces of chicken into meal-sized servings, labeled them and put them into the freezer. That gives me chicken portions for two more suppers. I took the remaining smaller pieces and put them in the fridge for a chicken casserole recipe I wanted to try later in the week. That’s THREE suppers worth of chicken left over even after we’d enjoyed delicious chicken for supper that night. But we’re not through yet – oh no. There’s still much more food left in that sad looking picked-clean bird. I’ve written before about making various broths but today I want to make my own chicken broth, and there’s a special ingredient to make it more calcium rich. Check it out.
I’ve made rich nutritious broth from steak bones for beef broth, turkey bones for turkey broth & of course chicken bones for chicken broth. I don’t have a specific recipe but that’s the beautiful part, you don’t really NEED one! I use lots of broth. It’s a healthy ingredient in my Endless Soup, my homemade Chicken & Dumplings and even a homemade version of Cream-Of-Anything soup! So here I am staring at this picked-clean bird and my thoughts turn to that delicious potential. Now in my earlier days this leftover carcass would have all been thrown away – but now it always goes for one more food product before it’s relegated to the trash. Gotta love it!
After storing away all the leftover meat for future meals I tossed everything that was left into my slow cooker – bones, skin and even raw skin and trimmings I pulled from the chicken before I cooked it. I gathered all that chicken waste & into the pot it went, then I filled the pot with water. Some people also throw in scraps of raw veggies like onion trimmings or the tips or peelings of carrots, etc. I usually don’t because I’m just using what I have on hand, but you certainly could add those things at this point as well if you wish.
Now that my slow cooker is filled I add a splash of vinegar. I’ve read that vinegar draws the calcium from the bones. (you can’t taste it in the finished product). Now comes the grueling, hard, labor-intensive part – I flipped the switch on the slow cooker to HI and let it simmer all day.
After the contents have simmered into broth I strain all solids and bones from the broth while it’s still warm. I learned this step is best done while the broth is warm because it often thickens when it’s cool making the bone removal more difficult for the really tiny bones. I want to make sure there are NO bones in my broth. I first use a large slotted spoon to take the bulk of the bones out and then strain the broth into a large bowl using a strainer to catch the tinier bones. NOW these poor bones are finally ready for the trash.
Now that the bones/skin is all removed I pour the strained broth back into my slow cooker. The whole crock of broth goes into the fridge overnight to cool. This process causes the fat that’s in the broth to rise to the top & solidify. I like to remove as much of the fat as I can to make a healthier lower-calorie broth so this step is important for me.
In the morning I’ll pull the broth out of the refrigerator and skim the hardened fat that’s risen to the top. Of course you should never put any fat down your kitchen sink. We’re on a septic system out here so it’s doubly important for us. I have a plastic jar in my fridge labeled boldly “TRASH” and I use it to hold even tiny amounts of fat from my cooking. When it’s full I’ll tighten the lid tightly and throw it away.
Having this accumulated fat sealed in a plastic jar is doubly helpful for us since our tiny trash only gets emptied about every two weeks. Chicken fat in the trash can get mighty odoriferous! WHEW! Thank goodness that jar’s not very full yet because today that jar’s really going to get a workout! I skim the hardened fat off the top of my homemade broth and spoon it into this jar. I don’t spend too much time trying to retrieve every single piece of solids from my broth today because it does add a little flavor but I remove about 99% of it.
After the fat has been removed – BOOM! Homemade broth. Now I just pour the broth into plastic peanut butter jars that I save for freezer food. Yeah, I’ve tried to freeze in glass but I’ve just never been successful at it. Even if I’m using thick canning jars they seem to be too brittle when they’re frozen. Since we have a chest freezer there’s lots of moving food around. One wrong “clink” and we’ve got a big, potentially dangerous mess in the freezer. So until I find a better solution I just use these saved plastic jars for freezing various things such as veggies I canned that didn’t have a full seal after the jars cooled, batch cooking of my favorite (Taylor-Made) Ranch-Style Beans and of course this broth.
Now that it’s all sectioned off in serving-sized jars I just stick a label on top of the lid because, well, you know all food looks dang near the same when it’s frozen! LOL After the broth is labeled I put them all in the freezer for use throughout the next season. My broth never lasts long since in the winter months I’m constantly using it every week for my endless soup.
And that, my dear friends, is all there is to it! It’s shocking sometimes when you find out how ridiculously easy (and inexpensive) it is to provide some things for yourself. Products that you once had to buy from the store. This homemade broth is no exception. I haven’t purchased commercial broth in years. Plus my homemade broth is obviously lower in sodium and unpronounceable ingredients than the store-bought stuff. Give it a try, you’ll be amazed at how easy yet delicious it is!
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