The week after Thanksgiving seems like an appropriate time to share a recipe for stock. If you’re like me, your turkey meat went faster than expected (I mean, c’mon, I was planning to avoid cooking again for AT LEAST a week), but you’ve hung onto some leftover turkey bones, just waiting for the opportunity to make your kitchen smell like joy and happiness. This recipe will work equally well with either a turkey or chicken carcass, and I suspect it would be pretty delicious with any other variety of bones as well.
The first time I made stock from scratch, I was living in a tiny apartment in New York City.
I’ll digress for a moment to emphasize just how small this apartment was. Because unless you’ve lived in Manhattan, you may not understand what “tiny apartment” means.
It was 180 square feet.
Technically, it didn’t even have a kitchen. It was called a “kitchenette.” I had a mini-fridge, a mini-oven, a couple burners, and maybe two feet of counter space. Literally. (Archer voice: “Wait. Yeah, literally.”) But it was in my student budget, and it’s amazing what you can tolerate when you just tell yourself, hey, it’s basically a dorm, and that’s fine.
In spite of its size, I cooked regularly. It was cheaper than eating out, and it gave me a nice break from the law school books. I quickly learned that normal-sized cookie sheets didn’t fit in the oven. Luckily K-Mart carried some mini sheets that got the job done. I also rolled out what I still consider my best pie crust ever on those two feet of counter space. Let me tell you, it’s difficult to overwork the dough when you’ve got a sink crowding your right, a microwave bumping your left, and using the rolling pin is almost impossible so you just make a couple passes and say, ehhhh, good enough. That crust was so incredibly flaky that I haven’t been able to replicate it since.
This apartment was also the first place I made chicken stock from scratch. Turns out, it was one of my greatest ideas ever. Before I gave it a shot, I assumed chicken stock was one of those things that’s too time-consuming to be worthwhile when you can just buy a can at the grocery store. I mean, was it really that much better homemade?
It is. Oh trust me. It is. Not to mention, “time-consuming” is a gross overstatement. Active time is negligible, and while it will simmer for hours, it’s not only hands-off, but it’s also a wonderful wonderful thing to have going on in the background on any given day. This is why…
After I had recently roasted a chicken and thriftily decided I would save the carcass and try this whole “stock” thing, I threw the ingredients together in a pot and brought to a boil. And suddenly, this tiny, ridiculous apartment in the middle of a sprawling, chilly, and occasionally unfriendly city, was the coziest place in the world. The smell of stock cooking on your stove is like home. I don’t care if no one in your home ever made stock. I don’t care if you’ve never smelled simmering stock before in your life. Take one whiff of the pot when it starts to heat and you’re nostalgic, even if it’s for a place you’ve never been. And when you only have 180 square feet of space, one pot of stock will transport you straight to heaven.
Oh, I should probably mention that it tastes ridiculously good. Yes, there is actually a huge difference from store-bought stock. Once I realized it, I started to feel bad every time I bought a can. Granted, I don’t always have a chicken carcass on hand, but now I feel like I should. And when I do, I will make stock, especially when the weather starts to turn chilly, and especially when I need a little bit of cozy in my life.
This recipe is simple and adaptable. Throw your bones into a pot, throw in some veggies, and let simmer for as many hours as possible. If you have a big turkey carcass or saved the bones from a couple chickens, add a few extra veggies and seasoning. Use whatever veggies you prefer, but use at least a few aromatics → garlic, onion, leeks, etc. When it’s done simmering, strain it, chill it, then simply skim off any fat that rises to the top of the container.
In the picture above, I’ve stored my stock in mason jars, and you can see the thin layer of fat at the surface. Super easy to scoop and discard.
You can freeze the stock for months and have it on hand whenever you need it for a recipe. I like to store it in quart-size ziplock bags, which stack nicely in any size fridge–even in a New York kitchenette. If I’m planning ahead, I also freeze some blocks in an ice cube tray, for those recipes that call for just a few ounces of stock.
Right now, just a few days after Thanksgiving, I’m still busy entertaining and feeding current guests, but my turkey bones are waiting patiently for me in my freezer. I’m hoping next weekend I’ll have a chance to bust them out, and make home smell even more like home.
- 1 chicken carcass, or other poultry carcass such as turkey. You can use multiple carcasses if you have them available and want a bigger batch. If you use a turkey or multiple chickens, add more of the ingredients below in a similar proportion (e.g., if you use two chickens instead of one, double ingredients below).
- 2 carrots, chopped in half
- 2 celery stocks, chopped in half
- 1 onion, chopped in half
- 5 cloves of garlic
- 2 bay leaves
- Generous handful of fresh herbs, such as thyme, sage, and rosemary
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Place your carcass in a large stockpot. Add your carrot, celery, onion, garlic, and herbs.
- Fill the pot with cold water until everything is covered or mostly covered. The carcass will become soft and reduced in size as it cooks, so if some sticks out at the beginning, you’re okay.
- Heat the pot until the water comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer.
- Simmer uncovered for 5-8 hours. Longer is always better. If the bones and veggies start to stick out above the water line, add more hot water to cover.
- When you’re done simmering, add some salt and pepper to taste. It’s better to undersalt at this point, as you can always add more salt when you use the stock in cooking later.
- Allow the pot to cool slightly, then strain the liquid into a large container, or several small containers. Quart-sized mason jars are good for storage. Throw away the the leftover solids (bones and veggies). Refrigerate the strained stock immediately.
- After refrigerating for a few hours, fat will rise to the top of your container. You can easily remove the fat with a spoon at this point and discard.
- Stock can be frozen until you’re ready to use it. You can pour the cooled stock into quart size bags and freeze flat for easy storage. If you frequently use small amounts of stock in cooking, you can also freeze the stock in an ice cube tray, then store the frozen cubes in a ziplock bag for easy, quick access.
The stock will keep for about 1-2 weeks in your fridge, or several months in the freezer.