Making stock in the crockpot

We pay a lot for meat. This is how it ought to be, in my mind, meat should not be cheap. We are also frugal and want to wring every scrap out of the meat we buy. If you buy a whole chicken, how many meals does that get used in? A whole chicken should always contribute to two meals or more: one or two meals using the majority of the meat, and the other using the leftover meat and stock made from the carcass. It’s the best way to get the most out of your money, especially if you’re buying local, sustainably raised chickens. You can do this with any meat with bones, but chicken is the easiest.

Nothing you can buy can take the place of homemade stock, and it’s so easy!

Day 1: Cook a whole chicken. Roast it, bake it, barbeque it, serve it with roasted root veg and sauteed greens like we do.

Do not throw away the carcass!

That evening, get out your trusty crockpot. Some other time I will wax poetic about how much I love and adore my crockpot. They are wonderful, wonderful things. Put the chicken carcass in the crockpot with all the skin and cover with water.

What you do next makes all the difference. Meat cooked in water makes stringy cooked meat and hot water. Meat cooked in water with SALT makes stock. Add a  tablespoon of good salt, either kosher salt or sea salt. Then add your aromatics to the crockpot, put the lid on, turn the crockpot to low, and leave it until you get home from work the next evening. That’s right, leave that carcass bubbling away for 18 hours or more.

I make two basic kinds of stock: stock for Asian dishes and stock for non-Asian dishes. For stock for Asian dishes like noodle soup, dumpling soup, egg drop soup, you can add any combination of the following:

  • sliced fresh ginger
  • whole cloves
  • star anise
  • whole peppercorns
  • whole long peppers
  • whole chili peppers, but be careful!
  • whole cinnamon sticks
  • whole garlic cloves, peeled
  • shallots or onions, celery tops, carrot tops, any leftover vegetables

Try only adding one of each spice until you know you really enjoy that flavor. One clove, one star anise and one cinnamon stick will lightly flavor an entire pot of chicken broth and make astonishingly good Thai or Vietnamese-style noodle soup.

Non-Asian stock:

  • Onions or shallots, carrot tops, celery tops, parsley stems
  • whole peppercorns
  • bay leaves
  • whole garlic cloves, peeled

I like to keep stock simple so I can use it in a wider variety of applications. Having hot stock ready to go when you get home from work can be a wonderful jump start to making dinner. Strain the hot broth through a strainer. Pick any meat off the carcass and throw the rest away. You can skim the fat off the top of the stock if you want. Then all you have to do is add vegetables, beans, pasta and herbs to make a fast soup with intensely complex, deep flavor.

One of the best reasons to make your own stock is health. Stock made with bones is deeply nourishing, full of minerals from the bones and collagen from the joints. It’s one of the best things in the world for anyone recovering from illness, especially children.

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