Ok. So. I finally got my hands on a copy of Nourishing Traditions. I have this post by Katie at Kitchen Stewardship bookmarked & referenced. I’ve been really looking forward to making my own bone broth/stock the real way, full of all the goodies that can only be gotten from the chicken’s bones through long, slow cooking. Making bone broth is simple and yields so many rewards! Then again, anything “simple” I always overthink, and my first true bone broth was no different. I also had to deal with a few things I’d not considered.
Confession #1: I’ve never cooked with an entire chicken before. Ever. Why? Well, I’ve never had to. My mom used to, but when I went out on my own I always cooked boneless chicken breasts, because they were simple to use…and I didn’t have to contend with an entire skeleton.
Confession #2: I have a problem contending with an entire skeleton. I guess I can blame it on too many horror novels & movies growing up; for some reason, when I see too many bones together in one place that look too much like an actual creature, I get “the willies.” A few bones from a wing or thigh are ok (or I’m just used to them), since they are separated from the entirety. But a whole carcass? *shudder*. I remember ages ago, when my mom would cook roast whole chickens or turkeys, and I’d just look away and let her deal with it, and let someone else carve it, etc. Pretty sad and laughable, right? For all my growing up around animals and gardens and nature, I am very “citified” in my relation to meat. But here I am now, determined to learn how to cook a whole bird (although I’ll never, ever be able to see/be near actual slaughter; that’s an entirely different issue I won’t go into now). I sometimes think I hear chuckling nearby, and it must be my mom, vastly amused in the afterlife. I also wonder if she’s not whispering in my ear, “Stop being a ninny and cook a chicken.”
Confession #3: When I purchased the whole, pastured chicken, I was feeling proud of myself. It’s the small steps that matter!
So a couple of days ago, I put the chicken (it came without innards—I’ll tackle those eventually) in a stock pot with some water & splash of vinegar to soak, an hour later added some veggies:
Brought it to a boil, skimmed as needed, and started simmering it for 24 hours:
And then the overthinking kicked in:
Can I really leave the stove on all night? For 24 hours? Will my roommate kill me for jacking up the electric bill? Will this jack up the electric bill? How much of a fire hazard is this? Will I be able to sleep with the stove on all night? What if all the liquid evaporates? (I didn’t say my worries were sensible.)
My roommate was a little dubious of it, too, and suggested I get up in the middle of the night to check on it, just to be safe (I didn’t—slept like a rock). Before going to bed, I’d also worried that the stock was too hot or wait is it not simmering enough? Oh look the chicken floated to the top and so a portion of it was above the water line and was that ok or not?
When I got up the next morning, some of the veggies had cooked too much and looked “burned:”
I was not at all sure that was ok or not, but decided to just keep on. At this point, I realized that sure, the entire thing might not turn out, but I’d learn a lot in the process.
Near the end of 24 hours, I tossed in parsley for the last 10 minutes of cooking, and then it was done:
I proceeded to (clumsily) remove the chicken to a plate for picking,
and then strain out the stock,
The sodden remains of the veggies went into the compost.
And then it was time to pick the chicken. This was a surprisingly relaxing thing to do, lol. I filled a big bowl with chicken, which I’ll be eating for days:
The chicken on its own was a bit dry (roommate: “of course it is, you cooked the crap out of it!”), but still good. However, during the picking I had a flare-up of ohgodsthisisaskeleton: it was picking around the spine and ribs that did it. I had to stop a few times, tell myself I can do this. Yeah yeah yeah, I sound like a complete wimp, making a fuss out of something so trivial. But as a very visual person, these things really work on me. I just kept reminding myself that eating a chicken this way, as opposed to just boneless breasts, is vastly healthier and very cost-saving. I got through the picking and again felt like I’d accomplished something.
Instead of discarding all this, maybe I should start making my own horror movies…*insert cheesy, creepy, 80s-horror-movie music here*
The stock went into the fridge to cool so that the fat would rise, and I gotta say, not much fat rose. I was afraid I’d done something wrong, but my roommate assures me that the amount of fat that rose is normal. So I’m going to just plow ahead, even though I worry that uh oh what if the overcooked, dark-browned veggies somehow messed up the stock, or contaminated it somehow, I don’t want to make myself sick, what if I didn’t keep it hot enough all night and bacteria got in? I won’t know until I get sick. What if…?
Again, I know I sound a bit nuts (a friend of mine has nicknamed me “Nutsy,” and although he did it due to my peanut allergy, it might be even more fitting than he realized), but I want to be honest about all my fears as I learn this stuff. I do wish I’d learned this from my mom, but back when I could have, I wasn’t interested. So all I can do is just plow ahead now, learning as I go.
The next time I make bone broth I’m going to try making it in a slow cooker, since for some reason leaving that on all night doesn’t seem as worrisome. I might even roast the chicken first for dinner, then make stock from the carcass. Not sure yet, but that’ll be chapter 2 of my bone broth adventures.
Now to find (real food) recipes for shredded chicken…