Trash to Treasure: Canning Chicken Stock
Stock is delicious and so useful in many dishes, especially soup. It can be expensive to buy at the store, and homemade stock is much more nutritious because the nutrients from the marrow get into the stock when you boil the bones. But that’s not my favorite thing about stock. My favorite thing is that you make it from “trash” and it becomes something useful and tasty.
You may be wondering, what is the difference between stock and broth? For the most part, the words are interchangeable. Stock is made when we use mostly the bones of the animal, whereas broth is made mostly from the meat. Stock is very nutritious, because after cooking for a long time, the bones will crack open and release the marrow, which is full of healthy nutrients. In recipes, stock is interchangeable with broth, and vice versa.
Making our own stock also allows us to use more of our birds as well. We can not only use the meat for our table, but the bones and skin and scrap meat for additional meals.
The process is super easy as well. If you can boil water, you can make stock! Whenever you have cooked chicken, especially a whole chicken, save the carcass. You can also throw the bones in a freezer bag for another day when you have time to make stock, or wait until you have several chickens to make a big batch of stock at once. When you are ready to make the stock, fill up a big pot (a stock pot, if you have one, but any large pot will do) with water.
Empty your chicken “trash” into the stockpot and bring the water to a boil. Leave it at a low boil or simmer for a while. I usually let mine go about two hours, but you can let it simmer down even further. The longer the stock cooks, the more concentrated the flavor. After the stock has cooked down, take out the bones, skin, etc. If you have pieces of chicken, you can strain those out to use for something else (or treat your kitty?), or you can just can the stock with the meat pieces in them.
Though this is about canning chicken stock, you can add other vegetables to the stock to add more flavor. I like to keep a bag in the freezer for vegetable odds and ends, such as potato peelings, and add these when it is stock day. It will add additional flavors to the stock.
While stock can be frozen, it takes up quite a bit of space. Many of us do not have that much room in our freezers.
Chicken stock must be pressure canned; be sure to carefully read the instructions that came with your canner before using it for the first time. Use clean, hot jars, and have your lids simmering. Usually when pressure canning, I don’t sweat the jars being hot, but since we are going to pour in boiling hot broth, these jars need to be hot to avoid breakage. Put three quarts of water into the pressure canner. Add your stock to your hot jars, add a lid and a ring, and into the pressure canner they go.
After checking to make sure the gasket is clear, put on the lid, and turn up the heat. When the canner starts to steam, wait 10 minutes, then add the pressure regulator. Once the regulator begins to rock, start the processing time.
Chicken stock with no meat can be pressure canned at 10 pounds pressure (for higher elevations, check; in Virginia, 10 pounds is fine) 20 minutes for pints, 25 for quarts. If you have meat in the stock you should process it 75 minutes for pints, and 90 minutes for quarts.
After the time has gone by, turn off the heat and leave the canner alone to depressurize. I like to use this time to clean my kitchen. Once your gauge is at zero, or the cover lock has fallen, you can remove the lid. After the jars are completely cool, be sure to wash the outside of the jar. Chicken stock jars especially can have a greasy feel to them if they are not washed. Once the jars are done, place them in a cool, dark place, such as a cabinet, closet or the basement.
This process can be done with any type of poultry or other meat. After Thanksgiving, I always can a round of turkey meat and stock from the holiday leftovers. After Easter, I make ham broth, which is great for soups and beans. The best thing is that there is less waste of our food, something we all look for when we try to become more self-sufficient in our groceries.
Chicken stock is amazing by itself when you are sick. I have given friends a jar with a little note that reads, “In case of sickness, open the jar,” and instruct them to just keep the jar in the back of the cabinet until it is needed. Stock is soothing to a sick stomach, and full of healthy things to make us feel better.
It also makes delicious chicken soup. If you become an avid canner (and you should!), you can have homemade chicken soup in no time with your collection of jars. Open a quart of stock, a pint of carrots, a pint of chicken, a pint of corn, a quart of potatoes, some beans, dump in a crockpot and turn it on.