Let’s talk soup. Bone soup. The Vietnamese use cattle bones and call it Pho. The Chinese use pork bones and call it Tong. I use chicken bones and call it bock-bock chicken stock.
Avoiding political controversy regarding big-box sales operations for now, accept that I do basic grocery shopping at one such entity. For legal reasons, let's call it "CashCow."
CashCow carries a number of staple kitchen items that I like, including an increasing selection labeled Organic and/or Gluten Free. Because I prepare most meals at home, I utilize their “bulk-sized” perishables without waste.
When it comes to their roasted chicken, I truly get a bang for my “bock." Plump, juicy, fresh roasted chicken carcass. Good stuff. Great to eat hot the same night purchased. Just add a starch and vegetable. My family targets the breast and legs. I save the bones. Typically I use any remaining breast meat another time the first week. But at the end of the 1st week or beginning of the second, the chicken goes into an 8 quart stock pot.
Our chicken is not picked over by the end of the week but when most people might think its lost its value, everything goes into a pot, including the gnawed bones. Then the real magic begins.
I add a quart of organic chicken stock* to roughly 1 quart and a half of water. Into this I add the following:
One onion cut into eights*
Two coarsely chopped celery stalks
Two coarsely chopped carrots
Three or 4 large crushed garlic cloves *
Sea salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste *
2 tbs organic apple cider vinegar*
*bulk-buy at CashCow
My stock content varies from week to week according to my tastes and available ingredients. For instance, vinegar is added to aid in the chemical digestion of bony materials in the stock. Apple cider vinegar is my staple, but I’ve also used balsamics and rice-wine vinegars to terrific effect. Whichever you prefer will work fine and produce a tasty effect.
More specifically, I use bock-stock to consume any forgotten veggies lingering in the fridge. That last Jalopeno, Serano, or Anaheim pepper. The final nubbin of fresh ginger. The lonely daikon radish or wilted turnip greens. Even the almost-slimey beans go into the mix. Try your hand adding fresh herbs. Anything, really. You get the idea; if at all possible, don’t throw it out. Put it to use. Throw it in the pot. Surprise yourself.
Next, you simmer that pot a long time. In 4 hours, when soothing fragrance fills your home and the chicken bones soften to a crunchable mess with meat falling away, you may be done. Maybe not, though.
Sometimes, from sheer laziness, I simmer my stock for several hours over multiple days, adding water as necessary. The point being you really can’t overcook this stuff, from a utility stand point. The stock caramelizes brown with cooking time, but as long as you don’t burn it bitter, it tastes fine.
After the first several hours you arrive at a collagen, amino-acid, enzyme, protein filled elixir of health. Drink it straight as a hot broth. Eat any desired veggies with the chicken meat as one of the best comfort soups you will ever have. Add fresh or old rice. If you like heat, spice with Tabasco or Habanero sauce. Or use everything in a homemade pot-pie. Or make chicken and biscuits. Yummy stuff.
Often, I leave the stock in the pot as-is, placing the entire pot into the fridge for cold storage. As long as you keep the interior of the pot unadulterated off the burner and set it aside to cool with lid on in a more-or-less sterile condition, you won’t promote bacterial growth. I’ve never had a problem and have even left my stock on the stove cooling forgotten overnight before placing it in the fridge.
When chilled, the stock's true gelatinous beauty manifests. Invent new ways to get this gelatin into your diet, because that, my friend, is the collagen and protein matrix your bones and joints need for proper maintenance. And for goodness sake, DO NOT REMOVE the fats. Your hair, nails, gums, and skin will love you for it. Not to mention everything on the inside… vasculature, brain matter, neurons. Gees. Consume it all.
When I need stock for other recipes, I pull my refrigerated stock pot out and reheat it gently on the stove. I’ll use this stock instead of water to cook dried staples like lentils, brown rice, Mexican rice, and quinoa. It’s also my base for gravies, sauces, and soups. It rocks with red beans and an uncured ham hock. My list of tasty discoveries goes on and on. I make bock-bock chicken stock almost every other week and we use it all in one recipe or another.
Removing the stock from the pot for storage, I strain any liquid remaining into mason jars, separate acceptable veggies for further use from the dregs, and then pick the bones clean of chicken meat. Even now, after a week or more in the fridge, these chicken bits taste terrific in sauces and curries…or on sandwiches with mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, little salt and pepper and a splash of Tabasco. Hmmmm. Salivating and side-tracking. Compost the bones if you can, or throw them out now, along with anything else deemed unfit for further use.
You can dilute this strained stock as you like. For storage, I keep it in the fridge where it congeals, so that I access the gelatin as needed… a few tablespoons or a maybe a cup at a time. The gelatinous stock stored within mason jars inside your fridge does last. I’m comfortable using it a month after making it, stored in this way. My kitchen is clean and my “sterile” techniques work fine, though. So if you have any doubt as to its usability, have a close look and a take whiff. It should not "stink", nor should it loosen when cold unless you've diluted it. It also freezes well in mason jars for longer-term storage.
I believe in feeding the body what it requires to repair and maintain itself. So, when friends and family ask for health advice, I always stress proper diet and nutrition as their first line of defense against disease. And if it's joint health that interests them, there is no better body-fuel than a good homemade bock-bock chicken stock.