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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Chicken Stock and Stewing Heritage Breed Chickens

So I had all planned to make this post titled Chicken Stock the Julia Child way, that was until I pulled out my "1983 anniversary edition of Mastering the French Art of Cooking" (which I obviously haven't really used), only to find that the "updated" version gives instructions on making stock that requires adding in chicken broth.  WHAT?!!  Guess I'll be looking for an older version. So I pulled out my 1946 version of joy of cooking, surfed the net and between those made up my own recipe. 

We recently downsized our laying flock.  We had too many not laying, they were almost 1.5 years old, and we decided to quit selling eggs, so we decided to keep a few older hens, add a few newer ones and keep just enough for us. This left me with 12 stewing hens.  I had a few years ago decided to cook some stewing hens by simmering them, I discovered later that I did it at too high of a temperature.  It didn't work and they were so darn tough, I couldn't even pull the meat off for the dogs.  Well I've learned a thing or two since then, and I'm happy to say that I was successful in stewing chicken that was not just edible by the 4 legged crew, but was really good, AND I have bunches of leftover yummy stock to can too.

Chicken Stock Recipe

Stock can be made with left over carcases after roasting meat.  Technically I suppose I was making broth, as I was using whole chickens.  Anyway... I have a very large stock pot that I put 3 whole chickens in.  They were skinned already, but skin on is probably adds even more flavor.

Add just enough cold water to cover the meat or bones

1 or more whole carrots (I used 3)

1 or more whole stalks of celery (again I used 3)

1 or more onions quartered (I used 1 large one)

Add some seasonings if you wish, I had on hand fresh parsley and thyme, and some dried sage (It did give a slightly greenish tint to the broth).  I also added 3 tbsp of salt for flavor.

Simmer at less than 180 degrees until the meat is tender (I judged this by the legs being loose in their joints).

The key to more tender meat from a stewing chicken is to cook at a low temperature so the meat fibers don't toughen.  It also, it turns out is what makes a clear rather than cloudy broth comes from the fat and scum being incorporated into the broth from boiling.  Start out cold and slowly heat up to temperature, and you don't want more than a bubble or two to break the surface.  This took many hours, I lost count.

When the meat was tender I removed it from the pot to cool.  I skimmed the fat off the broth, strained it, and discarded the vegetables (I added them to pet food, hate to waste good organic vegies). 

The meat I shredded and froze to use later is soups and casseroles.  The broth can be frozen or pressure canned to preserve. 

Later this week I'll post about pressure canning broth.

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  1. Just happened across your blog through Barn Hop...look forward to reading more. Have added you as a follower.


  2. I don't have a pressure canner, but I definitely love making my own broth. I have turkey broth in the freezer right now because we had an extra turkey from last thanksgiving in the freezer. Recently I have been making veggie broth, because it is root veggie time in Maine, and that is what I have been getting in my CSA basket. The only difference from mine than other recipes is that I use a stick blender and blend all the veggies into the stock. I found that my babes (3 & 1) will gobble this stock up in no time. It makes it a little thicker than a normal stock, but I love the texture.

  3. Hi Connie, thanks for the follow!

    Heather, great idea, thanks for sharing, I'll have to give that a try.

  4. Visiting from the barn hop. Now I know why my chicken stock is cloudy! Did you use the feet? You gotta use the feet. If you need to know how to clean them, check my blog. Also, I put the meat in the jars of broth and lengthen the processing time a tad to compensate. Then, when I want soup for lunch, I open a jar of mixed vegies and a jar of chicken or turkey broth.
    Thanks a bunch for sharing!

  5. Can I use a stewing hen in a braised chicken recipe? Would I need to adjust timing to have it cook longer? I just bought two and cooked one to make stock and chicken for pot pie... was thinking I'd like to do a curry dish for the second. Any tips would be amazing. THANK YOU!

  6. I don't know.... the first time I tried to cook a stewing hen I cooked to too hot and it was terribly tough, so tough I couldn't pull the meat off the bone and ended up throwing it all away. I think the key is really low heat less than 180, for a long time, and I don't know if that would work in a braising recipe. I do pull the meat off of the bones and freeze it separately and have used that meat in casseroles and threw some in a stir fry. Hope that helps a little.

    Maybe it could work if your stewing hens were on the younger side? Mine were a year old and I don't think I'd try with those.

  7. thanks. i ended up just cooking it as you directed for about 10 hours on my stove on the lowest setting--it was greg in pot pie. thank you!