Weekend Food Prep–Homemade Chicken (or Turkey) Broth

Homemade broth is kinda a lifestyle for me.

I collect ingredients for my broth over the course of a few weeks or a month, keep them in my freezer (of course!) until I need them, and throw them into a big pot when it’s the right time.

Julia Child has all sorts of guidelines about good broth. She’ll tell you to avoid using parsley so it doesn’t discolor the final product and has proportions of how much bone to how much vegetable to get the right balance of flavors. Maybe my palette just isn’t that well-developed, or maybe it’s just so subtle, that by the time the stock has become soup or fried rice or whatever, it simply doesn’t matter all that much.

I make broth primarily from the bits and ends of vegetables and bones of other foods I’ve prepared throughout the weeks. There are a few good reasons I do it this way. First, it’s making use of things I might otherwise just compost so I’m saving money and reducing waste. Perhaps less obviously, it also saves me time in the kitchen. For example, when I’m chopping onions, I don’t worry about carefully removing only the toughest outer layer to use the whole thing in the recipe I’m currently making, as I can easily throw the first few outer layers into my broth scraps and use them later. Same for prepping carrots, broccoli and other fresh vegetables. I can quickly prepare the tastiest bits and throw the rest in with the other broth scraps for later. Making quick work of vegetable prep makes it easier for me to keep eating lots of fresh vegetables, and bonus, I always have what I need on hand to make delicious, homemade broth!

Photo description: A large soup pot with bones and vegetable trimmings simmering on a stove.

Chicken (or Turkey) Vegetable Stock

I use this stock in place of water when cooking rice and other grains, making my own soups, and whenever a recipe calls for stock. I like that I can control the salt and it adds flavor and complexity to so many of the things I cook.

One. Whenever you are making vegetables for dinner and trim them, keep the end bits and throw them into a plastic container into the freezer. Don’t use anything that is slimy or rotten, but you can include any of the following (and probably lots of other things I haven’t thought of):

Trimmings from carrots (or the peels, if you peel them)
Root ends and the outer few layers of onions
Outside stalks and trimmings from the tops and bottoms of celery
Leaves and stems from broccoli
Leaves and hearts of cauliflower
Stems and seeds from eggplants, and peppers of all kinds
Outer leaves of cabbage and brussels sprouts
Trimmings from fresh green beans and peas
The tough stems and leaves from kale, chard, collards, spinach and other greens
The tough ends of asparagus spears
Trimmings from yams and sweet potatoes
Mushroom stems and caps
The flavorful stems of fresh herbs such as parsley, basil, rosemary, thyme, and oregano
Cloves of garlic too small to bother crushing
Peeled skins of ginger root

Two. Look over what you have and if you don’t see many of them, I suggest making sure you have maybe one coarsely chopped onion, a few carrots and a few celery stalks. Put these into a soup pot with your reserved vegetable trimmings. You want a total of about 6-8 cups of vegetable trimmings for a big soup pot.

Three. Whenever you roast a chicken or turkey, keep and freeze the backbone, giblets, neck and any other trimmings. Plop those into the soup pot along with the vegetables. It’s fine if they’re still frozen when they go into the pot.

Four. You can season the broth with a bay leaf or two and maybe a few whole peppercorns.

Five. Add water to the pot until it goes nearly to the top of the veggies and bones. Cover and bring to a slow boil. Simmer for at least an hour, but more is definitely better. Stir it once and a while.

Six. Once you’ve decided it’s done (it should have a rich color and deep fragrance), turn off the heat and let it cool enough that if it splashes on you, you won’t get burned. Gently pour through a colander into a large bowl, then transfer the stock into whatever container(s) you’ll be storing it in. I like to make it in several different convenient sizes and yes, of course, freeze them for later use!

(Optional) Seven. If you want the stock to be virtually fat-free, you can skim the fat off the top once the broth has been completely cooled. It is usually solid on the top when very cold. Sometimes I do this and use the fat as a flavorful alternative to cook my eggs or to brown meat in.

Photo description: A large soup pot with a glass lid. Bits of vegetables and chicken bones can be seen through the steamy glass.

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