It’s worth making friends with your butcher. Especially if you are like me and don’t know a lot about meat.
Fred Fitzpatrick (Exning Road, Newmarket) is our favourite local butcher
Fred loves meat. Loves talking about it, handling it and cooking with it. He is a man with a mission and wants to spread the word.
I once overheard him talking to a young couple who were buying their first joint of pork together. He took a few minutes to explain the cooking time, how to test if the meat was ready. Gradually building up their confidence. He takes time with every customer – heaven if you’re at the head of the queue. Not so much fun when you are at the back!
When Fred discovered that I was buying a chicken to make chicken soup for my mother he strode into the back of the shop. He filled a large bag with chicken carcasses and plopped it beside my order on the counter top.
“We bone a lot of chickens after 15:00 on Friday for local pubs and restaurants so we always have carcasses available on a Friday afternoon. Sometimes we just throw them away.”
The soup for my mum used to be quite expensive to make, at around ?2.00 per 600ml pot. Now each pot costs 75% less as there is enough chicken meat left on the carcasses to provide the chicken content of the soup. Fred’s chickens are free range. Stock made from a fresh uncooked carcass is wonderful and highly nutritious. It will develop a far more intense flavour if it is cooked gently for hours.
Lucky cooks who have an Aga can pop a stock pot in the coolest oven to simmer for hours. We don’t have an Aga, just a normal electric cooker with its own eccentricities. We used to sit in a kitchen dripping with steam until I twigged that I could bring the stock pot to simmering point and then put it into the oven (on the lowest setting) and let it gently bubble away overnight.
The irresistible aroma probably drives the dogs nuts. When I open the kitchen door in the morning, the intense scent of chicken reminds me to turn off the oven and lift out the stock pot. This is how we cook all our stews and fillings for pies. Long slow cooking develops every flavour.
I pour the stock into containers and, when it has cooled, put it into the fridge to chill. It’s so easy to remove the fat from very cold stock and you are left with a rich chicken jelly that freezes well.
If I am making our chicken soup I let the chicken carcasses simmer on the hob for about 30-40 minutes and then pick the meat off. I return the carcasses to the stock pot and pop these in the oven overnight. I haven’t made stock for months but when Joanna suggested that I used chicken stock to cook grains I decided to revive the practice.
Danny called into Fred early on Friday, long before 15:00, so I thought that I’d have to order carcasses for delivery next week. Luckily, Fred and John had been busy preparing a boned chicken order earlier in the day and asked if we’d like the carcasses! Oh happy day.
If you are going to try this method at home, put some foil under the lid of your stock pot to ensure a tight fit and minimal evaporation. If you are not friends with Fred and John you can make great stock from chicken wings. The secret is time with a slow, low temperature.
Why not try and find a great and helpful butcher like Fred?
Easy chicken stock recipe
- Four or five fresh chicken carcasses
- 1 large onion
- 2-3 carrots (peeled and roughly chopped into two inch lengths)
- 1 fat clove of garlic
- 2 stalks of celery (chopped into 2 inch lengths)
- 1 bouquet garni or small handful of fresh herbs
- Water to cover
- 6 black peppercorns
- Put all the ingredients into a large stockpot and add water to cover. Put on lid and slowly bring to simmering point.
- Place the stock pot into a low oven (100c, 80c fan) for eight hours, with foil under the lid to insure a tight seal.
- Chill the stock and remove the fat.
Chicken stock will keep in the fridge for a couple of days and freezes well.
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