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Easy chicken stock recipe

ThumperIt’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

Ingredients:

  • 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

Method:

  1. Put all the ingredients into a large stockpot and add water to cover. Put on lid and slowly bring to simmering point.
  2. Place the stock pot into a low oven (100c, 80c fan) for eight hours, with foil under the lid to insure a tight seal.
  3. 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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14 Comments

  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Sarah

    Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment. Hope the stock worked out well for you.

  2. Thank you for writing this article. I am making chicken stock for the first time this evening and this article has eased my concerns about messing it up. I am lucky enough to have an Aga and will be leaving it in the bottom oven over night.

    Thanks again.

    p.s I agree with the butcher comments

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Lauren,

    I long for an Aga too. One day we will get one!

  4. Lauren at Faith Fuel

    Oh, I wish I had an Aga. Ever since I read Rosamunde Pilcher books and she constantly referred to the Aga and to hot tea and times of repose, I have been lusting for an Aga.

  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Sara,

    Our butcher is a treasure and an inspiration!

  6. farmingfriends

    Your butcher sounds fabulous. Sara from farmingfriends

  7. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Joanna

    You are right. Butchers seem to be a happy tribe. But I reckon that they have a tough time. Our butcher’s shop is in the poorer side of town. He has a great scheme – meat packs. This is a selection of meat for the week for 2, including a small joint. The customer pays £15.50 and the value is well over £20 if you weigh it all out.
    Loads of people just use the local butcher for the turkey at Christmas and miss out on so much.

    Thanks for the tip on the onion skins in the stock. We made 5 pints of stock on Friday night and tried simmering some lentils in it yesterday. Delicious – thanks for the brilliant idea.

    Hi Celia,

    Yes the hen does look a bit worried. She will never end up in a pot!

    You can’t beat meat bought direct from a farmer at a Farmer’s Market. Thanks for the tip about Highgate Country Store.

    Hi Virginia,

    Your gardener sounds a treasure! Our is great at plucking and dressing birds. He is a good source of game as he is a part time beater (he calls it brushing)and is given a lot of birds at the end of the day.

    Great idea about the faggots. Must try this.

  8. Virginia

    Hello again, We “inherited” a gardner when we moved to our present house, and to add to that bonus, it turned out that he’s a butcher by profession and worth his weight in gold. Gardening is his passion and butchering his hobby. He cleans the birds that I pluck (another kindly neighbour kills them for me!) and tells me how to deal with them. He works part time in our local butcher shop so we get the very best from there. There’s nothing to beat a tame, local butcher, or gardener.

    On the subject of our butcher, their faggots are the best ever. I cheat on stuffed marrow now and break up a couple of large faggots and stuff the marrow with the mixture. It is so simple and tastes fantastic.

  9. Fiona – your hen looks worried – please reassure her that she won’t be put in the stock pot.

    Yes – I totally agree about finding a good butcher. I used to buy supermarket meat – gradually realising that it paid to be choosy. For a while I stocked up if I went to Waitrose. Then we discovered the local farmers market – and it was a revelation that the pork and lamb bought direct from the farmers was in another league. I now try to buy all meat either from the farmers market or from a fantastic butcher at http://www.highgatecountrystore.co.uk/. Great meat and very cheerful butchers!

  10. You are SO right to champion the local butcher. Better meat than any you can buy in a supermarket, lots of helpful tips and tricks, recipes, and a smile and a laugh – I’ve never met a butcher who wasn’t cheerful, at least in his shop.

    It’s worth saying that when you’re making stock, you don’t have to peel the onion, in fact it’s better not to, because it lends the finished (chicken) stock a lovely golden colour. Just slice it up.

    Have you tried the grains yet?

    Joanna

    So effortless, endless uses in the kitchen, and so much better / cheaper than anything you could buy. Yum

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