Real Food 101: How to Make Chicken Stock | OUR NOURISHING ROOTS

Besides craving the warming spices of autumn in oatmeals and quickbreads, when October rolls around I can feel a change in the air.  That shift tells me something subtle, but that I always notice.  It is not just time to enjoy cool breezes across the desert at night, to get out slippers and sweaters; it is time for a shift in my body and soul.  I start to crave warm soups and stocks, hearty dishes that will nourish me to the bone as the Earth tilts away from the Sun.

I know that we live in a culture that villianizes fats and nourishment.  We are told, especially as women, to deprive ourselves of food for beauty.  Well it didn’t matter how much I deprived myself of calories and fats, I wasn’t happy or healthy.  I was shocked when I realized that fats are nourishing.  I have found that true nourishment means that I feel satiated and energized, not fat and unhappy like conventional dietary perspectives insist.  I have actually lost weight and gained energy by eating three square meals a day, each loaded with traditional fats like grass-fed butter, egg yolks, and coconut oil.  It was this acceptance of healthy fats that helped me turn the health corner to greater vibrancy and feeling like my “real self”.

If I had to pick a nourishing food that would sit at the pinnacle of all foods, it might be chicken stock.  Actually, I think it would be a tie between chicken stock and fermented cod liver oil, but that is beside the point.  Chicken stock is certainly the more savory and delectable of the two!  Sipping a cup of chicken stock, perhaps with a little cream or an egg yolk, is one of the most satisfying practices I embrace in the fall and winter.

I am also currently following the GAPS diet, which employs the use of healing bone broths to restore balance to gut flora and immune system function.  When on GAPS you have stock three times a day, using it’s soothing and alkalizing properties to heal from the inside out.  I have chosen to do GAPS for adrenal and thyroid support, as well as to balance out my hormones after having children and eating a Standard American Diet (SAD) for so many years.

On the Weston A. Price website about broth, it says this:

Science validates what our grandmothers knew. Rich homemade chicken broths help cure colds. Stock contains minerals in a form the body can absorb easily—not just calcium but also magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and trace minerals. It contains the broken down material from cartilage and tendons–stuff like chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine, now sold as expensive supplements for arthritis and joint pain.

Stock can solidify when it cools, from the presence of gelatin simmering from the bones for 6-8 hours.  You can also simmer stock for longer than that, and though the finished and cooled stock won’t gel, you will still have a stock full of gelatin plus a greater amount of minerals the longer it simmers.  I generally simmer my stock on the longer side, since I prefer as much calcium and minerals seeped from the bones as possible.

In the summer, I simmer mine in a lead-free slow cooker overnight on the back porch (pictured below; buy a slow cooker here), keeping the house cool.  In the winter, I simmer mine in an enameled cast iron oven with a heavy lid (buy a French oven here), using the warmth to help keep the house a bit more heated.  It is small choices like this that can streamline a shift to real food, not to mention being a consciencious and mindful choice for conserving energy year round.

Chicken stock is simple: pastured chicken with bones, vegetables, filtered water, and a splash of vinegar to pull the minerals out of the bones.  You don’t need to peel the vegetables if they are organic, especially since you will be straining them out after the stock is done.  You should also strive to get pastured chickens for making stock: they gel better, they are happier, they are environmentally friendly, and they don’t have harmful additives that seep into your stock.

Equipment Needed:

  • large stockpot, lead-free French oven with lid, or a lead-free slow cooker
  • large lead-free baking dish
  • large mixing bowl and large stainless steel strainer
  • half gallon glass jars and lids for storing

Simple Chicken Stock

1 whole pastured chicken
1 bag of giblets: heart, liver and gizzard
3 carrots
3 stalks celery
1 onion
1 bay leaf
1 handful of thyme
1 handful of rosemary
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (buy apple cider vinegar here)
2 tablespoons sea salt, optional (buy unrefined sea salt here)
1 bunch fresh parsley

  1. Place chicken in a slow cooker or cast iron pot.  Add giblets.  Break carrots and celery stalks in half and add to the pot.  Cut onion in half and add to the pot.  Add the bay leaf, thyme and rosemary to the pot.
  2. Fill with filtered water to an inch below the top of the pot.  Add apple cider vinegar, cover, and let sit at room temperature for one hour.  This helps pull the minerals from the bones more effectively.
  3. If using a pot: bring to a boil on the stove, then lower the heat and simmer on low, covered, overnight.  If using a slow cooker: simply cover and turn on high overnight.  (The high setting on a slow cooker is the same as a simmer on a stove.)
  4. In the morning, uncover and strain into a large mixing bowl.  Reserve the chicken, picking off the meat for later, or to add back in to a soup.  Discard the vegetables.
  5. Pour stock into a large glass jar, straining again if desired, and store in the refrigerator for up to a week.
    Use to make soups, stews, or reduce to make gravies and sauces.  It is also useful when you are sick, sipped with a little sprinkle of sea salt.  You can also freeze for longer storage, either in jars with lids or ice cube trays emptied into freezer bags.