Making your own chicken broth is a no-brainer for a frugal family. Basically, you’re making something useful out of stuff that you would have otherwise just thrown away.
It’s getting something for nothing.
If you’re not doing this, you should try.
I’ve been making chicken broth for years, but for a long time it was fairly bland. Basically I was throwing a chicken carcass in a pot and boiling it for a long time. It certainly did the trick, but, dear mama, you can do so much better.
Just a few small tweaks can yield a rich, amazing broth that will elevate your soups to the next level. Again, for FREE!
Try these tricks:
Freeze your chicken carcasses for future use. You don’t have to tackle this project right after dinner. Throw your chicken carcasses in the freezer to use when you have a little more time. At one point, my freezer was packed with nine former chickens. I never throw one away – not even a carcass from a rotisserie chicken (you can use them, too!).
Freeze vegetable waste to use in your broth. Mushroom stems, carrot peels, celery ends, past-their-prime onions…it all goes into a random Ziploc in my freezer awaiting Broth Making Day.
Use butter. Melt 1-2 Tablespoons of butter in a large pot to begin.
Brown everything! After my butter has melted I toss in a handful of veggie pieces, any raw chicken pieces I may have saved (like the neck, heart, or backbone – but LEAVE OUT the liver), and even the cooked chicken carcass. Usually all of this stuff is still frozen because – who cares? – you’re making broth and it’s pretty hard to mess up. I brown it in the butter for about 15 minutes. Browning gives you ALL THE FLAVOR.
Add water. Fill up your large pot with water.
Simmer for six hours. This should not be a rolling boil – just a slow, gentle simmer. I used to just cook my broth for four hours, but something magical happens during those final 120 minutes – so let it go for a full six. Your liquid will probably reduce by about half.
Strain. Using a fine strainer (or a large colander with cheesecloth), strain all the contents into a large bowl.
Squeeze. Using the back of a spoon, press the remaining bones against the sides of the strainer to release even more liquid. This adds up to a huge amount of flavor that you’d otherwise throw in the trash.
Strain into individual containers. I have a stash of 2- and 4-cup containers I use for this purpose. If you didn’t use cheesecloth earlier, you may want to strain your broth one more time to get random bits and pieces out.
Freeze. After your broth has cooled, move it to the freezer for use in future dishes…
Season. …but remember, your homemade broth has not been seasoned like the stuff you’d buy in a can. This gives you much more control over your final dishes, but when you’re cooking, you’ll have to add more salt than you’re used to since it’s not already in the broth. Don’t worry. This is normal.
There are a million different ways to make broth – crock-pot methods, 24-hour methods, adding chicken feet so it will gel completely – but I say use what you have.
If what you have is the carcass of a rotisserie chicken from Costco, use it.
Others might say you should only make broth with free range, organic chickens and have some other health-conscious parameters, but don’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good.
Whatever you come up with is going to be way better (and healthier) than the stuff in those cans.
And a whole lot cheaper!