If we’re going to go basic to kick this off, I wanted to use the one winner that always makes me appreciate and feel like I don’t “food waste.” We’re not all Julia Childs and when I discovered how SIMPLE it is to do your own broth, it just made sense. (AND CENTS, if we’re going to get down to many of the REAL reasons to do your own)
Who uses Chicken Broth?
The first thing many of us do is jot that notation on the grocery list, haul off to the store, compare the cans/quantity/boxes/granules of brand and generics, coupon search, nutrition label study -yikes sodium!, and finally bring home the winner. I know this process – I used to do it on a regular basis and spend anywhere from $.40 to $5 a can/box/etc. And it was easy and convenient – and the SODIUM SHOCKER hit me. Even a low sodium broth packs about 500 mg of sodium per serving – and those servings are not the WHOLE box. One day, I found 100 Days of Real Food’s recipe for broth in the crockpot – it seemed simple, I could have extra chicken for recipes, an easy method for broth – why not?
What do you use?
Chicken Bones, Water, Spices/Herbs, Vegetables.
That is it. (Are you shocked?)
There is no right or wrong variation – it depends on what you add in how your broth will taste in richness and in flavor. Sometimes I rush and it is a “lighter tasting” broth, other times I cook it down and it is pretty rich. But for every time I do my own, I’m saving money AND finding a “healthier” alternative. AND I know you can do this on a stovetop but seriously my patience (and a hyper-sensitive to smells husband) has me go with the crockpot version so I don’t have to babysit it all day- or even a few hours.
I start one of three ways:
1) Cook a Whole Chicken (best recipe here if you want to follow or follow a version of that recipe by simply rubbing your favorite spices over your whole chicken, add onions/apples/etc. in the cavity if you wish, place it whole in your crockpot – no water necessary, cook 4-5 hours and remove the cooked chicken reserving for future recipes). Reserve the carcass/bones.
2) Spatchcock a Whole Chicken for Roasting – I LOVE this recipe here. It uses EVERYTHING from the chicken, to the veggies, to the greens AND uses a cast iron skillet method. LOVE. When you prep your chicken for spatchcock roasting, reserve the chicken back you remove and after you enjoy your delicious roasted chicken, save your bones.
3) Support Local and buy Chicken Backs from a local farm OR resource – keep it local and freeze the chicken backs until you can use them. The local chicken backs really do have more flavor than your store-bought chicken…Add the whole chicken backs to cook your broth – just one step!
Ready to get your broth done?
Chicken Broth in the Crockpot
(I use the above 100 Days of Real Food version and add some of useful no food waste tips below)
- Chicken Bones – Chicken backs OR leftover chicken bones OR whole chicken carcass, or a combo of all three – I take the bones and save in a ziplock freezer bag and place it in the freezer until I have time to make my broth. This takes out the pressure of doing it all at once.
- Vegetables – during the week when I food prep, I end up with ends of carrots, celery, zucchini, eggplant, fennel, onion, garlic, etc. I take all my ends and leftovers and FREEZE them in a separate ziplock bag in my freezer. Now, sometimes I am really good at chopping and have skins and things that don’t seem to save and those go on my small compost bucket on my kitchen counter. I used to be picky, now I chop and separate and compost and freeze. You can peel and cut and chop and spend time making it perfect, but why? Make it simple and just add. It won’t hurt you to be a little imperfect. I also take a peek in my refrigerator when I’m going to make broth with a once over – remove any veggies going bad or you know you won’t use soon and don’t want to waste or ones that look like they are on their way out, chop off any “bad parts” you can’t see putting in broth (compost baby!) and add in the remainder of the vegetables you cut up. No food wasting in your refrigerator!
- Spices/Herbs – Everyone has their fave combos and spice choices. I love rosemary, thyme, sage, oregano, etc. I’ll use fresh if I have it – or if those fresh herbs start to turn in my fridge I pluck off the wilting and throw ’em in the veggie freezer bag for the broth later. Or use dry spices if you have those instead. The basics are salt*, pepper, rosemary, garlic, bay leaf…just use anything you have on hand! (*We use very little salt in our broth b/c of health reasons but do what you need for flavor preference)
- Remove frozen bones or take the reserved chicken bones you put aside from recipes and add to crockpot.
- Add your reserved vegetable pieces you saved, or cut up to use for crockpot.
- Repeat the same with herbs and spices – I try different combos every time- there is no right or wrong way!
- Pour water in the crockpot- enough to cover the veggies and bones/carcass.
- Cover your crockpot with lid.
- Turn knob to high and place lid and COOK. THAT IS IT!
I then try to be good and get errands done or household chores. Now, your house WILL smell like chicken broth so be forewarned. I used to do it overnight but even I get a little crazy over smelling broth first thing in the morning. While it isn’t bad, the husband is not a fan. Now, I actually have learned to place my crockpot on my back deck/patio area and loosely covered over with towel so as to keep away from any prying eyes or nosy neighbors. Never had it disturbed OR bothered- I do drive my neighbors wild though with the good smells- ah well
7. When it is done, you strain and remove bones, leftover veggies, and herbs.
I use a fine mesh strainer like this one but you will find a method which works for you.
I strain into a bowl -twice or three times to retain just broth – and discard the leftover bones, cooked down veggies, etc. I won’t compost these discards now b/c of the chicken fat, meat, etc. b/c i’m in the camp you don’t add that to your compost but you decide.
8. After I let the broth cool, refrigerate and skim off fat.
9. Then pour broth into these super finds- big cube silicon trays. I place in freezer and in a few hours have big cubes (mine come out to be 1/4 cup each cube). I bag up in ziplock and place in my freezer.
Now, whenever I need to add chicken broth it is READY to add a cube of broth – no cans, boxes, or extra sodium. Many people will drain off fat which you can do or keep in jars OR in containers. You do what works for you but I guarantee you’ll love saving pennies AND doing your own way. I can usually make enough batches of cubes which last me a few weeks.
Any suggestions you have for the future?