If there’s one thing anyone serious about their health should learn to do, after learning how to poach eggs, it’s to make chicken or beef stock.

It’s wonderfully weekend-evocative for me (was that a very Nigella line right there?). In winter Mum would always put a big pot on the stove on Saturday and it would bubble away for hours, then Sunday lunch was chicken soup full of root vegetables and herbs.

Mostly as an adult I’ve been too impatient to make my own stock. But then I did. And (apologies to issue a very Jamie O line now) I’ve never looked back. I try to eat some stock or bone broth every day, either to braise vegetables for one of my mish mash meals or as a soup or stew.

As you might recall, I’ve already done a post on how to make bone broth. Bone broth is same-same-but-different as a stock, but is mostly bones (and thus full of gelatin and minerals from the bones themselves). Stock or standard meat broth uses meat and bones, or in the case of my recipe below, a whole chooken.

7 reasons to make your own stock

1. Stocks are beyond nutritious…

…a condensed cauldron of minerals and electrolytes in a form easy to assimilate.

2. They are great for anyone with digestion issues.

Stocks have a soothing effect on any areas of inflammation in the gut. That is why they aid digestion and have been known for centuries as healing folk remedies for the digestive tract. This from Sally Fallon: “The gelatin in meat broths has the unusual property of attracting liquids… The same property by which gelatin attracts water to form desserts, like Jello, allows it to attract digestive juices to the surface of cooked food particles….Gelatin acts first and foremost as an aid to digestion and has been used successfully in the treatment of many intestinal disorders, including hyperacidity, colitis and Crohn’s disease…

3. It’s an efficient way to get protein into your diet.

Again Sally: The gelatin in stocks also “acts as a protein sparer, allowing the body to more fully utilize the complete proteins that are taken in. Thus, gelatin-rich broths are a must for those who cannot afford large amounts of meat in their diets.”

4. The store-bought stuff is full of additives and salt and tastes like crap.

5. It’s economical.

You can get about 3 litres and 6-8 portions of meat from one chicken.

6. It’s a de-stresser.

Seriously. According to cookbook author Hanna Kroeger, it’s more relaxing than Tylenol because it has a “natural ingredient” that feeds, repairs and calms the mucous lining in the small intestine…which of course makes up a large part of our nervous system. Ergo all that “chicken soup for the soul” stuff.

7. It makes you feel a bit Nigella to have a freezer full of stock.

8. It’s great for anyone with inflammation or thyroid or autoimmune issues.

I write about that here.

chicken stock

makes 3 litres

  • 1 whole organic chicken (if you’re friendly with your butcher, ask for some extra bony chicken bits: necks, feet etc)
  • 3-4 litres of water (to cover chook once in the pot)
  • a splash of vinegar
  • 2 carrots, roughly hacked
  • 1 onion, roughly hacked (don’t bother peeling)
  • 2 sticks celery, hacked
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 3 bayleaves
  • a few sprigs thyme (if you have some)

This really is simple. Put all ingredients in a big soup pot. The water should cover the lot.

Bring to the boil then reduce, cover, simmer for many hours. Two is good. Three better. About six best.

Pull out the chicken and drain the stock with a sieve, tossing the veggies.

The stock: I drain the stock into another saucepan that I’ll make the soup in. This goes in the fridge for several hours until the fat congeals on top. Scoop this off and you’re ready to make soup and freeze the rest. I freeze some in portions big enough to make another batch of soup down the track (500ml), some to make into a stew or to just drink when I’m feeling crappy (1 cup) and the rest into an ice-cube tray ready for braising veggies (I pop out 2-3 into a pan and use instead of oil or butter).

The chicken: pick off all the chicken. It will pull away super easily from the bones and the fat. I take every last bit. I keep about one-third for the soup (below) and then portion out the rest (4-5 serves) into ziplock bags and stick in the freezer for sandwiches, salads and snacks. I eat it with just pepper and salt. It tastes better than any chicken I’ve had.

And just as an aside, does anyone else like to dry their washed ziplocks on the utensil pot?

A few things to know:

* Add a little vinegar during cooking

to draw minerals, particularly calcium, magnesium and potassium, into the broth.

* Keep the cartilage and joints…and eat them.

Serious. Especially if you’re a woman. It’s the best bit for you.

* Stock will keep about five days in the fridge, longer if reboiled, and several months in the freezer.

* Always use the whole chook – especially the bones and joints.

They provide the healing substances, not so much the muscle meats.

* When removing the fat layer, don’t get too finicky.

The fat is actually really good. In fact the physicians at Gut and Psychology say the fat is some of the most nutritious stuff.

* Definitely use an organic, free range chooken.

It’s worth the investment. (How much do you spend on commercial stock? Tylenol? Gut medication?)  Remember, everything is going to leach from this thing. Do you really want chemicals and bleaches percolating in your soup?

My Mum’s Chicken Soup

The below features an array of my favourite vegetables (and my Mum’s). Broccoli, cauliflower and turnip are also good. I throw in the arame for extra iodine goodness.

  • 1 litre stock
  • 1 carrot, cut into 1.5cm chunks
  • 1 celery stick, cut into 1.5cm chunks, as well as the leaves, chopped
  • 1 onion, cut into 1.5cm chunks
  • 1 swede, cut into 1.5 cm chunks (you can use turnip instead/as well as)
  • 1 zucchini, cut into 1.5cm chunks
  • a good smattering of arame (seaweed), optional
  • a handful of parsley chopped
  • about 1/3 of the chook meat, shredded up

Bring the saucepan of stock to the boil, add the veggies (put the zucchini in a little later than the rest) and arame. Simmer until the veggies are tender and add the chicken and parsley (and celery leaves). You may want to add extra stock.  Serve with toasted cheese sandwiches.

Was this helpful? What do you do with your stock? Any tricks I’ve missed?

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