Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Canning Chicken, Making Chicken Stock I

Chicken has been an incredible value this week.  I found chicken breast for $.99 and I stocked up on leg quarters for $.89 a month or so ago.  In the next few posts, I will show three different methods for making chicken stock, and soup.  I am making a chicken soup base today, but I will also be making a Chicken Cacciatore, and possibly a White Chicken Chili if I have enough chicken and stock.
Now, I know that chicken stock is readily available, and of high quality, but it is extremely easy to make your own, and costs just pennies a jar.  Once you start making your own, you'll never go back to store bought.  There is a depth of flavor, that you just can't buy in a box.
I recently got a new 8 quart pressure canner/cooker, and the method I'm showing you today is made easier by using my pressure cooker to make the stock.  I could most certainly make it by simmering it slowly all day in a stock pot, and I'll show you that method next time, but it took less than an hour to get the chicken to that fall apart state needed for stock making.  I'll be using this method far more often than the cooking all day one to be sure.
I make my stock using no added salt, but you could certainly use salt in yours.  Just be sure if you plan on canning the stock instead of freezing it that you use canning and pickling salt, not table salt.  Iodized salt and canning don't mix.
So I started this batch of Chicken Soup Base with a package of leg quarters.  The dark meat in legs and thighs makes a superior stock in my opinion, but I also make stock from breasts.  The color will be a lighter lemon yellow versus a more orange brown that you get from the dark meat.
This package of meat was 5 pounds, and it was $.89/pound.  I had purchased it a while back, and stored it in the freezer for stock making day.
After browning the leg quarters well in a couple T of olive oil, I removed the chicken and placed the jar rack back in the cooker with the chicken on top of it.  This elevates the meat, while still circulating the liquid, and keeps the chicken from sticking to the bottom of the pot.  Then I added 6 quarts of water, a handful of peppercorns, and about four small bay leaves.  That is all.  You will be amazed at the flavor this will render.  This processed for 35 minutes at 10 pounds of  pressure.    I let the cooker sit for five minutes off of the heat, and then ran cold water over it in the sink, and removed the weighted gauge before opening it.  Note that this method is only used when cooking in the pressure cooker, and never when it is being used as a canner.
Now it is just a matter of picking the meat off of the chicken, and straining the stock.  To the hot clean jars, I added carrots onions and celery, along with the meat from the leg quarters.  I don't fill the jars more than half way, so that there is plenty of stock to cook homemade noodles, or spaetzle, or dumplings in when I heat it up to serve it.
While I was filling the jars, I have a stockpot full of the chicken stock on to boil, and I've added the proper amount of water to my pressure canner, and the jar rack, and have that on the stove also.  I have put my lids and rings together, and they are waiting in hot water for when I need them.  If the lids are kept hot, the rubber will have a better chance to seal. I'll drain off the water at the last minute, and have them handy.
Now the chicken stock is boiling, I take great care to ladle the hot broth into the jars, leaving a 1 inch headspace.  After the jars sit for a couple minutes, I will skim off the fat at the top, and add enough broth to come up to the 1 inch headspace amount again.  With a clean towel that has been soaked in hot water and a little vinegar and rung out, I carefully wipe the rims of the jars, and place the lids and rings on.  Working with a towel over my hand, because the jars are extremely hot, I screw the lids down tight and carefully place them down in the pressure canner.  The canner lid goes on and the weight, and they process for 1 hour and 30 minutes at 15 pounds of pressure.  After processing, I will let the canner come back to normal pressure before I remove the weight, and set them on a towel to cool.  I like to remove the rings and wash the jars after pressure processing.  They leak a small amount of liquid, and should be cleaned before storage.
I prefer to store the rings back on the jar.  I am careful to place them on loosely, so I don't disturb the seal of the jar.  I don't like to have to keep all those rings elsewhere, and I feel it helps protect the jar rim if it should get bumped around.  Once they are chipped, they are no good for canning.
So, here is the finished product.  The package of three leg quarters made 8 quarts of chicken soup base. Figuring in the vegetables and the herbs and spices, and also the lids, it still only comes to $.89 cents a quart jar.  It is so worth the time and effort!

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