Last July, after much debate and in preparation for the Kitchen Garden & Coop Tour, we culled four of our laying hens. Culling is never an easy thing for us, but it is part of the agreement we made with each other before we got chickens back in 2010.
After culling and cleaning the four, we bagged them up and stuck them in our freezer to be used for stock whenever needed. Last weekend, we pulled one out for the first time and finally made some stock. Let me tell you, it was the most delicious chicken stock I’ve ever tasted! I don’t know if it was the age of the chicken (three years old) or the length of time it all cooked down (I took an unexpected nap in the afternoon and it cooked about two hours longer than I had originally intended) but it was simply divine.
Here’s what went into our large stock pot:
- 1 chicken, 3-5 pounds
- 3 large carrots, cut into 2 inch pieces
- 3 celery stalks, cut into 2 inch pieces
- 1 onion, quartered
- 5 cloves of garlic
- 3 bay leaves
- Generous pinch of pepper (or 1 teaspoon peppercorns)
- Enough water to cover all ingredients plus 3 inches (adding water as needed to keep everything mostly covered)
The stock simmered over a medium heat for about 8 hours and was perfect (despite the nap). Depending on the age of your chicken your simmering time could vary from 1 1/2 hours for a brand new/fresh chicken to 6-8 hours for an older bird. Of course, whether or nor you are planning to eat the meat is also a factor. The older your bird is, the tougher the meat is and the longer it will need to cook. Our bird was three years old and the 8 hour cook time was perfect for her as she became Chicken & Dumplings for dinner! The meat was absolutely perfect!
This pot brought us six quarts of pretty condensed stock, three of which went into the fridge to cool. They will soon be stripped of their fat layer, placed in freezer bags and then into the freezer for later meals. The other three quarts (diluted with another two quarts of water) were used as the base for our Chicken & Dumplings (which will last us through many meals this week).
What’s your favorite way to use an old(er), dispatched chicken?