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My strategy for canning chicken broth and stock

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Chicken is one of the most versatile things I like to can.  You can can chicken meat, broth and/or stock. I hate waste, and by being able to can these three things, I can make the most of my chicken.  Once the bones have gone through broth and stock making they will probably crumble or be very soft. This can go to the pigs, and I have also heard of others feeding the resulting mush to their dogs because it is so soft.

Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to their favorite chicken parts and pieces.  My family prefers whole, roasted chicken or meals with chicken breast.  Thighs and drums, unless roasted, aren’t high on our list of favorites – especially my husband.  Because I cook with him in mind, I avoid meals that focus on thighs and drumsticks but I still buy them when I find a good deal and stock up on them for when I make a bunch of broth and stock to can.  They  make fantastic broth and stock! It’s even better when I can pick up a 10lb bag of leg quarters for $4.50 or so.   Thighs have a tremendous amount of flavor and make the best chicken broth.

My husband will eat shredded chicken, so I cook the leg pieces in the crockpot filled with cool water.  A 10lb bag is split between two crockpots, filled with cold water, a dash of apple cider vinegar is thrown in, lids placed and crocks set to low, then I walk away for the night. I add an onion and some fresh thyme, oregano and rosemary in the final hours – I usually cook them overnight and add the onion and herbs in the morning to get a few more hours.  If I have veggie scraps (carrot peels, celery ends)  I will throw those in with the onion for more flavor.  I won’t use the edible parts of veggies (like, the actual carrot or celery stalks) for stock unless I have an abundance of them and need to use them – the scraps flavor it just fine then I am not “wasting” them (in my mind) as I strain them out of the broth or stock.

Once done, I let the crockpots cool and I drain and strain the broth, then pick the meat off the bone and set the bones aside.  Depending on how many bags or trays of chicken I buy (really, it depends on how good the price is, lol), I set the meat aside in the fridge until I am done cooking all of it (one bag doesn’t produce enough shredded meat for a whole canner load of jars, anyway).  I strain the broth, let it chill and remove the fat that rises to the surface, then can the broth within a day or two of making it.

Once I have removed all the meat, I then throw the bones I collected into a single crockpot, fill it with water and set it on low overnight again this time to make stock.  If I have any wings, I’ll add them to this too, or any chicken carcasses that I saved from roasting. Any chicken bones.  I have been known to save bags and bags of chicken bones in the freezer until I have time to make stock.  I have also been known to ask friends and family to save their chicken carcasses after roasting them.  😉

If you don’t have crockpots, you can also use an electric roaster if you have a large enough quantity of chicken parts or bones. One roaster will easily cook a 10lb bag of chicken leg quarters. I just find the thing to be too large to have in my kitchen for such a long period – usually all day or overnight.  I set the temp to gently simmer the meat (around 210 or so with my roaster).If you want to eat the meat once cooked, or roast the quarters or something you can!  You just won’t be able to make broth (the meat cooking in the liquid is what produces yummy chicken broth). But save the bones and you can make stock.  Stock and broth are interchangeable in recipes.  I like to make both to get the most use out of my chicken.

So after you make stock with the bones, you can then can the shredded chicken (either in plain water or your chicken stock or broth – I personally prefer canning in broth or stock), then can the resulting broth.

You could also freeze this if you prefer.  But it’ll take up a lot of space.

You will need a pressure canner to can chicken and chicken broth or stock.  Consult your canning manual for specific instructions on how to use yours.  Quarts of broth, with no meat, at 10lbs pressure for 25 minutes. Pints go for 20 minutes.  I canned chicken in broth in pints, so I kept 10lbs pressure for 1 hr 15 minutes.  If you are using a quart jar you would can for 1 hr 30 minutes.

I have found that one 10lb bag of quarters produces about 13 quarts of broth, but not very much meat.  A few pints.  If you want more meat, you may want to can whole chicken vs. leg quarters.  We don’t eat a huge amount of shredded chicken so I prefer to focus on the broth with these cheaper cuts.  But a $4.50 bag of chicken pays for its self in savings when you can get around 13 quarts of broth, plus however many meals of shredded chicken.  After 30lbs I found we got 9 pints of shredded chicken. Again, not a ton of meat, but my focus with these cuts of chicken is broth.

Having your own homemade broth or stock is such a healthy option compared to storebought canned broth, bouillon or soup base paste.  You can control the salt and seasoning content.  You can completely avoid sugar and MSG. I was a bit shocked a few years ago when I used storebought stock after years of making my own.  It was so sweet!  I looked at the ingredient list to find sugar as an ingredient.  Definitely not something I am used to in my broth.

I have noticed that commercially grown chicken bones break down a LOT quicker than free range chicken – so you may not be able to make stock from the bones once you pick the meat off.

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