Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Chicken stock 'n Gravy

I'm always on the lookout for chicken to go on sale, or for a pack to reach it's "OMG SELL IT NOW" date and get marked down to nothing. My favorite are the thigh packs. I skin and debone them, chop them up into bite sized pieces, and toss them into whatever stir fry marinade I'm hooked on at the moment. Using my $4 garage sale Food Saver sealer, I divy it all up into 1 cup portions and freeze for some night when I'm in the mood for a stir fry but not the prep work.

Once that's done I'm staring at a pile of chicken bones and skin. I toss the skins all into the deep fryer until crispy, then salt them and toss them into a bag. The bones go into another bag, and it all goes into the freezer, where it waits until a day like today rolls around.

I have a glass top oven, and while I've seen youtubers pressure can on them I'd rather not. My All American weighs in the neighborhood of a small calf, and all that heat and weight on a glass top.... not with my luck. Because of this, I do all my pressure canning in the garage, and because I'm in Texas and it's usually hotter than hell during normal canning season I put everything off until late fall and winter rolls around. It's cold today, 22F outside and just above freezing in the garage. Perfect weather to start making chicken stock with all those bones and fried up skins. :)

First all the bones, picked clean carcasses, and giblets go into a roasting pan. I give them all a healthy dusting with coarse sea salt and then into the oven at 350 for who knows how long. I check on it when the smell fills the house and I'm salivating. I meant to get a picture of it all roasted and nom nom nommy looking when I pulled it from the oven but in my hurry to pluck the gizzards out (yes I'm southern, I love gizzards) I forgot to snap a pic. 

Moving on.


I don't have a big stock pot but my water bath canner works just fine for this. I filled it about halfway with water, then tossed all the bones and big stuff in. While the water was heating up, I made a trip outside to make sure the chicken's bucket heater was working and snagged a few cuttings from the sage, rosemary, and thyme. Into the pot they went, along with 3 bay leaves and a handful of peppercorns that are in the little metal sieve tea bag thing that's hanging by a chain in the upper right corner.

The muck in the bottom of the pan went into a small pot where I brought it to a nice rolling boil, added some flour, and made me just enough giblet gravy to fill a pint jar. I'd intended to put it in the canner, but... how long? Chicken stock is 10#@25 minutes, but gravy? 

Five minutes on the net and I learned you can't can gravy. The David Carradines of Canning aren't sure whether it's the fat or the flour but they all agree it's a serious no-no. Well crap. What to do....



The lightbulb went off when my eyes landed on the muffin pan. 


It was just enough to fill 5 and half fill a 6th. The Mr. loves his mashed 'taters and would love them with giblet gravy but it's a rare treat when we have it. For starters, whenever I make it I have way more than just two people need. This works perfect though! Each one is just enough for two people, and I can toss them all into a ziplock bag once they're frozen.


These look disturbingly like frozen peanut butter cups or chocolate pudding. Naturally I can't find the Sharpie I use to label bags of potential frozen mysteries so I foresee a surprise in my future dining.


Back to the stock. I had to dig to find 5 quart jars. I don't normally use them because it's too much for two people and whatever doesn't get used when I first open it tends to spoil before we go back to it. For stock though, quart jars are the perfect size and I need to add a lot more to my stockpile.

It took about 5 hours to boil around 4 gallons down to a little over one, but at last it was ready to put into the jars.


Isn't that pretty? If only it stayed that way....


Off to the garage to pressure can them. The old bat across the street likes to spy on me through her curtains. Here's hoping she calls the city marshall to report I'm cooking meth, heh.

Several hours later my freshly canned chicken stock emerges.


Erm, ick. What can I say? We have hard water. I really should pick up some distilled water for the pressure canner. It's a PITA to get this mess cleaned out of the canners.

So, 10 minutes to steam, 7 minutes to vent, 25 minutes to process, and 3 hours to cool enough to get the jars out, plus 5-6 hours cook time, and a kitchen that looks like a tornado hit it... for chicken stock I coulda gone to Dollar Tree and paid $6 for. 


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