Rich Homemade Chicken Stock
I discovered the joy of slow cookers about 10 years ago when I walked into my parents kitchen to the mouthwatering aroma of a smoked pork hock and beans simmering in my Dad's new Crockpot. I bought one for myself on the way home, and spent the next few months experimenting with this new tool. I tried cooking every kind of recipe in my slow cooker. Somethings worked better than others, there were some interesting surprises. It still gets a lot of regular use, coming home to a delicious hot meal and minimal dish washing has great appeal, especially in the winter months.
The slow cooker really serves it's highest purpose as a stockpot in my kitchen. I try to always keep a supply of homemade stock in the freezer. This really isn't a lot of work, and the rewards are great. Seriously, this stuff cures the common cold. To get into the homemade stock habit, first you'll need to start to gather your fixins. Keep a couple of big ziplock bags in the freezer to save leftover bones and bits, I'm always surprised at how quickly they accumulate.
Roasting your bones and aromatics in a hot oven before the long slow simmer will result in a stock with richer colour and flavour. Be sure and deglaze the roasting pan as well, and add all of the little browned bits to the stock pot.
I really like the flavour and body turkey bones add to poultry stock, so I will often buy a couple of turkey wings and necks to add to my leftovers. It makes a richer stock than chicken alone.
To make chicken/turkey stock, add some vegetables and aromatics to your frozen leftovers. Here, I added 2 turkey wings to a rotisserie chicken carcass and the bones from a dozen chicken wings. The veggies, in this case, were 2 small yellow onions, 1 small purple onion, 4 heirloom carrots, 1 rib celery, 3 green onions, and a dozen cloves of garlic. Brown everything in a hot oven before putting it in the slow cooker. Fill about 2/3 with water, and cook on low for 10-12 hours.
After this long simmer, I add a bouquet garni* the pot to infuse while the mixture cools. I don't like to include any fresh herbs during the long slow cooking time because I've found that they tend to become bitter. So, instead I simply infuse the fresh herb flavour into the stock by adding them for a brief period at the end of the actual cooking time. Once the liquid reaches room temperature, strain the solids, and add liquid to large pot over high heat, and reduce by half. This will keep in the fridge for a few days, or freeze for a few months. By freezing flat in ziplock bags, the stock doesn't take up a lot of valuable freezer space.
*Bouquet Garni for this stock is generally a few sprigs of Italian parsley, a couple of bay leaves, a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme, and about a dozen peppercorns.