Freezer Soups

If there’s one pantry staple I can’t do without, it’s chicken stock. It’s not just for soup, of course, but I do make an awful lot of soup in the winter months. And as we all know, soup soothes the soul! Nothing elevates a homemade soup better than homemade stock! Don’t get me wrong, I use plenty of “broth from a box” as well. But when my freezer is low on the homemade variety, or as was the case this week – EMPTY, desperate times call for desperate measures. It was time for wholesale stock production!

None of the local groceries or meat markets sell chicken spare parts. Luckily for me, Roach Family Farm of Vevay, Indiana brings their meaty frozen “chicken frames” (aka chicken backs) to the Madison Farmers Market. I also love that their birds are pasture raised without hormones/steroids or antibiotics. To make sure I’d get what I needed, I preordered online and picked up my order at Saturday’s Winter Market.

I always make stock from the carcass left over from my roast chickens or a purchased rotisserie bird, but that doesn’t yeild a great quantity. Even though I have whole birds in the freezer, what I wanted for this project was bone broth, not tons of cooked chicken. To make stock in quantity, I use about 4 pounds of meaty chicken backs, which is roughly the backs of 4 birds. There are a million recipes online for making chicken stock.

When I’m using raw spare parts to make my chicken stock, I like to roast the backs and some vegetables first (425 degrees for 40 minutes on Convection Roast setting) for a greater depth of flavor and color. (If I’m using a cooked carcass, I skip that part and move right into the stock pot.) In addition to the roasted veg and frames, I pull out my bag of frozen vegetable scraps to add to the pot with bay leaf, fresh thyme stems (or dried), fresh parsley, kosher salt, peppercorns, and lots of water. I use two pots, each with two chicken frames and +/- 3 quarts of water, which I simmer on the stovetop for about 5 hours, replenishing with water during the process.

When I made my stock this weekend, I decided to try a twist on Alton Brown’s stock recipe. He recommends keeping the chicken parts weighed down in the water so the bones stay completely submerged. Made sense to me! He uses one metal vegetable steamer in one very large stock pot. I made do with two small pan lids under two rather heavy pottery soup bowls!

After straining the cooking liquid, disgarding the vegetables and bones, and cooling the bone broth overnight, I ended up with 8 containers of deliciousness ready for the freezer! Love me a full freezer.

Since dishes are another of my obsessions, when I think about delicious homemade soups, I also think about beautiful handmade soup bowls – like the ones I used this weekend as pot weights! I remember getting those bowls with my parents in 2011 at an Empty Bowls event in Sylva, NC where they lived. The fundraising event paired donated soup bowls from the area’s talented potters with donated soups to support food related charities in the community. What a wonderful concept! Should you be in the area, their next event is April 14th.

“Empty Bowls” Event, Sylva NC 2018

If you live in the Southeast Indiana area like I do, however, there’s an Empty Bowls event in Columbus, IN next weekend on Saturday, February 25th. This event, in its 25th year in Columbus, gives directly to six local food pantries and shelters. Might be nice to take a short drive for some volunteer-made soup in local artisan-made bowls and help a community helping the hungry.

Moral of this story? Buy local. Support your farmers. Minimize food waste. Feed the hungry. Cook what you love.

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One thing that makes my journey unique is that all of my interests are driven by a joyful and genuine curiosity. I delight in finding less expensive ways to make something or creative ways to enjoy something longer. Finding and creating joy - and sharing it - is core to who I am.