When I began this blog two months ago, I wanted to share my efforts to grow and cook nutrient dense food, but I also wanted to haul myself out of the crippling state of writer’s block and creative frustration I grapple with as a result of chronic perfectionism and over-zealous inner critics. I suddenly felt an invisible audience of friends gathered virtually at my table and crouching with me in the vegetable plot, so the private, insular activities of writing, photo-documenting and gardening became infused with the anticipation of sharing. This, I’m finding, is working to help keep me in creative motion. Writing about food is a concept I entertained years ago, but it wasn’t until this summer, immersed in learning about growing and juggling baskets of ingredients in need of preparation, that its pursuit became obvious.
When we write about food, we write our stories: where we came from, where we’re going and how we use it to celebrate during festive times and comfort during weeks of tumult. These last two weeks included a full moon, Halloween, pivotal national election and hurricane and I wanted food that was warm, simple and grounding. Last week, there were calls from students and friends still without electricity; one even broke her arm slipping on the water draining onto the floor from her defrosting refrigerator. We only lost ours for seven hours and were spared the real threat of fallen trees toppling on our roof and cars, much like what happened to a friend near here. They’re safe but two rooms are still open to the sky and will need to be rebuilt. Our hearts go out to our still homeless and power-less friends whose Facebook photos depict mud-filled basements, homes barely still standing after salt washes with the ocean, and lawns strewn with storm detritus and broken boardwalk shards swept into currents. I found myself feeling very proud of our community’s infrastructure and response measures as I drove around and saw crews of electrical workers, arborists and other heroic workers mending and clearing in dangerous conditions for the greater good.
Chicken stock and bone stocks in general, are the building block for mineral-rich soups and stews. They are a nearly extinct traditional food and folk remedy. Stock heals the gut and replenishes taxed adrenal glands besides tasting richly nourishing. It’s not to be confused with broth which is made from meat and nothing like this slow-cooking bone-filled concoction. It can be a welcome staple in our refrigerators and freezers, powered as they are by electricity we do not take for granted.
- 1 whole free-range chicken or 2-3 lbs of bony chicken parts such as necks, back, breastbone and wings, or the carcass from a roasted chicken plus chicken feet
- chicken gizzards (optional)
- chicken feet (optional but a great source of natural gelatin)
- 4 quarts cold filtered water
- 2 Tablespoons vinegar
- 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
- 3 carrots scrubbed and coarsely chopped
- 3 celery sticks, coarsely chopped
- 1 bunch parsley
- any other vegetable scraps you’ve saved in the freezer
Place chicken and vegetables (except for parsley) in a large stock pot and cover with water and vinegar. Allow to stand for 30 minutes to an hour as the vinegar helps withdraw valuable minerals from the bones. Bring to a boil and skim and discard any foam that rises to the top. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 6-24 hours. I did mine for 16 hours. Add parsley at the last 10 minutes for a mineral boost. Strain to store and keep any meat for use in other recipes or soups. Once cooled, skim off any fat and reserve in covered containers in the fridge or freezer for cooking. Keeps in the refrigerator for 5 days and can be frozen as well.
How I love my stocks, even better than the bird meat itself. Every time we eat chicken, I store the bones in the freezer and when enough bones accumulate, I make stock. On Thanksgiving, I can’t wait to gather up the free range turkey bones! When we lost power, I took my containers of stock to store in Robins freezer. They represent some of my most precious possessions! A few days later, I gathered up the stock and brought it home. Thanks for this ode to stock, Erin. I didn’t know about the vinegar!