For the entire month of September, I’ll be participating in the SNAP Challenge and attempting to eat on $4.50 per day. Read more here.
For week 4 of the SNAP Challenge, I purchased a rotisserie chicken from which I planned to make a few different meals. Rotisserie chickens are probably one of the most awesome “convenience” items because they are useful for such a wide range of dishes. Once the meat is pulled from the bone it can be use to make just about anything from sandwiches to casseroles, salads, or soups. What’s left over after you pull off all the meat can be used, too! The remaining bone, cartilage, fat, and bits of skin are filled with flavor and nutrients that can be made into the most wonderfully magical chicken broth.
I’ve made homemade chicken broth before using the stove top and it’s unbelievably easy. If you go one step further and use a slow cooker, it’s nearly effortless. All you need is a chicken carcass, a couple vegetables, some herbs, and water. Pop it all into a slow cooker, turn it on, and come back later to find all the work is done for you. Awesome, right?
This time I happened to have some celery, carrots, onions, and parsley on hand because I was going to make chicken noodle soup with them later, but you can make this broth practically cost free by saving your vegetable scraps throughout the month and using them to the flavor the broth instead of the whole vegetables. What do I mean by vegetable scraps? Well, onion and carrot peels, celery leaves, stems from parsley and other herbs, or anything that you’d usually cut off from vegetables and throw away. Cleaning is key, though. You don’t want a sandy broth, so make sure to wash your scraps well (or just wash the whole vegetable well before cutting off the scraps) and don’t save anything that looks rotten or moldy.
The broth is customizable, but onion, carrots, and celery are the magic trio. Garlic is good, too, but you want to go light so that it doesn’t over power the broth. Be careful with other vegetables, as they may change the color or cause odors in the broth (beets, obviously, will turn the broth red and any cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli or cauliflower, will give it a sulfurous smell). For herbs, I like to keep it simple with parsley, bay leaf, and black pepper. You can experiment and customize this to your liking, too (a little thyme or rosemary might be nice).
So, here it is… The incredibly simple step by step process of making chicken broth in a slow cooker:
How To: Slow Cooker Chicken Broth
Step One: Get yourself a chicken carcass. I used the leftover bits of my grocery store rotisserie chicken.
Step Two: Add the chicken carcass, some vegetables, and herbs to a large slow cooker (I think mine is a 5 or 7 quart slow cooker). I used one stalk of celery, two carrots, a handful of parsley, two bay leaves, some freshly cracked pepper, and a sprinkle of dried onion flakes (because I only had one onion left and was saving that for the actual chicken soup).
Step Three: Add water. I filled up my slow cooker to the top, which was about 10 cups. There’s no real rule for how much water here, so don’t fret if you can only fit six cups or add up to 12. But, I’d try to add as much water as possible. There’s a lot of flavor in them bones, so don’t let it go to waste.
Step Four: Cover the slow cooker, turn it on to high, and let it go for at least six hours. I was short on time, so I had to finish it at 6, but if you let it go longer, the flavor will get deeper. The beauty of the long, slow cooking process is that all of that cartilage breaks down and adds body to the broth. NOM.
Step Five: Use a slotted spoon to remove the large pieces. Check to see if there is still any meat clinging to the bones, and if there is, you can pick it off and save it. If cooked long enough, the vegetables will have nearly disintegrated into the broth, but because I had to cook mine for a fairly short amount of time they were still whole. I picked those vegetables out and saved them for my chicken soup!
Lastly, you’ll want to strain out the sediment. You can do this with a wire mesh strainer (over a bowl or pot to catch the liquid) or with a colander lined with cheese cloth (again, over a bowl or pot).
Salt the broth if desired, or you can leave it unsalted and just salt whatever dish you’re using the broth in later. Store the broth in the refrigerator for up to a week or in the freezer for several weeks. If freezing, cool the broth completely in the refrigerator first, then transfer to the freezer. I like to freeze my broth in heavy duty zip top freezer bags laying flat, so they are stackable and don’t take up much space in the freezer. (This is actually a photo from my stove top chicken broth. I was too busy packing up for the move to take photos of the slow cooker broth, but it looked exactly the same!)
I know a lot of you make your own broth at home, so how about sharing your favorite add-ins and tips? Leave a comment below! :D