Light chicken stock is made with the raw bones and flesh of chicken, unroasted mirepoix, and a sachet of herbs. Light chicken stock is one of the best things you can keep on hand in your kitchen. It is the base for many sauces and soups. But it should not be confused with dark chicken stock, which is made with roasted bones and vegetables. Dark stocks are more flavorful, but light stocks are more versatile. After making a batch of stock, I freeze it in pint-sized Tupperware for use later.
1. Save the bones from your chickens in the freezer. This is the most economical way to make chicken stock. It's okay if the bones are cooked, the stock will just be a little darker. You can also pick up some chicken wings from the store. They make great stock too.
2. Put the bones in a pot and cover with water. Put the bones and bits in a large pot and cover with about 3‒4 inches of water. Turn the heat to medium-high and start simmering the water. It may take some time to get it hot. But try to only barely simmer the water. Lid off and no boiling. Do this for two hours. Also make sure to skim off any floating stuff.
3. After two hours, add the mirepoix to the pot. We add the mirepoix about two hours before the end of cooking time to ensure that the flavors are not destroyed by overcooking. In this case, two hours before the end is also about two hours from the beginning. Keep the pot barely simmering, uncovered, for another hour.
4. After one more hour, add the sachet of herbs. About 45 minutes before the end of cooking, we add the aromatics. This is also to ensure that we don't destroy the delicate herb flavors. The sachet is used to make it easier to remove the herbs. Although this is not always necessary, so if you want, you could just tie a bouquet garni or put them in loose.
5. Forty-five minutes later, strain the stock. Line a colander with cheesecloth and put it on top of another pot large enough to receive the stock. Strain the stock through the cloth and squeeze it to get all of the stock out. If further clarification of the stock is required, pour it through fresh cheesecloth or if possible, extra-fine cheesecloth until it is clear. The more particulate matter you get out of the stock, the longer it will last and the better it will look.
6. Then cool it as quickly as possible. Fill a sink with ice water and put the pot in it. Stir the pot to cool the chicken stock before putting it in the fridge. Once cool, put the whole container in the fridge overnight to solidify the fat on top. Remove the fat the next morning and warm the stock slightly, just enough to melt it so that you can put it in containers and freeze for later use.
Using leftover cooked chicken bones will work too. The stock will just be darker. In that case, you might as well just make dark chicken stock.
Straining a chicken stock of all its particulate matter will take time and effort. But it's not always necessary, especially if you aren't making a clear soup with it. Most of the time a few floaters will go unnoticed.
Cool the stock using the sink full of ice. It's a matter of food safety. That stock will stay hot enough to grow bacteria for the next 12 hours if you don't cool it down quickly.
You can freeze smaller quantities of chicken stock in ice cube trays, like Julia Child did. Then take them out and put them in a large bag to keep them from going stale.