Did you know that you can cook a whole chicken in your crock pot? And after you’ve cut all the meat off the bones, one of the most rewarding things to make with your crock pot – besides yogurt – is chicken broth. Since I almost always get the store brand organic chicken when it has a sale sticker on it, I really maximize my savings.
I used to think it was easiest to make the chicken at the same time as the broth, filling it all the way with water, basically poaching the chicken at the same time. This is fine if you’re using the meat in other dishes, but if you want the skin crispy this won’t cut it. I also found it frustrating dealing with the chicken and all that broth at the same time. So… this is my method, adapted from Nourishing Traditions.
I put everything in the pot, gizzards ‘n’ all, drizzle some olive oil on it, sprinkle some spices, and turn it on high for most of the day. If it starts to look done before dinner I’ll turn it down to the low, but if you plan on cutting up the chicken right away you’ll want to turn the heat off so it’s cool enough to handle. Do with the meat what you will; we often have some with rice or potatoes and veggies, then use the rest in soup, quesadillas, pasta, sandwiches, whatever.
Now for the broth. Put all the scraps back into the pot along with all the drippings, add two quarts water (this is the amount that fits comfortably in my pot with all the other ingredients, but you could add more), a splash of apple cider vinegar (this helps extract the nutrients from the bone), a chopped onion, chopped carrots (2-3), chopped celery (3-4), a bunch of fresh parsley, and whatever other peelings you may have saved – I’ve even used pepper tops and carrots peelings that I stuck in the freezer. Turn this on low and let it simmer overnight, up to 24 hours.
When it’s done I let it cool off, strain it into a big bowl, then add another quart of water. I like to have three quarts of water total (the two I initially put in the crock pot plus the one added to the bowl) so my broth isn’t too watery, but you could have a total of four quarts. Then I ladle the broth into canning jars or recycled food jars (leaving headspace if you wish to freeze them) and put them in the fridge. After they’ve cooled down all the way, I put one or two in the freezer. If I don’t let them cool all the way before putting them in the freezer, they freeze inconsistently and the jars crack. *sigh*
When you’re ready to use the broth, skim the solidified fat off the top. And if your broth is gelled, that’s good! That’s the natural gelatin from the bones that’s nutritious for your body; I used to think something was wrong with the broth when it did that, but don’t throw it out! One of our favorite soup recipes is a version of this Italian Wedding Soup. I change it around a bit, adding chicken instead of the meatballs, a bit of butter and spices for flavor, and tomato sauce instead of the diced tomatoes since my kids are picky like that.