Start today to develop a very smart habit: Store necks, tails, wing tips, gizzards, hearts, backs, rib (breast) bones-anything except livers-in a gallon-size lock-top freezer bag in your freezer. When the bag is really full, you have enough chicken parts to make a small pot of homemade stock. Squeeze excess air out of the bag each time you add chicken pieces; this helps to prevent dehydration known as freezer burn. There are several time-honored methods of making chicken stock. Here is our simple approach to a basic stock.
Makes 3 to 6 quarts
Raw chicken parts, preferably wings
1 large onion, wiped clean but not peeled, halved lengthwise through root
2 large carrots, trimmed and cut into 2-inch chunks
2 ribs celery, trimmed and cut into 2-inch chunks
6 to 8 sprigs parsley
1 to 2 bay leaves
4 sprigs fresh thyme
10 whole black peppercorns
Select a heavy 4-quart saucepan or a 6- to 8-quart stockpot. Fill it almost to the top with raw chicken parts and cover with cold water, leaving 2 inches of space at top of saucepan or stockpot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and reduce heat so that the liquid simmers steadily. Skim off the brown foam that rises to the top, using a soup skimmer, small tea strainer, or serving spoon. After 5 minutes or so the foam will become white; no more skimming is necessary.
Add the onion, carrots, and celery. Make a bouquet garni by forming a tight bundle of the parsley sprigs (fold the stems in half), bay leaf, and thyme, and then tying it together with kitchen twine. Add to the pot and use a spoon to submerge the bundle. Cover pot loosely and adjust heat so that the liquid just barely simmers. Simmer stock for 4 to 8 hours, adding water if necessary to keep the bones covered.
Remove bones and meat, straining them thorough a colander or strainer set over a large bowl to catch all the juices. Discard all the solids and pour the strained juices into the saucepan or stockpot. Pour the stock through a fine strainer into the large bowl, then back into the pot. Set the pot into a sink filled with ice-cold water, changing water after 10 minutes and again after 20 minutes. When cool, cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for later use.
Before using the stock, scrape the congealed fat from the surface using a slotted spoon or a large serving spoon. It can be frozen in a sealed container for up to six months. When freezing stock, fill the container within 1 1/2 inches of the top, allowing headspace for the frozen stock to expand as it freezes. If the stock is needed immediately after it is made, use a gravy strainer or a wide, shallow spoon (held just under the surface) to remove the liquid fat.