We use chicken stock for all sorts of things: sauces, risotto, casseroles, just to name a few so it's always good to have on hand. It's so expensive to buy ready-made in the box (and even the low sodium contains more than this does - which is none), and so cheap to make at home that it's one of those things we just can't justify spending our grocery money on.
To start, freeze chicken remains/carcasses as you purchase them. Keep the bones, the skin, any remaining meat. Discard the innards. We usually get two whole chickens at a time, but need four to get a good, hearty stock. We just keep the two in the freezer until we get the second two to make the stock. Thaw all the chickens in a large stock pot.
Add the veggies and herbs. We use:
1 large onion, quartered
4 carrots, peeled and cut in half
4 ribs of celery, cut in half
1 leek, white part only, cut in half lengthwise
10 sprigs fresh thyme
10 sprigs fresh parsley with stems
2 bay leaves
8 to 10 peppercorns
2 whole cloves garlic, peeled
Add 30 cups of water to the pot. Once you have added 24 cups, take a mental note of the water level. Ours is usually somewhere around the steamer basket we use to keep all the goods submerged.
Simmer, simmer, simmer. But DO NOT BOIL! In the first hour, you'll see scum (gross white stuff in picture) bubble to the surface. Strain this off the top with a fine mesh strainer and discard. Keep an eye on it for the first hour or so to make sure you keep it at a simmer (not a boil!) and to remove the scum.
Simmer for 6-8 hours. If the water level gets to about that 24 cup mark you made a mental note of, add a bit of water. Don't add to much or it will reduce the concentrated flavor of the stock, but try and keep it around 24 cups total. Once you are at the 6-8 hour mark, the stock has reduced down to the 24 cup mark, test to see if the stock is done by fishing out a bone. If it breaks easily, the stock is done. Remove from the heat and strain the solids out from the stock*.
To cool down quickly, have an ice bath prepared in a large cooler. Place the strained stock container directly in the cooler and cover the lid. For even faster cooling, we stick plastic bottles in the freezer filled with water and place directly into the pot and then place in the cooler. Once the temperature lowers, you can place the stock pot it the refrigerator. Leave in the fridge overnight and remove the fat from the top the next day.
To keep for longer periods (if kept in the fridge, 2-3 days is the maximum), store in the freezer. For easy storing, that's also organized, follow the instructions below:
Place plastic zip top bags into plastic containers. I like the blue top, screw on lid containers from Zip-Loc as they are the perfect size for two cups of stock.
I prefer to measure the stock as it goes into each container/bag because that way we know when thawing how much we need to pull from the freezer. We usually throw in a couple 1 cup quantities as well.
Once the two cups is in the bag, seal the bag and fold into the container. Seal with the lid and place in the freezer.
Once the stock is frozen, you can remove it from the container and they will keep their shape, allowing you to easily keep them stacked and organized in the freezer without monopolizing all your Tupperware.
*If you are adventurous, keep the bits of meat that are strained from the stock. It makes a delicious chicken salad, although it takes a bit of patience to remove from the bones.