Friday, August 31, 2012

Chicken breast, to chicken stock, to cream of celery soup all in one purchase

It all started with a sale at my local Kroger. Chicken breast on the bone, were $0.99 per lb. Wow. That is a great deal where I live.

I live on Galveston. An Island pretty much removed from everything. My grocery options are limited to 3 stores which do not have a significant focus on healthy natural and organic foods. I would have to drive 1+ hours to Houston to get to a Whole Foods or a Trader Joes. Also our farmers market is once a month, or non existent in some months. The nearest farmers market for me is 45 minutes away. So it is very frustrating trying to eat healthy when my options are so few and very far removed.

My local Kroger has a small organic section in the store. But I'm not impressed. Their prices are crazy high compared to online options or stores that specialize in this kind of stuff like Whole Foods.

And after all that ranting, the chicken breast on the not even organic. Oh well. I do not have affordable organic, open range, and grass fed meat options anywhere near me. So I make do.

I bought tons of this chicken. And I mean tons. Chicken breast is so versatile, and of all chicken meat cuts its the healthiest.

After cutting off all the meat from the bone, I processed my own chicken breast into either whole breast pieces, breast tender pieces, or ground chicken for burgers and such. Then I wrapped portions in plastic wrap and then put them inside freezer bags. Since the meat is wrapped I can reuse the bags over and over again. Then label the bag and date it so you know what is in there.

Then I'm left with a huge pile of bones, skin, and fat. What to do now? I'm very frugal and I dont like to waste stuff. Chicken stock popped into my head.

Let me express something to all you people who buy store bought chicken stock: store bought versions TASTE LIKE WATERED DOWN SALT WATER compared to the homemade stuff.

Seriously, I was shocked by the huge difference in color and dense hearty flavor from the homemade version compared to store bought. Mind you, I have no brand preferences or flavor preferences some other people do. I'm not picky. But there actually is a huge difference to note in homemade chicken stock. I will never use the canned or box stuff ever again.

Many people don't make their own stock because lets face it, cooking it for 4 hours on the stove top while your kitchen gets insanely hot and you have to check up on it all the time to make sure it doesn't boil over foam is not fun. Your solution and savior with this dilemma is a huge crock pot.

I dont have a recipe for chicken stock made in the crock pot. But this is what you do. Fill it half way with bones, skin, fat, etc... and then put whatever veggies you have on hand such as celery, carrots, onions, and garlic (just put the entire cloves in there no need to peel them) and whatever herbs and spices you like. Just dump it all in there. No need to chop things up either. I just broke the celery and carrots into pieces and cut the onion in half. Then fill with water to the rim. I set mine to cook for 4 hours on high, then another 4 hours on high, and finally on low for 10 hours over night. This ensures that you cook the heck out of those bones and extract every last bit of flavor. When all is done, remove the bigger pieces of bone etc.. with a slotted spoon and then pass all the liquid through a strainer into a big bowl. Then you get nice clean stock. At this point you can taste it and add salt or whatever spices you have to adjust to your liking.

Now this is pure chicken stock without preservatives. So I preserve mine in the freezer by putting it into canning jars. I have a large crock pot, I think it is 6.5 quarts. This made me 4 -16 ounce jars. I had so much chicken bones left over from the deboning process that I made a second batch, producing 8 jars total.

Ok, so now I'm left with a huge head of celery. I hate celery. For me its only purpose is to extract its flavor into soup. You could also plant the stump in your garden and it will regrow. So will I do with it? Make homemade cream of celery soup. This can be used to make a billion things that I will like. Such as smothered pork chops or a chicken casserole with all the chicken breast meat I have. And does it surprise you that this also tastes amazingly better than the thickened milk and salty water tasting store bought version? Also it is all natural and no preservatives. So this also gets put into jars and frozen. Make it in the crock pot with not much effort required on your part.

 I choose to follow this recipe to make mine: Cream of Celery Soup. The instructions are for cooking over the stove top. To make in the crock pot add the chicken stock and all the veggies into the crock pot, and cook 4 hours on high until those veggies are really soft and released all their flavor. Make the roux with the flour and margarine by cooking it until its thick and bubbly. Then slowly add in the milk stirring constantly. Add the salt and pepper. This is your thickening agent for the cream of celery soup. Wisk it into the stock with veggies until its nice and creamy.  And your done. I had 5- 16 ounce jars which I also preserved in the freezer.

I spent $12 for 12 pounds of chicken breast on the bone, which resulted in about 9 pounds of meat, 8- 16 oz jars of chicken stock, and a boat load of cream of celery soup. I probably spent another $3 on the celery, carrots and garlic that I used to make the stock and celery soup. So $15 for all this is a bargain. I cant even buy 12 pounds of chicken breast for that price when its not on sale.

Anyways, this is just an idea to use your dollar bills and ingredients to the maximum without any waste.

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