I’m not sure I could survive without homemade chicken stock. For my entire cooking life I’ve had a regular routine of roasting chickens or turkeys, picking the meat off them, then boiling the carcass and freezing the resulting stock in containers. For quite a while I only used stock for Chinese noodles, but then I discovered how much better all my soups were when I used stock instead of water. Then I discovered using stock to cook couscous, make pan sauces, and simmer greens (and don’t forget gravy). I go through stock at an amazing rate, and I can’t emphasize enough how much it helps my cooking. On the few occasions where I’ve had to use storebought, it just has not been the same.
The important thing to keep in mind about making chicken or turkey stock at home is, it’s really hard to mess it up. I know you’ve seen recipes in cookbooks that have you use a particular mix of vegetables, or roast the bones first, or double-boil the whole damn batch, or make little possets of herbs. You know what? You don’t have to do any of that. Dump your leftover bones or carcass in a pot. Cover it with water. Have some tired old celery or carrot tips? Throw ’em in if you want, but don’t feel obliged.
Bring the liquid just to a boil, turn it down to a low simmer, and ignore it for a while. If you can only leave it going for an hour, that’s good enough. Three hours is great if you’re going to be around the house. If part of the carcass is floating above the water level, give it a poke now and then to submerge it. If it foams up a lot, you can skim it off. As long as it doesn’t boil over, you’re golden. And the house will smell great.
When the stock has simmered as long as you want, let it cool a bit. You can either put the whole pot in the fridge to chill, then scoop off the fat and strain out the bones, or you can strain the stock into another container and chill that. Take off as much schmaltz as you want – I like to leave some in. Then you just pour it all out into whatever size of containers you want. I use a mix of pint-size cottage cheese containers and quart-size yogurt tubs, and occasionally little single-serving cups to use in pan sauces. Up to you. Label them (very important – chicken stock is hard to distinguish when it’s frozen) and put a date on so you can make sure to use up the oldest stuff. Pop it all into the freezer, and you’re set!