Valley Bounty: Chicken Stock

You may be cursing the cold, but many farmers in the Valley are grateful for winter. “It’s relaxing,” Katie Bodzinski told me during a recent conversation. “We really need the winter to recoup.”

Bodzinski owns G.O. Farm in Amherst with her husband Eric. Throughout the summer, the couple grows a variety of produce and raises flocks of chickens for meat. G.O. Farm’s growing season wrapped up months ago and they slaughtered their last round of meat birds back in October. “Right now, we’re looking into next year, buying seeds and planning out our fields,” Bodzinski explained.

The pair doesn’t take the winter completely off. “We have our laying hens, so we’re collecting eggs,” Bodzinski said. “Sometimes even a couple times a day because when it’s really cold they could freeze.” Throughout the winter, Bodzinski’s laying hens stay in the same mobile ‘chicken tractor’ pen that they live in year-round. “It has an open bottom, a metal grate at the bottom so the droppings fall through. So I surrounded it with straw to break the wind,” Bodzinski said. “They have access to the outside, so they like to go out and eat snow and pick around in the straw.” She has also been feeding the birds a steady stream of leftover pumpkins and squash from the 2019 season.

With less work on the farm over the winter, Bodzinski is left with more time to experiment in the kitchen. One winter favorite is chicken bone broth. “When I started making bone broth, I did a bunch of research and read a bunch of recipes. It was sort of overwhelming. So I’ve adapted to a system that’s really easy and efficient for my family,” Bodzinski said. As her family enjoys the bounty of last year’s chicken season, they save the extra bones in the freezer, alongside any spare vegetable ends, for stock. Bodzinski uses her chicken stock as a replacement for water in pretty much any savory recipe. “My favorite first use of it is always jasmine rice. My family loves it and it’s an easy thing to stick in the rice cooker,” she said.

There’s plenty of local chicken available across the Valley this time of year. Swing by a winter farmers’ market or local grocer to pick up a bird for a hearty winter meal. Save the bones and give Bodzinski’s chicken stock recipe a try.

Chicken Stock
Recipe by Katie Bodzinski, G.O. Farm

Ingredients:
Whole roasted chicken. Breast, thighs, wings, and legs removed.
Any additional chicken bones, neck, feet, etc. (Frozen or raw bones and meat are fine to use.)
Two stalks of celery.
Carrot ends and bits
Garlic cloves: 3-5
One tablespoon black peppercorn
Two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
Onion cuttings, including skin or a whole medium onion cut in quarters
Three bay leaves
Parsley and thyme, to taste.

Instructions:
Put the ingredients in a slow cooker, cover with water, place the lid on, and set to low. Let it simmer overnight. You can take it out in the morning, or let it continue to simmer during the day (add water if needed.) When you’re ready, pour the stock through a strainer into a large bowl with a spout. Then pour the stock into large mouth canning jars. Leave an inch at the top. Depending on the chicken you are using, you should have a nice layer of fat that settles to the top of the jars. This fat will seal the stock in the jar and extend the shelf life in the refrigerator. If you are using freezer-safe jars, the stock can be frozen for later use.

Noah Baustin is the Communications Coordinator at CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture)