Bone broth is a wonderful superfood that was a critical part of many traditional diets. I make sure we always have bone broth in the freezer, and use it liberally in cooking. Besides using broth for soups, I also incorporate it into many recipes such as hash brown and beef hot dish, beans, nutrient-dense white rice, and veggies such as beets and green beans.
When I first started making homemade broth over 11 years ago, I followed the recipe in Nourishing Traditions which uses uncooked chicken. However, over time I figured out a much more cost effective and easy method that uses a roasted chicken carcass or leftover chicken thigh bones. About five years ago, I started to incorporate some ideas from Nourished Kitchen's post on perpetual broth into my usual method. So now, I am able to make LOTS of bone broth with just one chicken carcass or batch of bones.
How to Make Chicken Bone Broth
Start by roasting a chicken and then picking the carcass clean. We love to eat roasted chicken. After everyone has eaten their fill, I bring the chicken carcass to the table and pick the meat off the bones. The meat gets stored in a glass container in the fridge to be used for another meal such as pizza or soup. Another alternative is to save and freeze chicken thigh bones from recipes such as Parmesan Fried Chicken or Chicken With Lemon Thyme Gravy.
Put the chicken carcass or thigh bones into a slow cooker. All of the bones, juices, leftover skin, and chewy bits go straight into the slow cooker. If I have any on-hand, I also add some chicken feet to the stockpot.
Add some fresh veggies. For one chicken carcass/batch of thigh bones, I usually add one quartered white onion and two carrots (peeled and cut into 2 or 3 chunks).
Add enough filtered water to cover it all. It is important to use filtered water, and preferably water that has had the fluoride filtered out since the long cooking time can concentrate any fluoride or other undesirable things in the water.
Turn the pot on LOW and cook for 15-24 hours.
After the broth has cooked at least 15 hours, ladle and strain about half the liquid from the pot. I especially try to make sure to get most of the fat out of the pot along with the liquid, as I don't think it is a good idea to let the fat keep cooking for an extended period of time. I pour the broth into glass jars for freezing (I talk more about that below). Anytime after the 1st night of cooking, feel free to dip into the pot to get stock for any cooking needs, or even enjoy a nice warm cup of salted broth first thing in the morning.
OPTIONAL: At this point, you could pull out the veggies and pick some more meat/skin off the carcass. There is quite a large amount of meat, skin, and connective tissue that was too tough to eat before making broth, but these parts are wonderfully tender after being simmered in the broth. Add a splash of broth and some salt and pepper to make a large bowl of soup (enough for 2-3 people). This soup can either be eaten right away, or stored in the fridge as an easy meal for later.
Add more filtered water to the pot and cook the bones some more. And you can throw in some more fresh carrots and onions if you removed them during the previous step. Continue to cook on Low.
Each day, ladle off some more broth and add fresh water. In this way, you can make lots and lots of broth with just one chicken carcass/batch of bones. I usually continue this process for about 4-6 days to really stock up the freezer. And, despite what you may think, the broth does not get watered down with this method. The broth actually gets more and more rich as the days go by, peaking around day 4 or 5. This is because the bones continue to break down into the broth over time. I find that the broth made after the 2nd day has a very concentrated, rich flavor and a deeper brown color, so that I need to use only half as much in recipes (making up the balance with filtered water).
Strain and freeze the broth (or store in the fridge if it will be used in the next few days). I do not skim the fat off the stock, as it makes the broth more nourishing and flavorful.
Tips for Freezing Broth
I always freeze my broth in glass containers. Plastic can leach into foods, especially with changes in temperature, so I don't use plastic for freezing broth. I've definitely had my share of glass jars that have cracked during freezing, but over time I have figured out the tricks to successfully freezing broth in glass jars.
Leave plenty of head space. As the broth freezes, it will expand, so it is important to leave plenty of space above the broth for expansion during freezing. A general rule is to make sure you leave more than 1-inch of space above the liquid in the jars. You can see in the picture above that I have left lots of space for expansion during freezing.
Let the broth cool to room temperature on the counter without the lids on. Once the jars are cool enough to touch comfortably, put the lids on and transfer them to the freezer.
Not all jars are created equally. For freezing large quantities of broth (such as pints or quarts), I find that mason jars work best. Other jars, such as coconut oil jars, are more likely to crack in the freezer.
My Favorite Jars For Freezing Broth
My favorite jars for freezing broth are tomato paste jars. These jars are great for many reasons:
Since I use plenty of tomato paste to make homemade pizza sauce, I always have plenty of these little jars around.
These small jars don't seem to break as easily as bigger jars. I've frozen hundreds of these little jars of broth, and only ever had one of them break (because it was overfilled).
Small jars are easy to fit into little leftover spaces in the freezer.