Hi, my name is Meryl and I'm addicted to finding free food.
I don't know why it gives me such a high, but, oh wow! Eating off the land, foraging from nature...or, well, um, the grocery store...it's my particular brand of heroin. (Yes, I just quoted Edward Cullen in a blog post about chicken stock.)
In this particular instance, I was working on the week's grocery list when I realized I was going to need two quarts of chicken stock, instead of our usual one. In compliance with my happy chicken leanings, we buy the free-range, organic, good stuff, and at about $3.50 a quart it does get kinda spendy, particularly when you use it in almost everything like we do.
"I've got to be able to make this cheaper myself," I thought, so I found Dear Alton's recipe and headed to the store.
Well, that's not completely right, because I was actually able to find a lot of the ingredients in my own garden and cabinet staples (onions, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper). But after that I went to the store for the rest of the veggies--leeks, carrots, celery, and parsley--which were easy to find, of course, and relatively inexpensive, about $5 for the lot.
Ah, but what about the main ingredient, you ask--what about the chicken?
This is the awesome part.
I went back to the meat counter and ever-so-politely asked the Nice Butcher Man, "I'm making some chicken stock and my recipe calls for four pounds of chicken carcasses--do you sell those?"
(Yes, I really called them carcasses. Yes, it really did feel weird.)
The Nice Butcher Man, after consulting with his Nice Butcher Friend, disappeared into the back and came out with what can only be described as a Santa-like sack of meat.
"There are eight pounds here--can I just kind of divide it, or do you want me to be exact?" asked Santa the Butcher.
"Umm...well, how much are they per pound?" I replied--a relevant question since the point of the exercise was to save cash and I was keeping a running total in my head.
Santa the Butcher looked at me all confused-like. "Well, um, I...see we usually don't charge for these, because we would ordinarily just throw them away so...I mean, they're free."
"Are you kidding me?" I exclaimed. (C'mon, nothing is free like that anymore!)
"Nope," he smiled, and sweetly wrapped up four pounds of chicken for me.
The rest was easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy. Basically, throw it all in a pot with some water and let it cook for a looong time. You don't even have to look at it again really. (As a good side effect, your house will smell incredible.) The recipe says it makes five quarts, but I got more like ten. Even adding back in the cost of the staples I already had on-hand, this still would have been, max, about $8. That's over $25 in savings, which made a nice little mental pot of mad money to treat Sweet Husband to the world's greatest cheeseburgers....some addictions have their perks, apparently!