23 October 2011

Making my own chicken stock (broth)

This is the project that's been on my stove since mid-afternoon, and when I mentioned it in chat, Maggie commented that she hasn't "quite gotten a handle on the whole stock-making thing".  So I offered to blog it ... although I don't have pictures of every step since this is quite impromptu.

Start with whole fryers (or roasters or broilers ... a whole chicken that's been dressed out) and cut off the frying pieces (wings, legs) and fillet off the breasts, saving the skin, neck, giblets, and the carcass after you're done cutting off the pieces.  Put into a stock pot and just cover all the parts with water, then simmer for an hour to an hour-and-half.  I've noticed it turns out better doing an hour-and-half on a low simmer.
3 chickens, 2 stock pots
After it's simmered enough to cook the meat tender but NOT falling off the bones by itself, pull out all the chicken pieces, and (AFTER it's cool enough to handle!) pull the meat off the bones, then dice up the giblets.  Toss out the bones and skin.  Set the meat in the fridge, then break out season-stuff that you will be straining out.  In my case, that is onion, celery, and minced garlic.  Slow-simmer another hour.

After the second hour, pour the shtuff through first a wire strainer to catch all the solid pieces, then through cheesecloth (or in my case tonight, cheap cotton muslin because I can't find my cheesecloth).  At this point you can let it cool and put it up in containers, or if like me you made way more than you realized you can simmer it down to concentrate it.  Don't skim the fat out until you are ready to cook with it, as the fat will form a seal over the top.

Here is where I am at right now, simmering it down to concentrate it.  I've managed to get it all in my largest stock pot.
chicken stock simmering down
Just a note: the cheap cotton muslin makes a decent substitute for cheesecloth, so this qualifies as a way to use scraps!

You can also boil down ham bones or do a straight vegetable stock using this method - although straight veggie stock won't form a fat seal on top.

Hope that helps ya, Maggie!

Crocheted bags for around the house

So, I've been quiet again (at least here).  Hubby says I get this way every year - he's probably right.  The good news is that I HAVE been doing shtuff, and am still on my crochet kick, although there is a new box of fabric to fondle for a later post.

As the post title promises, I have crocheted some bags for around the house use!  First up is my potato bag, inspired by an incident involving the potatoes in that plastic bag they come in, the dog's water bowl ... and the dog thinking a cat wanted to play.  The potatoes needed to come out of the plastic and off the floor of my pantry.  Enter a cone of cotton yarn and this crocheted carry-all pattern.  It will hold a LOT!  When I snapped this pic there were still about 8 pounds of russets and another 2 pounds of sweet potatoes (yams) in it:
crocheted potato bag
My only worry is the pantry door knob breaking off since I don't know how old that door actually is.  I debated about posting this pic because it shows what a mess my pantry can be ... but I have warned y'all many times I am a horrible housekeeper, so I guess I might as well prove it to those who have never seen it.  The potato bag crocheted up quickly.

Now for a pair of tote bags that aren't as fast, but I think look better:
Two crocheted tote bags
This is the crochet tote pattern, and the green-blue one is where I mostly followed the pattern, using the hook and row counts, but I couldn't tell if my cotton yarn was the right size or not.  I am thinking not since it turned out smaller than I expected.  For the shades-of-blue one I added rows and went up a hook size until I was happy with how tall it was.  There's actually a library book in the small tote for the pic - the tall hardback Elizabethan cross-stitch book that I am still copying (cross-stitching) from - so even the small tote is big enough to hold books.  Oh, I am working on a third tote from the pattern, using cheaper acrylic yarn (which I really don't like the feel of).

I have a few more things already made, but am not pleased with the pictures of them yet, so they'll need to wait for another post.

16 October 2011

Quietly doing shtuff

I've been a bad little blogger lately.  In fact, it's gotten bad enough for not only my mom to email me and ask what I've been up to, but even maggie left a comment asking where I've been and why I've been so quiet.

I've been doing shtuff around the house and yard, just not taking many pics or posting about it.  Here is one yard project from two weekends ago:
garden box in progress
Yes, I am once again attempting to grow plants, but this time I am using a garden box with yard waste and compost and peat moss ... hopefully I can get the dirt good enough to counteract my notorious black thumb.  No, Mom ... I still have not figured out just how I managed to kill the mint.

I've been crocheting as well as sulking about the sewing slump.  Part of the sewing slump is I have unintentionally lost weight and will need to refit all my previous pattern alterations - which I had not nailed down to a really good fit anyway.  I do need to snap pics of what I've crocheted up: a wool hat, another soap bag, more washcloths, a potato bag and now two tote bags.  I just don't feel like fighting with the digicam today (besides, I have another bag to start ... actually two).

I've also been cooking up a storm, scored a bunch of old cookbooks from a new thrift store in town, and found what is left of my formerly large collection of cookbooks.  Hubby and son have both expression a deep appreciation for that little project.