The absolute best base for stock is an old laying hen or rooster, but these days, we just don't have access to old chickens, so we have to buy chickens from the store. I make chicken stock year round, in the summer it goes into the crock pot, and in the fall or during colder weather, I do it on my kitchen stove.
And I make chicken stock when I've got all the ingredients together. I save the celery leaves from the celery I buy, they freeze well, so I don't need to go out and buy celery. I halve and stem the onions, just wash them really well, but don't bother peeling the onion. You wouldn't believe the nice golden color the peels impart to the soup. And I always have carrots on hand. You don't need to peel them either, (but I do), just cut them in half and dump them in.
Last but not least, chicken bones. You can save the carcass from a roast chicken, a rotisserie chicken, or the leftovers from the fried chicken you made last week. Any leftover bones are fair game in my house. If you make Chicken Wings, save the tips, and use those. A couple of weeks ago I made a chicken dish and since chicken breasts were on sale for .99/lb. I grabbed a large package. It meant I had to bone them out for my dish, but that's easy and just takes seconds to do. And I ended up with the bones from several breasts. So I threw them in the oven and baked them til they were a nice golden brown. Because I didn't have time to make chicken stock that day, I just bagged them and chucked them into the freezer.
Basic Ingredients for this batch of Stock
Chicken bones (I used the bones from three breasts, browned in the oven)
Celery Leaves ( the tops from two stalks)
Carrots (one large carrot)
Onions ( one onion, halved)
Bay Leaf (if you like)
Water (8 cups)
Salt and Pepper to taste, at the end.
Now here's where the fun begins. You can add several layers of flavor to the stock with some of the following: Saute the onions, celery and carrots in a little olive oil before adding them to the stock. Or roast them in the oven and let them brown a little before adding to the chicken bones. Brown the chicken bones and then add them to the veggies, doesn't matter, it's all good. Most important, let it simmer for a long, long time. I don't add salt or pepper until the end, I want to be able to taste the stock, and then I only add the minimum of salt and pepper. And then I simmer it and simmer it and simmer it. OK, so I just simmer it on the stove-top for about 3 hours, with the lid on for the first 2 hours. The last hour is the one I use to help concentrate all that chickeny goodness. I take the lid off and watch it. And I want to stress this again, don't dump in all the salt and pepper in the beginning, if you reduce the broth, you won't reduce the salt, you'll just concentrate it.
This batch is lovely and browned from the chicken bones I browned first, and it's simmered long enough that I've managed to reduce the 8 cups of water to two ice cube trays full of stock.
I put it into ice cube trays and will use it to flavour gravies, just plop a nice concentrated cube into the gravy and VOILA!, instant flavour.