I was so excited to get silicone muffin pans, and muffin cups… They seemed like such a good idea. Well, I use the cups for actual muffins, on occasion, but I’ve not been happy with the muffin pans at all. But I’ve found an even better use for my silicone muffin pan, rather than baking in them. They make a fabulous container for freezing small portions of liquids that I want to use later.
One of my favorite staples to keep in the freezer is chicken stock. If I have a rotisserie chicken, or any sort of whole chicken or turkey with bones, I will make up some chicken stock, which I keep in 1/4 or 1/2 cup portions in my freezer, to be easily used when I need it. Anything from quick stir-fry meals, to soups, to holiday dressing, to gravy, to paella, to … well, you get the picture… will have richer taste if you use homemade rather than canned broth or stock (plus you know exactly what’s going into it, and how it’s made!).
Making the Stock
Basically, place your chicken scraps/bones in a large pot–adding celery, onions, carrots, garlic and/or herbs (like rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, or even ginger) will make your broth even more flavorful and healthy. Cover everything in your pot with water (the amount of water determines the amount of stock you make), and turn on high heat, until it starts to just bubble. Turn the heat down to low and let simmer uncovered for at least 2-3 hours, or longer (4-7 hrs). Add more water if necessary to keep chicken bones submerged. Alton (my god of the kitchen) recommends placing a steamer basket on top to keep them under.
Don’t be intimidated to do this. You really can’t mess it up. Just throw it all in the pot prior to hanging out and watching tv or whatever you do in the evening after dinner, set a timer so you don’t forget, and just refrigerate it before you go to bed. You can do the rest in the morning.
When you take it off the stove, strain it through a colander so you just have liquid. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight. The liquid will hopefully solidify into a soft jello-like consistency. The fat will solidify on top, scrape that off with a spoon and discard.
Freezing the Stock
Now, if you don’t have immediate plans for the stock this week, you’ll want to freeze it. The trick here is freezing it in small, usable portions. That’s where the silicone muffin cups or pans come in (though old yogurt containers or similar plastic containers will work as well.).
Using a 1/2 c or 1/4 cup measuring cup (depending on the side of your containers), scoop even amounts into your containers and pop them in the freezer. Freeze for several hours until solid.
When frozen, remove the frozen liquid from their containers and place them into a labeled ziplock freezer bag.
Then, any time you need broth, just you can easily measure out the right amount, and either pop it directly into your dish frozen, or defrost in the microwave.
I’ve used this method of freezing for fresh lemon juice, chili paste, and even homemade baby food purees.
Originally published Jan 2010