The thunderstorms that blew through our area led to a bit of a poultry issue at the farm; lightning struck one of the outbuildings, fried the circuits, and caused one of our freezers to fail. We were left with thirteen partially-thawed chickens that needed to be cooked up in the next two days. Some of them we managed to give away to friends and family. My parents made chicken potpie and chicken and dumplings. I made my ultimate roast chicken served with roasted turnips fresh from the garden, my crispy-skinned chicken, and chicken salad with homemade (olive oil) mayo. Nick and I got all of our protein from chicken for about four days. But there were still several remaining chickens that we were not able to consume, and that needed to be cooked up. As I thought about our predicament, I realized that I could easily turn this seeming problem into a blessing.
Last week I read a blog post about post-partum meal planning over at Modern Alternative Mama. Freezing food so that I had easy and nutritious meals available after my son’s birth sounded like a great idea, and I resolved to make a very large batch of (slightly less spicy) bacon chili sometime in late September and freeze it for my post-partum period. But as I looked at all the chickens and chicken carcasses I had sitting in my fridge, I started thinking that homemade bone broth from home-grown free-range chickens, along with lots of shredded chicken meat, would make a perfect freezable base for a chicken soup that would nourish me and my baby in the weeks after his birth.
The broth itself is incredibly nutrient-dense and a great source of hydration (much needed to establish milk supply), and the chicken is a great source of protein. All I would have to do is remove a container of stock and meat from the freezer, thaw, and add some veggies from the garden (which I plan on storing in a homemade root cellar in the basement, right next to the chest freezer – how convenient!), and I would have a fresh, balanced, and incredibly nutritious meal.
The more I thought about it, chicken soup sounded like an even better idea than chili – if our son is a food-sensitive (“colicky”) baby, as Nick and I both were, the nightshades and even mild spices in a batch of chili could possible irritate his already sensitive stomach. Chicken and bone broth is pretty much the most hypo-allergenic, colic-friendly nourishment I can imagine pulling out of my freezer.
So for three nights in a row I left chickens and chicken carcasses on the stove to simmer (along with carrot, onion, and celery) and piled up quart containers of chicken meat and stock in our (thankfully, still functional) chest freezer. The stock that I created is deeper than even golden – it is more of a brown color – and extremely gelatinous when cooled, so I know that I was able to extract a lot of nutrients from those bones.
And of course I saved all of the chicken pieces that I used to make stock so that I would have lots of nourishing treats for Dakota, our very lucky dog. We do give her some (animal-source protein, grain-free) dog food, but we like to feed her as paleo as possible – lots of bones, meat, and gristle – dogs evolved as carnivores, after all!