Bottomless Chicken Crockpot

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Two whole chickens and several leg bones, one turkey, one ham bone (I like variety), and veggies (carrots, left over corn, celery, and onion peels).

Making broth at home requires a good source of bones.  Many people prefer the smooth, creamy taste of chicken broth, but chicken bones are usually only sold as a whole bird with meat on it.  Fortunately, this meat serves two purposes: multiple dinners or soups and a whole bird supply of bones.  A good batch of chicken broth will take 5-7 whole birds if you are making it in a large, 20-quart volume soup pot.  Adding a splash of raw apple cider vinegar will help draw more nutrients out of the bones, but it is not a flavor that I enjoy, so I skip this step.

Other people do not mind the ongoing smell of chicken bone broth sitting on the counter in a “bottomless crock pot.”  Start with two whole birds, water, and some onions or small vegetables.  If you can find chicken feet in the grocery store, those make great additions to the quality of the soup.  After simmering for a few days, they are the first to “disappear” into the broth.

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This turkey backbone is crumbling after 24 hours in the soup pot

For the rest of the birds, take the meat out and leave the exposed bones.  Continue to add maybe a half cup of water once or twice a day for a few days, feeling the bones becoming less firm and more brittle as time passes; don’t let the water level drop below the bones.  The broth color will become golden yellow and smell delicious!  Adding onion peels will make for a richer color.

With the crock pot method, once the bones become soft after at least two days, directly ladle out your serving of broth and replace it with about half as much water.  You can decide to literally grind up your bones, which allows the bone marrow to escape into your broth directly, or take out the used bones and keep the liquid simmering/warm.  The crock pot method will last about four, maybe five days.  The first batch will always be the higher quality, as the nutrients will seep out of the bones, leaving less for each additional water change.

One way to continue to keep up the nutrient level with the bottomless pot method is to add more, smaller raw bones, like chicken feet or drum sticks.  You can add any previously cooked bones (BBQ wings, drum sticks, or even a ham bone) directly into your broth.  It works well to do this at night so that the broth can get up to a safe, sustained temperature.  Food safety dictates that the internal temperature of the bones and liquid needs to be at least 165 degrees, sustained at that temperature for at least an hour to be on the safe side.  Keep in mind, though, that it will take a minimum of two days before the broth will be effective for our purposes.  Make sure you have taken out enough two-day old broth before you add new, raw bones.  I’d say that amount should be equivalent to at least one quart of broth per day.

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