Stewing Hen Goodness

by Meg Cotner on April 26, 2010

On Sunday, I took the stewing hen I bought earlier this month through my buying club, and boiled it up, resulting in both meat and a luscious broth.  The meat really is tough – the stewing hen is a chicken past her egg-laying prime; no spring chicken, ha ha!  This is a true free-range bird, so it’s understandable about the meat’s texture.  However, it yielded probably the most delicious chicken broth I’ve ever tasted.


I could have just stuck the whole bird in the pot with its integrity intact, but I chose to butcher it a bit.  I cut off the wings and legs, and left the rest alone – I further exposed the bone because I wanted to make sure that I’d have a good chance for the broth to be gelatin-rich.  Then I added half a chopped yellow onion, three large garlic cloves and a tablespoon or two of Mexican oregano.   Finally, I added a teaspoon of fine sea salt.

I boiled the hen for a couple of hours, then set the pieces out to cool down enough for me to handle then.  I shred the meat and will have it available this week for tacos, sandwiches, or chicken salad.  Since the meat is tough, I’ll store it immersed in the broth, which I hope will tenderize it.  I added an additional teaspoon of sea salt to the broth, and that was the perfect amount of seasoning.  Since I’ve cut back on sugar, my sensitivity to both sweet and salty has heightened, and I now find overly salty things to be much more intense than they used to be.

stewing hen collage

I strained out the veggies and herbs from the broth, and set the pot in the fridge to cool down overnight.  By tonight I’ll have a better idea of its gelatinous quality and the amount of fat in it (I’ll scrape that off it there’s enough, and use it for other things).  I’m going to freeze a bunch of the broth, but also leave some in the fridge for when I cook quinoa and millet this week.  Cooking the grains in this broth will make them even more nourishing and healthful.  Not to mention delicious!

Usually when I make stock, I use the carcas of a roasted chicken.  This is the first time I’d actually bought a chicken for the express purpose of stewing it and collecting the meat after the fact.  I’m looking forward to seeing how it works out this week.

final result

This was the first week in I don’t know how long, that I planned out my meals for the week.   I’m happy about this, and I have a lot of great meals in store.  Plotting out the week I expect will make lunches easier to handle, too.  Too often I just eat out, and I’d like to not do that so much (once a week, tops).  Bad for the pocketbook and the waistline, since it’s challenging to find truly nourishing food near my office.

I’m also starting a running training schedule this week, with my goal of running a 4 mile race in mid-Jully.  I miss racing and running, and really want to start up again; I’m really excited to “get back on the horse”, as they say.  I sustained a bad ankle injury a bit over a year ago, and have found it difficult to get back into running.  Having a schedule should make it easier to keep at it.

Here’s to an active, interesting, and delicious week!

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Caroline Armitage April 27, 2010 at 3:23 pm

Cool! It looks like we’re doing a lot of the same stuff — growing veggies, vermicomposting, making stock from roasted chicken carcasses…you’ve got a beautiful blog. I have to buy more worms because our dog got into the worms before I even had a chance to get them in the bin! I think I had less than 1/4 lb. left. No wonder the bin doesn’t look too happy.

Meg April 28, 2010 at 12:47 pm

Thanks for stopping by, Caroline! And thanks for the kind words. Eating and living this way is very satisfying, and very healthy. It’s really helping to keep me on the right track.

Sorry to hear about your worms – remind me where you got them originally? Mine were shipped to me from Georgia. However, after 3+ years, I am sure the original worms are all gone by now. I really need to go through my worm bin and harvest the compost. I’m lucky that I have a big barrel of it downstairs, too. Good luck with the second round of worms!

This weekend, I plan to dig deeper in the garden plot and put a lot more compost in it. Soil should be nice and soft after all the rain we’ve had. My lemon cucumbers are definitely big enough to transplant at this point!

Andi June 15, 2010 at 5:23 am

How did the broth turn out?

And was the meat tough or did leaving it in broth help?

I’m considering buying a stewing hen for the 1st time just to make broth.

Meg June 15, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Hi Andi – the meat from the legs, thighs, and pretty much everywhere but the breast was really, really tough. The breast meat stored in the broth helped it a lot but it wasn’t tender like a younger chicken is. It was fine in sandwiches. I have a friend who uses it in chicken soup, too.

The broth was amazing. The best chicken broth I’ve ever had, so if you are getting a stewing hen to make broth, I say go for it! Mine had a lot of fat on the top, so after the broth completely chilled, I took it off and now have schmaltz in my freezer. I’ll probably use it in chopped liver one of these days.

Andi June 19, 2010 at 7:40 am


Have you ever used chicken feet in your broth?

I’ve heard that’s what makes the best gel in broth… but how do you clean them? I know to chop off the nails, but do you need to clean the bottoms with bleach (ick) or something else?

Thanks for replying!

Meg June 20, 2010 at 9:43 pm

Hi Andi – I haven’t tried chicken feet in my broth but have heard about how awesome they are for making a truly gelatin-rich broth. I can get them via my CSA, actually. I would expect they’d be relatively cleaned up but I could be wrong. As far as cleaning them, perhaps vinegar would be of use? I would not recommend using bleach. It would be worth looking into, how to prepare chicken feet for broth.

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