Take everything you can find in the fridge and throw it in the pot. Well, it’s almost that easy anyway. Homemade stock is the most forgiving thing you can make, in that just about any kind of meat and vegetable can be used to make a variety of stocks. This indispensable kitchen helper should never be purchased* when it’s so easy to make. And of course it can be canned and conveniently stored in the pantry, or try freezing it too. The amount of time it takes to make the stock depends on the meat/bones: cooked or uncooked. Use leftovers if you have it (roasted chicken, a pork roast, etc.) or use raw meat (cut up chicken, beef shanks, etc.) but one or the other, not together. So making stock really depends on what you have in your fridge and sometimes what you plan to use it for. And most important, you won’t be guilty of waste. (So don’t throw that out!)
Some of the ingredients you can throw in are:
- The leftover meat and bones of cooked chicken, pork roast, beef shanks, etc (the more bones the better)
- Fresh whole fish, poultry, pork cuts or beef cuts
- Discarded parts of fish, poultry, pork or beef (ex: fish heads, chicken wing tips, pigs feet, etc)
- Whole, fresh veggies of choice
- Past-their-prime veggies; especially carrots, celery, onions, garlic and broccoli
- Discarded parts of veggies (ex: carrot and celery tops, broccoli stalks, outer parts of onions and garlic, etc)
To me, the point of making your own stock is not only for the flavor, health benefits and the money you’ll save, but also to use up your leftover meats and the past-their-prime and discarded parts of vegetables. In other words, no waste. But sometimes I go ahead and use a raw whole chicken when I need the broth to have a lighter color for a white sauce or a dish that just looks better when it it’s lighter. Otherwise (and again, this is my own opinion) the bones of a roasted piece of meat adds the best flavor to stock. And just know that each stock will turn out a little bit differently than the next due to the seasonings that were added to the original dish.
And now for… the recipe?
- Put all the stuff you want into a pot and fill it with cold water to just cover them. (Don’t be tempted to add more water than you need. Even a little less is better than more.)
- Bring it to a boil and then immediately lower the heat to a simmer, covered or not, cooking for at least a couple of hours for poultry and fish, longer for pork and beef.
- Using raw meat? Skim and discard the “frothy” film that builds up on the surface of the stock.
- Strain, let cool and store in the refrigerator.
Choose your kind
1. If making chicken stock, limit the amount of veggies that go in.
2. If making chicken stock for white sauces or other foods that are light in color, use raw meat.
3. If making beef or pork stock**, roasting the meats first is best.
4. If you want a well-rounded stock that can go into a variety of recipes, combine types (chicken and pork) but reduce the amount of meat you would normally add… double the amount of veggies.
5. If making fish stock, you’ll need at least 4 lbs fish bones and heads per gallon of water.
Choose your flavor
The best veggies to use (flavor wise) are: Onions, garlic, celery, carrots, mushrooms, bell peppers, parsnips, spinach, leeks, tomatoes, fennel and broccoli. If using potatoes, try to use the peel only, do something else with the rest of it.
- To add a “punch” of favor, toss in a cup of wine – red for beef or pork, white for chicken or fish.
- Tomatoes are great for creating a stock that will be used for minestrone soup.
- Mushrooms are fab for stock used in French Onion soup.
- The difference between stock and broth is as simple as adding salt. Turn it into broth by seasoning it to taste with salt and/or pepper. Use fresh herbs or dried seasonings too.
- Consider everything. Meats like ham hocks make a great stock that can maximize the flavor of an Au gratin dish.
This is so easy to do and you will see that it makes everything you cook taste so much better. If you don’t have enough time in the day, save it for that one day you do have time by freezing the ingredients and making a bunch of it all at once. You’ll be glad you did, I’m so sure of it!
Tip: It’s been proven that hot water boils faster, but cold water is best for drawing out flavors for the best stock.
Tip: Got a lot of meat left on the bones? Use this (now super tenderized) goodness as enchilada filling, in a recipe for dinner tonight or freeze it for a future, throw-together-but-still-a-masterpiece-meal when you’re in a hurry.
Tip: If your meat is really fatty and you see pockets of the fat surfacing in the stock, keep it healthy by skimming it off. Add a couple of ice cubes to the pot and it will help the fat pool together to make skimming easier.
Tip: When freezing any liquid, first use ice trays to create cubes, then remove the cubes and store them in a large freezer-safe container for easy access. About 4 cubes equals 1/2 cup. (It depends on the size of the tray. Test it first.)
Tip: Keep plenty on hand by pressure canning it too.
Tip: Reduced stock becomes a wonderful demi-glace (type) sauce for topping roasted meats. Beef and veal are the traditional flavors but you can do it with any of them. Reduce your stock by half and then add a sachet of seasonings (bay leaf, thyme, parsley) and keep reducing it until you get a deep dark color and a thick texture that easily coats a spoon. Use a thickener as a shortcut if you like.
* Did you know that a common ingredient in most chicken and beef stock on the grocery store shelves is MSG? You can also find it in canned soups, instant noodles, almost all fast foods, many chips and other snack foods, frozen dinners, salad dressings and grill spices. Wow! MSG is linked to headaches, nausea, rapid heartbeat and metabolic syndrome. If a product you want to buy contains monosodium glutamate, or just “glutamate” then put the product down, and slowly back away from it. Don’t turn your back on it – you don’t know what it might do! When you’re in the clear, run.
** I like to let beef and pork cook a lot longer than poultry or fish to let out all the flavors. Especially the beef; I’ll sometimes add more water and let that simmer all day long. Check the broth occasionally and decide for yourself. 🙂