With just a few simple steps, you can be on your way to making your own stock and saving money while delivering tons of flavor to your dishes! Store bought stock is expensive and you have no control over the freshness of the ingredients used. Those celery tops, carrot peelings, poultry carcasses and onion skins you throw out can become the foundation of a very tasty and nutritious stock. Don’t just grab bowls of leftovers from the fridge and dump them all in a large pot either. You want fresh trimmings and ingredients for a fresh, healthy and tasty stock. Let’s take a look at how easy it is to make and preserve several different types of stock.
The easiest way to keep stock is in your freezer because it will keep for months. In the refrigerator, the stock is only fresh for a week or so. After making and cooling your stock, pour it into well marked and dated containers, jars or zip lock bags. You can even freeze stock in ice cube trays, popping out the cubes when frozen and storing them in zip lock bags for quick and easy use of your homemade stock.
Vegetable Stock- I love vegetable stock as it is so versatile and neutral; you can use it in any recipe calling for any flavor of stock. I often use it as a base for making a hearty vegetable and barley soup. This stock is the quickest to make as you should only simmer it for about 30 minutes or so to prevent the vegetables from imparting a bitter flavor. The more vegetables you use, the more vitamins and nutrition will be in the stock. Strong flavored vegetables like cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower may overpower the flavor of the stock so use them sparingly. Into a large pot, put only clean and fresh vegetables, such as mushroom stems, onion skins and root ends, celery tops, corn husks, carrot tops and peelings, tomato tops and bottoms, leafy greens like spinach and kale, potato peelings, asparagus stalks, etc. When making vegetable stock, I do not add any salt, pepper or spices as it could conflict with whatever seasoning the recipe calls for where the stock will be used. Put just enough water in the pot to cover the vegetables, bring to a boil and then turn down to simmer. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the vegetables out of the stock and discard. If you want a very clear stock, strain the stock through cheesecloth as well.
Chicken Stock- I use chicken stock more than any other and it’s likely due to the fact that chicken stock lends rich flavor to typically bland dishes like rice and mashed potatoes. For rice, I substitute chicken stock for the water and in mashed potatoes, I replace half the milk with chicken stock. To make chicken stock, I like to use chicken carcasses. If we have roast chicken for dinner, I will put the whole carcass into a zip lock bag and tuck it away in the freezer until I’ve managed to save an additional carcass or two for making a big pot of chicken stock. Put the carcasses into a large pot with carrots, celery and onions. Add some onion skins, too, because the skins will help give the stock a golden color. Cover with water, put a lid on it and bring it to a boil. Once it boils, turn the heat down to simmer and let it continue to cook for 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours. When it comes to making a flavorful meat stock, longer simmering is always better as it allows time for flavor to develop from the bones. Skim off any fat from the surface as it simmers. When done, strain the contents through cheesecloth for a nice clear stock.
Turkey stock- My turkey stock is very similar to the chicken stock recipe with the exception of a longer cooking time and using one turkey carcass instead of several chicken carcasses. Add onions, onion skins (adds color to the stock), carrots and celery to the turkey carcass in a large pot, enough water to cover and after getting to a boil, turn down to simmer, cover and let it continue cooking for 2 to 3 hours. Strain through a cheese cloth for a beautiful and clear stock. I often return the cleared stock to a clean pot and reduce it down even further. The reduced stock’s flavor is intensified and I can then use it to make more turkey gravy for any leftover turkey meat. If I don’t reduce it further, I’ll often use the turkey stock to make turkey vegetable noodle soup.
Beef Stock- I buy beef soup bones to make my beef stock. I will get a big 5 pound package of beef bones that the butcher has cut in the middle so the marrow is exposed. If you see they are not cut, ask your butcher to cut them every 2 inches or so for you. There usually no fee for this service and they will more than likely accommodate you. I often use beef stock as a base for making a hearty beef and barley soup. I spread the bones out on a cookie sheet, sprinkle some salt and drizzle a little vegetable oil on them and then roast the bones in the oven at 450 degrees for 30 minutes, or until nicely browned. Turn them several times while roasting so they don’t burn. While the bones are roasting, I put a sliced onion, several stalks of chopped celery, about 10 peppercorns, a bay leaf or two, several chopped carrots and 2 teaspoons of salt into a large pot. When the bones are nicely browned, add them to the pot along with all the browned scrapings on the cookie sheet. Put enough water in the pot to cover everything and turn on the heat until the water boils. Once it boils, turn down the heat to simmer, cover, and let it continue cooking for 3-4 hours. During the first hour or so, there may be some fat and scum to skim off and discard. When the cooking time is over, strain through a cheesecloth and let the stock cool uncovered.
Making your own stock is easy, healthier and less costly than the store bought variety. Try making your own and see if you don’t notice the tasty difference!