Stocks are often thought of as the building blocks to good cooking. A stock is, quite simply, the liquid obtained by the simmering of meat and bones with water, vegetable trimmings, herbs and seasonings. The water takes on the essence, flavor, and body of its ingredients, and can be used to make delicious stews, soups, braises, and vegetable dishes. Stock can be used in place of water when cooking rice or even reduced down to make a wonderfully satisfying sauce- just enrich with a bit of butter or cream!
There are some great stocks available at your grocery store. On Paula’s Food Network Show, Paula’s Best Dishes, there is often not enough time to make stock, so they purchase a rich homemade variety. But, if you want to make your own stock it’s extremely easy to do and doesn’t even require much attention - just some simmering time on the stovetop. Give it a try, you’ll be very happy you did!
There is a saying that good stock starts from good ingredients. Planning ahead works best with stocks. You can freeze leftover raw poultry bones and meat scraps in the freezer for up to 3 months. When you have accumulated enough, you can make stock. You can also purchase inexpensive cuts like chicken wings, necks, and backs from your butcher. These are great choices for stock since they have lots of connective tissue that will break down during simmering and add gelatin and body to your stock. Use fresh vegetables, herbs, and spices to enhance flavor.
Rinse your bones under cold water to remove blood and impurities before beginning. This will result in a stock with good clarity. Cut your vegetables in a size that allows the flavors to be drawn out. If simmering for more than two hours, chunks will suffice. If less than 2, a half inch dice is fine. Trim your vegetables longer or smaller to correspond with simmering times. Use a tall heavy bottomed stockpot. It should be large enough to hold all your ingredients with them being submerged in water. Start your stock with cold water and bring slowly to a simmer. This will allow all the impurities to slowly coagulate and come to the surface of the stock. Skim these impurities with a slotted spoon or ladle. This is especially important the first hour of simmering. Keep an eye on temperature. You do not want your stock just bubbling away. A bare simmer, with small bubbles surfacing every moment or so is the way to go. This will ensure clarity and produce a longer shelf life. Be careful not overcook your stock. It will turn bitter and flat tasting. Carefully strain finished stock in a colander lined with cheese cloth (or a clean paper towels in a pinch) and cool down in an ice bath. If you desire a richer tasting stock, you can return the strained stock to the stovetop and reduce for a fuller flavor.
STOCK VERSUS BROTH
Sometimes people use the terms interchangeably. A stock is made with meaty bones, water, vegetables, and aromatics. The meat adds flavor while the gelatinous connective tissue breaks down and gives the stock its body. Broth is made from just meat along with water, vegetables, and aromatics and is lighter in body and flavor than stock. A broth can be served on its own while stock is a base.
Freeze stocks in different amounts so you can use them as a recipe calls for. 1 cup and 4 cups amounts seem to be the most effective choices. 1 cup can be used for sauces or cooking vegetables and 4 cups is a good amount for soups. Stocks can be frozen for up to four months in freezer safe containers.
BASIC CHICKEN STOCK RECIPE
4 1/2 pounds wings, backs, and necks from uncooked chickens
2 medium onions, peeled and chopped into quarters
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped into 1 inch pieces
2 medium stalks of celery, chopped into 1 inch pieces
8 sprigs parsley
½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
2 dried bay leaves
4 1/2 quarts cold water
Rinse chicken under cold water and add the chicken parts to a large heavy bottomed stockpot. Add cold water to cover chicken. Bring the water slowly to a boil then reduce to a bare simmer. There should be very few gentle bubbles bursting on the surface of the water. Skim the surface of the stock to get rid of the impurities.
Add the onions, carrots, celery, parsley, peppercorns, and bay leaves to the pot. Continue to simmer the stock for 3 hours, skimming occasionally.
Strain the stock through a paper towel lined colander into a large bowl. Carefully discard the hot solids. Let cool. Place in refrigerator for 12 hours to allow fat to rise to the top. Skim fat off and discard. Divide between freezer safe containers. Freeze for up to 3 months.
Yields 2 quarts
Watch Jamie Deen make Chicken stock in this How To Video.