Friday 7 September 2012

Stock Making Basics

Waste bites.  


Food waste can take a huge chunk out of your budget!  

It's one of my pet peeves, and I work hard to keep kitchen waste at our house to a bare minimum.

Stock is an important tool in my waste reduction arsenal.  Even the smallest leftover can be used to make stock, along with all sorts of things that most people just fling into the bin without any thought at all.  

Making stock is an on-going project at my house.  There's almost always a stock pot simmering away on the back burner of the stove.  

I can't imagine what I'd do without a good supply of stock on hand.  It adds both nutrients and depth of flavour to an astonishing array of dishes.

The trick to making a really good, flavourful stock is to layer in many different flavours without watering them down.  I do this by starting my stock with a few ingredients, cooling it, straining it, refrigerating it, and then repeating the process the following day...and the day after that...and the day after that.  I’ll often cook a single batch of stock five or six times—with new ingredients added in each time—before I consider it finished.  

That sounds like a big investment of time, doesn't it?  

I guess it is in a way, but stock sits on the back of the stove, simmering away on low heat, requiring little attention from me.  It's not like I have to watch it every minute it's cooking.

I often begin my stock with water that I've used to cook some other ingredient.  Water that's been used for cooking vegetables, simmering sausages, cooking ham, or even heating hot dogs already has some flavour to bring to the party.  

I most often use a six-quart pan to make my stock.  I pack it quite full of vegetables, vegetable trimmings, and meat bones or chicken carcasses (if I have them), and add just enough liquid to barely cover the contents of the pan.  

I bring the stock to a boil and then reduce it to a simmer.  I let it simmer for as long as my schedule allows, then strain it, cool it, and refrigerate it, ready for new additions the following day.

Here are some things you can use to flavour your stock:

Wash your vegetables well before you peel them then save the peelings for the stock pot.  Be sure to trim away any parts that may hold soil, like the roots on your onions, and to discard anything that has any trace of mold, mildew, or decay.

If you have a recipe that calls for you to seed or peel your tomatoes, use the seeds and peels in your stock.  They have lots of flavour.

The outside leaves of cauliflower, and the stems and leaves of broccoli have wonderful flavour.  They also bring lots of nutrition to the party.

The trimmings from a head of lettuce—those leaves not pretty enough for the salad bowl—bring flavour and nutrients to a stock.

Use the stems!  Add the stems from beets, chard, and parsley to your stock pot.

Celery leaves are not discarded at our house.  We use them in salad or add them to our stock.

Pan drippings from cooking meat add a wonderful depth to any stock.  Drain the drippings, cool them, and then remove the fat that has risen to the top of the container before adding them to the pot.

The bones, skin, and trimmings from any poultry or meat that you're preparing can be added to your stock pot.  

Leftover cooked vegetables and meat can be added too.

When your stock has finished cooking for the day, cool it to room temperature as quickly as possible before putting it in the fridge.  

Many people cool their stock by setting the pot into an ice water bath, and replacing the cold water as needed until the stock has cooled to room temperatures, but some authorities are now advising against this practice.  The current recommendation is that you pour your stock into a wide, shallow container to cool, and that you set the container on top of an inverted pot.  The metal in the pot will help to disburse the heat more quickly.

I strain my stock out into a really big stainless steel bowl and then set the bowl on top of an inverted cooking pot.  It cools quite rapidly.

Once it's cooled, some people strain their stock a second time, either through cheesecloth or through a coffee filter, to obtain a clearer broth.  I don't mind that my stock is not perfectly clear, so I don't bother to filter it.

If you're planning to add more to ingredients to your stock the following day, or to use it up fairly quickly, this is the time store it in the refrigerator.

If you have a quantity of stock you wish to store away for future use, you can either freeze it or can it.  

I freeze my stock in 6-ounce portions, in silicone muffin cups.  The frozen stock pops easily out the muffin pan, like ice cubes, and can be stored in freezer bags until I need it.

I also can some of my stock, in pint jars.  Stock in a jar is handy to have on hand when I need some stock quickly but don't have any in the fridge.  

To can stock, I chill the stock and skim off any fat from its surface.  Then I heat the stock to boiling and pour it into sterilized jars leaving about an inch of headroom.  I process the jars at 11 pounds pressure for 30 minutes.

Please note that while I am an enthusiastic home canner, I'm not an authority on the subject.  If you're canning stock (or anything else), purchase a reputable canning guide book (Putting Food By and the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving are both very good).  Review their instructions on safe canning practices and follow them to the letter.  Canning is no place for approximation or improvisation.  Food safety is a science and safe practice is, quite literally, a matter of life and death.

So...Is making stock a lot of work?  

Yes and no. 

It’s more work than buying it in the grocery store, but it’s certainly not an arduous process. 

Is it worth it?  


Give it a try and save some bucks.  You can thank me later.  

This post is linked to Hearth and Soul Blog Hop hosted by Premeditated Leftovers, The 21st Century Housewife, Penniless Parenting, Zesty South Indian Kitchen, Savoring Today, and Elsa Cooks, to Gallery of Favorites hosted by The 21st Century Housewife and Premeditated Leftovers, to The Pity Party hosted by Thirty Handmade Days,

Hearth & Soul Hop   Gallery of Favorites

Thirty Handmade Days


Anonymous said...

Excellent post Aunt B!!! I would love a food wasting post for the blog if you ever have one you would like to share... foods you can make that people normally toss. I think I asked the question once about leaves of greens etc and what people do with them, and now I know! Thanks I tweeted and will share on FB now! Mr.CBB

Aunt B said...

Thanks Mr CBB. I'm glad you liked the post. I sure appreciate you sharing it forward.

Denise said...

Beth, this is a great post. While I'm not as committed by having a pot of stock constantly in the works, our kids sure know they're not allowed to toss out chicken bones or skin. :)

Aunt B said...

Thanks Denise. I'm glad you like the post. :) Good to hear that your kids know not to throw out the chicken bones and skin. It's a habit that'll stand them in good stead when they grow up. :)

April @ The 21st Century Housewife said...

Thank you so much for sharing this really helpful post. Making stock is such a great way to avoid waste, and there is absolutely nothing like good homemade stock. It can be intimidating to make it for the first time though, and your post is really comprehensive and encouraging!

Aunt B said...

Thanks April. I'm really pleased that you liked the post.

Alea Milham said...

Such good tips! I love making my own broth and stock. It is so much more flavorful and frugal than store bought.

Aunt B said...

Thank you Alea. :) I agree with you about the stock. It's much better than what you buy in the store.

anwarulaz said...

It is much more nourishing than the ready made ones bought from the store.

Aunt B said...

I agree! Well worth doing. :) Thanks for stopping by to check out the post.

Donna Andrew said...

Easy,Cheap and Nourishing!!! These are a few of my favourite things!!! Pretend I'm wearing laderhosen and singing.... Cheers

Aunt B said...

lol now Donna Andrew. I'm so glad you liked the post. :)