I wouldn’t want to cook without using stock. It appeals to me on so many levels. To begin with, it allows me the opportunity to not throw anything away. I save it for stock. Limp celery, soft carrots, leathery onion layers, sprouting garlic, and leek tops are just a few of the ingredients I will put into a bag that I keep in the freezer for when I want to make stock. I never use anything that is too far gone, though. At our home, that is either for our chickens or ends up in one of our compost bins depending on how bad it is. I never buy ingredients to make stock, except if I need bones, such as beef or veal bones.
There is no art to making stock, only time. What you are making is basically flavored water. Stock is a fundamental ingredient that is added to soups, sauces, stocks and stews. It moistens and it flavors. It gives you a chance to add a depth of flavor that you cannot achieve with water or even broth. To me broth is runny stock, void of any viscosity and body. Stock is full of lip-smacking, mouth-coating gelatin. It is what makes good food so good.
Stock is worth making from scratch as you cannot buy it. I use homemade stock in all of my children’s, teen and adult cooking classes. And especially in classes focusing on fundamental skills that enhance everything you make, I teach students how to make basic stocks and talk about how important they are. (such as Everyday Cooking: Cooking without a Recipe – coming up in June in Madison—Sat. 6/4—more details here.)
While you do see cartons labeled “stock” in the grocery store, what you are buying is broth. Stock, when it is cold, becomes gelatinous, bouncy, wiggly and lively when touched. It is pure flavor, minus the salt. Salt should be added as you cook (but that is another story).
The stock I make most often is chicken stock. I usually buy whole chickens and thus have carcass parts for making stock. If I don’t have any carcass bones, I will simmer legs and thighs in water for forty-five minutes or so, remove them, cool them a bit, take the meat off the bones for use in chicken salad, quesadillas or casseroles, and put the bones back into the stockpot for making stock. You can even use rotisserie chicken bones, as long as you haven’t sucked on the bones. I use chicken stock for most of my stock needs, except when I need vegetable stock, then I just skip the chicken bones.
1 part chicken carcass/bones
1 part combination of these vegetables:
Herbs and spices:
Water to cover
Method: Place everything in a stockpot. Bring to a boil. Skim any scum from the top that initially forms. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, cook, cook, 3-10 hours. Strain, discarding the solids. Chill and remove the fat. Use as desired.
I never/rarely use broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, peppers or other strongly-flavored vegetables in stock. Their flavor tends to be overpowering.