Making a stock is such a basic skill to have, yet it can translate to so many other dishes. Soups, sauces, stews, pie fillings – anything savoury can have its flavour boosted with a good stock.
But why should we bother making stock, you ask, when there are perfectly good bullion cubes and stock concentrates on the supermarket shelves? Firstly, these are often very high in sodium – although granted, you can get reduced salt stocks that can be quite flavourless – but there are also preservatives in store bought stocks/powders, they aren’t anywhere near as tasty, wouldn’t have as many nutrients and the big one… ONION.
I admit, you can now get onion and garlic free stock cubes – in Australia, at least, I haven’t seen them in the US at all – but, given all the health and flavour benefits of homemade stock, and seeing how easy it is to make, to me the choice is obvious. The only downside that I see is that our freezer is so small that we can’t make too much at once.
- Onion and garlic – the fructans are water soluble, so some will leach out into the stock water. Some can tolerate it, others can’t. You can easily omit the onion, though, as you get a lot of flavour from other ingredients.
- Meat/bones – use an entire chicken or fish carcass, including the wings and skin (great flavour and you can skim unwanted fat off later); alternatively, use soup or marrow bones (the same thing) typically from a cow but lamb shanks or pork hock will also work – whatever you can get a good price on, go with it.
- White wine vinegar can be replaced with white vinegar, apple cider vinegar etc. It helps to draw nutrients and flavours out of the bones and vegetables.
Stock Flavour Variations
These are only suggestions, you do not need to use all at once and of course, if you like a flavour that is not included here, go ahead and add it in.
- Chicken: onion, garlic, bay leaf, carrot, celery, chives, parsley, rosemary, sage, tarragon and thyme.
- Beef: onion, garlic, basil, bay leaf, carrot, celery, chives, ginger, mint, oregano, rosemary, tarragon and thyme. Red wine also goes well with beef.
- Lamb: onion, garlic, basil, bay leaf, carraway seeds, carrot, celery, coriander leaves (cilantro), coriander seeds, dill, marjoram, rosemary, sage and thyme.
- Pork: onion, garlic, bay leaf, carraway seeds, carrot, celery, cumin seeds, dill, fennel bulb, fennel seeds, rosemary, sage and thyme.
- Fish: onion, garlic, basil, bay leaf, carrot, celery, coriander leaves (cilantro), coriander seeds, fennel bulb, fennel seeds, ginger root, tarragon. White wine also goes well with fish/seafood.
Basic Meat/Bone Stock
- Carcass of the chicken/fish or 3-4 “soup”/marrow bones that are about 10 cm in length
- Optional – 1 onion, quartered
- Optional – 2 to 3 cloves of garlic, quartered
- 2 stalks of celery, cut into chunks
- 2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
- 1 lug olive oil/cooking oil of your choice
- 2.0 L water
- 1 dash white wine vinegar
- Salt to taste
- Extras – for this chicken stock I used bay leaves, ground peppercorns, sage, rosemary, thyme
The following pictures were taken when I made a batch of chicken stock.
Heat the oil in your sauce pan and sear the bones, optional onion and garlic, celery and carrot until they have browned and a fond has developed on the bottom. The fond is the layer of brown that has stuck onto the base of the pot and it is a huge flavour bomb – just let this happen, because as soon as your pour in water, the layer will deglaze and dissolve, lending its flavours to the stock and amping up whatever dish you use the stock in.
Once a good fond has developed, after 5-10 minutes of frying the meat and vegetables, pour in 2 litres of water and add in any extras of your choice, then bring it to the boil. Let it boil for 2-3 minutes, and spoon off the scum that develops if you would like a clear broth. This is the blood boiling – not everyone likes it, as it can impart a bitter flavour and cloud a stock, but some do. Whatever you choose to do is okay.
Reduce the pot to a simmer and leave it for at least 45 minutes, preferably 2 hours. The longer the pot simmers, the more intense the flavour will be and the more nutrients will leach from the bones and vegetables into the stock liquid. When you are about to remove it from the heat, taste a little and adjust flavours as required to suit your palate.
Place a heat-proof sieve over a heat proof bowl (this stuff is boiling hot) and pour the contents of the sauce pan over the top. The sieve will catch the solid ingredients. Remove the sieve and its contents and either discard them or if you have dogs, pick out the boiled bones, carrots and celery and blend them into a nutritious puree that your pups will love. Onions have been shown to cause anaemia in dogs, so be careful to pick out only the bones, carrot and celery.
Once the stock has cooled, skim off any unwanted fat (this does contain flavour and nutritious substances as well but some either don’t like the taste, can’t tolerate the fat or are counting calories) and transfer the stock to a container to freeze right away if you won’t be using it in the next 1-2 days tops. Fish stock should be frozen if not being used within 24 hours. I like to freeze it in 2 cup measurements, as that is useful for makings soups and stews. Another idea is freezing it in ice cube trays, that way you can just flip them into a container and pick out as many as you like. Once thawed, the stock should be used within 24-48 hours or discarded – fish stock should only sit in the fridge for 24 hours.
Since this photo was taken, we have begun using glass jars instead of plastic to freeze our stocks. Freezing glass is risky but I am not comfortable with plastics potentially leaching chemicals into the liquids – BPA free plastic containers are safe but make sure that the stock is completely at room temperature when you fill them.
We have Pyrex and canning jars, which are freezer safe; just make sure to leave about 20% empty space at the top to allow room for expansion when the stock freezes, because glass can crack and shatter in the freezer if its contents expand too much – be warned! Of course, I am not telling you that you have to use glass jars, just that this is what we do. You can make up your own mind. 🙂
You can also follow the same principles to make a bone broth, which is full of nutrients and great for healing the gut – but I’ll cover that in another post.