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Saturday, April 9, 2011

Homemade Stock

For some, the thought of making one's own vegetable or chicken stock may seem a daunting task best left to corporate entities. I would beg to differ. Homemade stock is really quite easy to prepare and is the perfect way to use up vegetable scraps (skins, ends and all) and the picked chicken carcass leftover from roasting a bird whole. The recipe below is simply an idea base for stock making. Depending on what you plan to make with it, you may want to add or remove certain ingredients, especially particular vegetables, herbs, and spices that will enhance the flavor of your soup or dish. Let your imagination run wild; just be sure to follow specific instructions provided by the USDA if you are making meat or vegetable stock for canning in order to prevent life-threatening foodborne illness.

Chicken Stock

The Ingredients:

- cooked & picked chicken carcass (meat scraps, bones, cartilage, skin, pan juices)
- chicken neck (if included)
- carrots
- celery
- onion and/or shallot
- garlic
- herbs (parsley, bay leaf, thyme, cilantro, rosemary, sage)
- salt
- peppercorns
- additional spices as seen fit
- additional vegetables as seen fit (mushrooms, tomatoes, potatoes, bell pepper, fennel, leek, parsnips)

*If you are making vegetable stock, omit the chicken parts and bulk up on the veggies, especially your traditional mirepoix
(pronounced "meer-pwah") ingredients: onion, celery, and carrots. I recommend going heavy on the garlic and parsley for most stocks intended for soup making.

How to Make it:

Simple math should tell us that the more surface area our ingredients have, the more flavor we can extract from them. This said, break up your carcass and peel and chop your vegetables and aromatics (the more fragrant ingredients, including alliums, herbs, and spices), being sure to keep the peels, skins, and ends. Depending on the amount of scraps you have from prior cooking, you may also want to include additional fresh vegetable pieces for a more flavorful stock. Put all of the ingredients in a large stock pot; add cold water (Why cold? To better release the collagen in the chicken, which thickens the stock) until it covers all ingredients by a few of inches; you can always add more water if the level drops too much during cooking. Over medium-high or high heat, cook the mixture just until the point of boiling; reduce heat to maintain a simmer for 3-4 hours if making chicken stock or 2-3 hours for vegetable stock. With tongs or a slotted spoon, carefully remove large pieces of the chicken and vegetables, placing in a metal mesh strainer and pressing on the scraps to retain liquid in your stock pot. Once you've removed all of the chicken parts and the larger vegetable pieces, carefully pour your stock through the same mesh strainer; press on the "catch" left in the strainer and discard.

How to Store it:

If you are using your stock immediately, simply add it to your soup or dish when needed. If you are refrigerating it, portion it into glass jars (those used for traditional canning work well) or airtight plastic containers for easier storage. If you are freezing it, portion it into airtight plastic containers; label and date each container. Stock kept in the fridge should be used and consumed within a week of preparation; frozen stock should be used within three months for flavor and food safety.

My Two Cents:

I generally make stock one day and my soup the day after. While I will use vegetable scraps from prior preparations (such as roasting the bird), I always include additional whole veggies and herbs, roughly chopped, to ensure a delicious outcome. For extra flavor, I scrape off and add the schmaltz (the congealed chicken fat that rises to the top of the stock after refrigeration) to my mirepoix veggies when making the soup instead of using butter or oil. Just one more way to make slightly better use of your food dollars!


Images by Rebekah Carter (2011).

1 comment:

Jeannie said...

Looks great! Thanks for sharing! First time on the blog...love it!