Back to Basics: The Stock Market

No, I’m not talking about the one with dizzying amounts of abbreviations, scrolling numbers, people in suits shouting or ringing bells.  I’m talking about that gorgeous, vitamin-rich, delicious liquid that serves more purposes in the kitchen than potentially anything other than salt.

Liquid gold
Liquid gold

I’m most certainly not the first person in the world to post about making your own stock, nor will I be the last, but I’d be remiss to not share such a simple and basic element of my kitchen with you.  Oh, and I realize this seems like a long post with lots of steps, but it’s so simple once you do it.  I’m just wordy today.  Also, the difference in flavor between homemade and store-bought is huge.  I think you’ll be surprised.

While this post is about chicken stock I don’t want my vegetarian/vegan friends to stop reading because if you merely eliminate the protein from this method, you’ll have an amazing vegetable stock for use in all the same ways.  Also, veggie stock only has to simmer about an hour so you’re even more in luck!

Chicken Stock

Ingredients:

  • Chicken – use the cheaper cuts (legs/thighs) if you’re buying fresh–and leave ALL the skin & fat on; we’ll remove fat later on
    • *You can also substitute leftover bones, skin, cartilage and fat from previous uses like store-bought rotisserie birds
  • Fresh veggies – carrots, onions & celery are fairly standard
  • Herbs – dried or fresh, my favorites are rosemary, thyme & sage
  • Water – use what you would drink

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F
  • Lay out your chicken (or bones) on a lightly oiled sheet tray (makes for easier cleanup), toss on the fresh veggies and sprinkle with 1-2 tbsp salt (draws out mosture & flavor so don’t skip that step–we won’t be salting later so this amount will be diluted in lots of stock)
  • Roast the contents of the tray for 35-40 minutes or until the juices from the chicken run relatively clear.  It’s not vital that it’s 100% cooked because it’s all going to simmer for hours later.

    Roasted chicken & veggies--look at all that flavor crust on the pan!
    Roasted chicken & veggies–look at all that flavor crust on the pan!
  • Dump all of the contents of the tray into a very large pot–the biggest you have.  Then, pour some hot water onto the tray and use a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape off every last one of the flavor bits from the tray–they’re like gold here.  Pour every last drop of that liquid into the pot.

    That's a large lemon for size reference
    That’s a large lemon for size reference
  • Now, add whatever veggies and herbs you might have hanging around.  I keep a bag in the freezer for saving root ends, herb stems and anything that lingers past its prime, but hasn’t rotted.  More on that here.  If you don’t have anything sitting around, add a couple tablespoons of dried herbs like those mentioned above, plus a few bay leaves.  I usually add 1/2 a tsp of crushed red pepper too, but leave it out if it’s not your thing.  It doesn’t make the stock spicy, just more interesting.

    A pot full of veggie & herb scraps collected in a freezer bag and saved for making stock--this is before I smashed them down so don't overfill your pot
    A pot full of veggie & herb scraps collected in a freezer bag and saved for making stock–this is before I smashed them down so don’t overfill your pot
  • At last, add water–at least enough to cover everything in the pot, plus about an inch or two.  Just be sure to leave a couple inches at the top of the pan for things to start floating later.
  • Bring the pot to a boil, then turn down to just a simmer, cover with a lid and let things simmer for about 3- 4 hours.  Every so often, check on the pot, scrape off any scum that develops on top with a slotted spoon and add more water if you feel like it’s evaporating too much.  I usually leave mine alone for an hour at a time–sometimes more.
  • After several hours, turn off the heat and let the pot sit for 10 mins or so with the lid on just to stop boiling and settle a bit.  Then, using your biggest slotted spoon (or a spider skimmer if you’re lucky enough to own one) fish out all of the large solids from the pot into a large heat-proof bowl or plate.  You can toss those in the trash (not compost!) once they’ve cooled.
  • To help things cool, I’ll fill my clean sink with cold water and place the whole pot in the water bath with the lid on.  You can even put ice in the sink to help it cool more quickly.
  • Once it’s cooled enough to refrigerate (think room temp) pour the stock through a fine strainer or cheesecloth into your largest bowl (or bowls), then cover and refrigerate overnight.  The straining is even more important if you’re making veggie stock as the cellulose of vegetables distributes easily into the liquid.
  • By the next day, the fat will have solidified into a sheet on top of the stock so you can skim that off with a fork or slotted spoon.  Feel free to save that in a small freezer bag or container to add in breads or pizza dough in place of the oil.  Thanks, Loretta, for that trick!
  • Now, simply stir up the stock to redistribute the protein that’s sunk to the bottom and measure out into containers to freeze.  Some people prefer glass jars while my favorite is a freezer bag.  I always label how many cups are in the container for ease of matching the requirements of a recipe later.  I also like to lay the freezer bags on a sheet tray to freeze them so I can file them away–also the flat shape thaws out quite quickly.

    In the tune of Montel Jordan "This is how I store it..."
    In the tune of Montel Jordan “Thiiiiiis is how I store it…”

Now, go. Make your own and tell me how it compares to store-bought. Also, be proud that you’ve used up all those scraps that would have otherwise just gone in the trash. For those who’ve made their own, what other tips would you share? Anyone ever made fish/seafood stock? That’s next on my list to try.

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