Taking Stock, Making Stock

Hey, you.

Yes, you.

Are you still buying broth and stock?

Are you still throwing out wilted vegetables, onion skins, and meat bones?

Seriously?

Well, stop it. Stop it right now. Collect all of that good stuff and make some stock.

If you’re still buying stock or broth, you’re wasting your money on salt water with little to no actual flavor, or you’re spending a fortune on decent stuff that you could easily be making at home. Stock is a fabulous way to reduce both food waste and packaging – it is the best way to use up wilted (not rotting) vegetables and get one last good “squeeze” out of meat bones, if you’re into eating meat. (If not, you can still make delicious vegetable stock.) Around here, we save our meat bones, including those we might get from a restaurant (think wings, turkey legs, steaks, chicken breasts and thighs, etc.) and put them in a freezer bag for (you guessed it) freezing until we need more stock. You can even ask butchers and/or restaurants for meat bones or shellfish shells – they’re usually pretty cheap and sometimes free!

When I make stock, I generally raid the fridge and pantry for whatever older (or excess) vegetables we have on hand instead of following a recipe – this is because I don’t actively go out and buy stock ingredients, and I encourage you not to do so if you can, as well. However, I also know that I didn’t get started making stock knowing what to use in my pantry, and I don’t always have ingredients on hand, so if you’re tired of using crappy store-bought stock and want to try your hand at making it, do whatever you need to do to get it going! The basic steps are as follows:

  1. Get a large pot. I use a 12-quart stock pot. You can use smaller pots – it’s just easier with a larger one to fit in bones and make a good amount of the stuff.
  2. Place ingredients into pot.
  3. Put enough water into the pot to cover the ingredients by a couple of inches.
  4. Bring the mixture to a boil.
  5. Allow to simmer on medium heat for a good hour or so (you can let it go a pretty good long while).
  6. Turn off heat. Allow to cool enough for you to strain the solids and put the liquid into storage containers. Freeze, refrigerate, and use for all kinds of things!

What can I use in my stock? you ask. Basically, anything with a high water content and low starch, as well as mild flavor and color. (For example, I don’t recommend cabbage or potatoes, as long cooking will result in unpleasant flavor in the former and weird starchiness in the latter.) Here is a list of different stuff I’ve used in the past, as well as my current batch that is literally simmering on the stove right now as I type:

  • Carrots, parsnips, and other mild root vegetables, leaves, stems, and all
  • Celery, leaves and all
  • Onions, skins and all
  • Garlic, skins and all
  • Dried mushrooms (these are especially great for umami in vegetable stocks)
  • Leftover meat bones (beef, pork, chicken, lamb, etc.)
  • Leftover shellfish shells, tails, etc. (shrimp, lobster, crawfish, crab, etc.)

As for seasoning, you can choose to salt or not to salt – I do like to put a little bit of salt (2 tablespoons for a large batch), but you can always add salt later for whatever application you’re using the stock. I add a tablespoon or so of whole peppercorns, because I love pepper. You can season it with dried herbs towards the beginning of cooking, or even fresh herbs towards the end simmer phase.

Everybody into the pool!
Mmmm, stock.

Got it? Neat! Let’s give you a more precise recipe to follow, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Basic Meat Stock

You will need:

  • 1-2 onions, quartered, skins and roots on
  • 4-5 stalks celery, chopped, leaves and all
  • 2-3 carrots, chopped, leaves and all (if leaves are attached)
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, skins and all
  • 1/2 c dried mushrooms (optional)
  • 1-1 1/2 lbs meat bones (this is an estimate – you can go big or go small)
  • 1-2 tbsp kosher salt (optional)
  • 1-2 tbsp whole black peppercorns
  • 2 tbsp fresh thyme (optional)

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients into a large stockpot (I use a 12-quart). Fill the pot with enough cold water to cover the solid ingredients by about 1-2 inches, depending on how big your stockpot is.
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil on the stovetop over high heat, stirring occasionally.
  3. Once the mixture comes to a boil, lower the heat to medium (an active simmer). Allow to simmer for 45 minutes to an hour. You can go for longer, if you like.
  4. Turn off heat. Allow to cool for 30 minutes.
  5. Using a fine mesh strainer, strain the liquid from the solid material into storage containers, making sure to squeeze the solids for their liquid through the strainer. Discard the solids (these, alas, cannot be composted, as they have animal product in them). If there is excessive fat or you’re concerned about it, you can also choose to let the stock cool for longer, then skim the solids off the top. I usually don’t do this, since fat = flavor. Use right away, refrigerate, or freeze.

Basic Vegetable Stock

Follow the directions above, except omit the meat. I highly recommend using dried mushrooms, as they will add necessary umami to the stock that the other vegetables don’t usually provide. You can also use a couple of tablespoons of soy sauce, liquid aminos, or tamari for umami if you don’t have mushrooms – just reduce (or eliminate) the salt. Bonus – you can compost the solids when you’re done, since no animals were harmed in the making of your vegetable stock đŸ™‚

Cheers, and enjoy your tastier soups!

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