When the grocers’ shelves are lined with ready-made stock, it’s easy to dismiss making your own. But if you can find the time to make stock — it’s mostly a hands-off affair — your soups and sauces will take on a deeper level of flavour that can’t be found in a box, packet or cube.
The most common way to make a stock is to place a roasted turkey or chicken carcass into a pot, along with vegetables and water. It’s a perfectly good way to make a stock — but you’ll have a more flavourful stock if you start with raw bones. Take it a step further and roast the bones first, and you have the richest stock imaginable.I’ve provided a traditional method for making stock but please know, it’s not a rigid formula. Sometimes I add vegetables, sometimes I don’t. If I have a ham bone, I’ll toss it in my pot along with the chicken bones. Sometimes I roast half the bones and leave the other half raw. It’s all very flexible — the key is to use fresh, preferably raw, meaty bones. It’s that simple.
A good cleaver will easily chop chicken bones. Some butchers, if you ask nicely, will chop chicken carcasses for you — especially if you order them on a regular basis. For most of my cooking I use chicken stock — even in beef stew — because meaty beef bones are so expensive. A good concentrated roasted chicken stock will hold up to a beefy dish better than a pre-packaged beef stock.
You will need a large stock pot, a large strainer and some cheesecloth.
Makes 5 Litres
■ Chicken Stock: 5 pounds of meaty chicken bones, cut into 2″–3″ manageable chunks
■ Beef Stock: 5 pounds of meaty bones, cut into manageable 3″ chunks
■ 2 Tbsp tomato paste
■ Bouquet garni (parsley stems, bay leaf, fresh thyme, peppercorns, all bundled within a cheesecloth or leek leaves and tied with string)
■ 2 small onions, quartered
■ 3 carrots, coarsely chopped
■ 1 rib celery, coarsely chopped
The following instructions are for a roasted stock. For a light stock, simply omit the roasting procedure.
Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Place meaty bones in a roasting pan or baking tray and brown in the oven, turning as required to brown evenly. This can take up to an hour. Add the vegetables to the roasting pan, after the first half hour (so they don’t burn). If using tomato paste, add during the last 15 minutes of roasting; use the back of a spoon to smear the paste between the bones on the roasting pan.
When the bones are golden, transfer them to a stock pot. Add the bouquet garni and enough cold water to just cover the bones. Add the roasted or raw vegetables to the pot towards the last 40 minutes of cooking.
If you’ve roasted the bones, don’t be tempted to wash the roasting pan before you’ve removed those browned bits of meat stuck to the bottom. They pack a lot flavour so do not deglaze the pan with dish soap! First drain the fat from the roasting pan; place the pan on the stove over med-high heat and just enough water to loosen the bits of meat. Scrape the meat (a flat-edged wooden spoon works well) and pour it, along with the water, into the stock pot.
Don’t be tempted to add salt to your stock — you may want to reduce it later, and if you add salt before it’s reduced, you’ll be left with a useless, salty stock and perhaps a few salty tears. You don’t need the heartbreak.
Simmer very gently: 3-4 hours for chicken, 6-8 hours for beef.
To determine if your stock is flavorful, remove 1/2 cup of stock, season with a pinch of salt, and taste. Continue to simmer the stock if you require more flavour. The more meat on the bones, the less cooking time required.
Strain the stock through a colander and discard the bones and vegetables. Strain again though a cheesecloth-lined strainer into a deep bowl.
Cool the stock quickly by placing the bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice. Once cooled, place in the refrigerator until a layer of fat solidifies on the top of the stock. Discard the solidified fat with a spoon.
The stock can now be stored, pre-portioned, in Ziplock freezer bags. I normally reheat half of the finished stock and reduce it until it reaches a syrup-like consistency. This concentrated stock can be poured into flexible muffin moulds and frozen until ready to use.
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