“I, (state your name), promise to never again throw away a chicken bone without cooking the hell out of it first. I further promise to scrub my carrots before peeling them so I can save the peels, put aside any promising onion skins and ends, and, if I have them, ends and leaves of celery. In so doing I shall never waste money buying stock from the store again. This is my solemn vow.”
If you’ve never made your own stock before, you won’t believe how simple it is, not to mention FREE – you will just be using things you would have tossed in the compost or the trash.You should make your own stock because:
- It’s cheap. For exactly $0 and some tap water you can make quarts and quarts of stock – in NYC where I live, one quart of stock goes for $3-$4 – you do the math.
- It’s less wasteful – it gets every last nutrient from your veggie scraps and chicken bones.
- It’s healthier – no added preservatives or salt. YOU control the sodium!
- It’s ridiculously easy.
But before we talk about making your own stock, let’s clarify what I mean by stock, and how it is different from broth.
We often use these words interchangeably, but we really shouldn’t, as I learned when I went to research this topic. Folks have a lot to say on the subject, from the Food Network to The Kitchn to Chow to The Cooking Geek (just in case you want to do an in-depth study of cooking liquids), but the best explanation I think comes from the Reluctant Gourmet. As the RG explains, “Broth is made when vegetables and/or meats are simmered gently in water to extract all the flavors. Stock is made when vegetables and meaty bones are simmered gently in water to extract all the flavors. Simply put, if the mixture was not made with bones, it is not a stock. If you go with this definition, then there is no such thing as vegetable stock.”
He goes on to make this simple distinction: use stock for body and depth, broth for flavor. So, if you want to make a quick chicken soup where the liquid is at the forefront, you should use broth as your base, not stock. But, if you need a cooking liquid for a stew that has lots of other flavors in it and will cook for a while, use stock. If you use broth in this stew, you’ll need to taste very carefully as the more flavorful (and probably salted) broth could overwhelm, or at the very least impact, the flavor of the soup beyond what the recipe intended.
So here’s what I do:
– Keep a ziplock bag in the freezer – this is your stock bag.
– When you are cooking with veggies, save the (clean) ends or peels: carrot peels, garlic skins, celery leaves, herb stems, onions skins and ends.
– Every few weeks, make a bone-in chicken dish (like my Chicken-Butternut Squash Pan Roast). Save the chicken bones (yes, even the ones you’ve eaten from – you’ll cook away any germs) in your stock bag.
– Once the bag is full, or has a variety of things in it, you are ready to make stock!
I followed Smitten Kitchen’s lead and used my crock pot to make my stock. For my little crock pot, I put about 8 cups (2 quarts) of water in, bones from 3-4 chicken legs, a handful of mixed veggie scraps, 2 bay leaves, and some peppercorns. Because I don’t follow a set recipe, my stock tastes a little different every time I make it, but since I am using it as a base for other flavorful things, it doesn’t really matter.
Cook on LOW for 8 to 10 hours or HIGH for 4 to 5 hours. Strain out all solids, and save stock in jars or plastic containers. I like to put my stock in the fridge, let it cool, and scrape off any fat from the top (although there usually isn’t much). Then I freeze for later use. Note: the liquid may turn gelatinous in the fridge – that’s ok, that’s just the gelatin from the bones. It re-liquifies easily, don’t worry! While I use it up, my stock bag gradually refills, and when I use the last of my stock I know it’s time to break out the crock pot again. It’s the circle of stock – a beautiful and natural thing!