Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Is stock easy to make?

Yes! It is so easy that you don't even need a recipe if you just remember a few small details. The method to make homemade stock is a great thing to know because you can boost the nutrition in your recipes (stock is ever-so-much more nutritious than water!) and store-bought stock is not only expensive but tends to be high in sodium. Also, you can feel like a 'green samaritan' by using up more parts of your meats and veggies and throwing less away.

Here is the most basic of basics: vegetable stock. What you want to do is throw a mixture of appropriate vegetable* pieces and scraps into a large pot and cover those ingredients with cold water. Put the pot on the stove and slowly bring it up to a simmer. Maintain a gentle simmer for 60-90 minutes, skimming the top occasionally. Take stock off of the heat and strain. It is then ready to be added to soups, stews, braises and sauces. Use it to cook pasta and rice for added flavor/nutrition or just sip it on its own with a bit of extra seasoning. Leftovers can be frozen and thawed as needed.

As far as what you can put in your stock, the basic foundation is onions, carrots and celery. Missing carrots or celery may be acceptable but your stock will be very sad without onions or something from the onion clan like shallots, leek greens or scallions. These items should be washed and cut into large chunks but they need not be prepped with too much fuss. Remember, our goal is simplicity. In addition, you may add any or all of the following, or trimmings from them:

corn cobs
green beans
fresh or dried mushrooms (stems too)
turnip or beet greens
parsley (stems too)
bay leaf
tomato paste
a splash of vinegar

cabbage + cabbage family (broccoli, cauliflower) = sulfuric
turnips, rutabaga = bitter
spinach = too delicate
bell peppers = some say too strong bt maybe used sparingly...
beets = unless you want pink stock

To make a meat-based stock, use the guidelines listed above and add either:
chicken scraps or bones
meat scraps or bones
fish scraps bones (NO eyes or gills)

A wise chef once said 'it's a stock pot, not a garbage can!' and that means even though what you are using is essentially scraps, they should be clean, fresh and have integrity... the same chef said, 'a little practice makes perfect!' and we agree.
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