The Basics of Stock Making

Chicken and Veggie StockWith Thanksgiving coming up soon, I’ve started to focus on what I intend to cook and getting all the ingredients together.  I always find it easier when I start stocking up on the ingredients I’m going to need ahead of time, instead of one big shopping trip.  It’s less stress and easier on the budget.

One ingredient that I’ll need a lot of is chicken or veggie stock.  Of course I could go out and buy chicken broth already made in the can (or box) but I love to make my own.  It tastes better and doesn’t have all the extra additives such as salt, chemicals, etc.  Not to mention, it’s so easy to make and ends up being much cheaper and tastier than the stuff off the shelf anyway.  Since we spend so much time preparing great tasting food for the holidays, why compromise on something as simple as chicken stock?!

I make stock all year-long to use and just freeze it in the freezer in two cup portions.  That way I can make up a big pot of it and then have plenty to last a couple of weeks.  I also tend to use more veggies in my chicken stock than most people do, making it a combination of chicken and veggie stock.  One of the big advantages to making stock is that you can use pretty much whatever you have on hand.  Just toss everything in a large pot, add water, bring to a boil and then turn the burner down and allow everything to simmer for a few hours until the liquid is reduced to about half and you have stock.

Pouring Chicken and Veggie Stock into PotTo make pure chicken stock, use leg quarters (or you can use the whole chicken, but I find that a little expensive), add onions, garlic and herbs.  For the herbs, I like to use fresh but dried work as well.  Sage, thyme, basil and marjoram all work well in chicken stock (you can use the stems that you would normally throw away).  Some people like to add salt and sugar, but I prefer mine without.  It’s one of those calls that is completely up to you.  Sometimes I just use the carcass and the leftover bits such as the skin and bones added to veggies to make a light veggie/chicken stock (this is a great way to use up the pieces of chicken that you normally toss out anyway and still get to use the rest of the chicken for another dish).

For veggie stock, I save the kale, asparagus, broccoli and cauliflower stems (add pieces, if you have extra), carrots and potatoes that are not that fresh but are still good to use and other bits and pieces of veggies that are not good to use in regular dishes.  I always add onions, garlic and herbs.  Just chop everything up into the pot, don’t worry about peeling it or anything, this is about getting the flavors out, you’ll be straining off the big stuff and tossing it in the trash (or compost).  The pictures show a pot of stock on the stove cooking and then the finished product being poured in to make Chicken Noodle Soup.

There is no exact recipe to making stock, it’s simply throwing in the things you want and allow them to simmer long enough to make a flavorful stock to use in your cooking.  Strain everything out and you have stock.  The more of any one ingredient you add, the more that ingredient will flavor your stock.  You can make veggie, chicken, beef, fish, shrimp or even lobster stock, the choice is completely yours.  Place your stock in the fridge overnight, remove the fat layer the next day and you have stock ready to use (you can skip this step for the veggie stock).  I do recommend making stock and using it in the place of water in recipes.  It adds so much more flavor and yumminess to your dish.

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