Homemade stock is the good cook's secret weapon. They impart a rich flavor to your dishes and allow you to get every last shred of goodness out of bits of foods that would otherwise be discarded or composted, such as bones and vegetable peels. Stocks can be made for the cost of the fuel to cook them, a significant savings over store-bought stocks or broths. Making your own stock also allows you to make custom flavors and to use as little salt as you want (prepared stocks are often very high in salt). And in case you're wondering, the terms "stock" and "broth" mean the same thing in the U.S.—a clear liquid made by cooking foods in water to extract their flavors.
I keep a couple of large containers in my freezer, one for bones and the other for veggie trimmings, and add to them as I have things available: a handful of carrot peelings and tops, a lone and wrinkled stalk of celery or a few green beans, pea pods, the papery outer layers of onion and garlic, mushroom stems, apple cores and peels, herb stems—all things that are destined for the compost but still have flavor and nutrition to offer before they go. The only veggie trimmings I don't save are eggplant (as it can lend a bitter flavor), citrus trimmings (ditto the bitter), large quantities of cabbage-type veggies (they have an overwhelming flavor), or more than a few hot pepper trimmings (unless I'm in a spicy mood). Since I'm going to boil the dickens out of the hodge podge, I save items off our dinner plates (chicken leg bones, baked potato skins, corncobs) and store them in the bags in the freezer along with everything else.
Making stock is not an exact science: You can make it from just about any meat or fish leftovers, fruit and veggie trimmings, or any combination of them. Use the recipes that follow as guides, but feel free to use whatever you have at hand in addition to, or instead of, any of the suggested ingredients.
Chicken or Turkey Stock (about 1 quart)
1 to 2 pounds organic chicken or turkey bones, raw or cooked, fresh or frozen
1 bay leaf (optional)
2 to 4 cups celery, carrot, and onion skins and trimmings, fresh or frozen (optional)
6 cups water
Pick any edible tidbits of meat off the bones, and put them aside in the fridge/freezer for later use in soup. Place the bones, your optional ingredients, and water in a large pot. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down as low as the burner will go, cover, and simmer for at least an hour or as long as 12 hours, adding a little water now and then to keep the water level over the bones. One hour of cooking time is sufficient to extract most of the flavor; longer simmering helps extract more of the natural gelatin from the joints and minerals from the bones. Such long-cooked stock is sometimes called "bone broth" and is considered very health promoting; the bones are full of minerals and the dissolved cartilage is said to be helpful for folks with joint problems like arthritis.
Published on: December 1, 2010
Updated on: November 16, 2012