Cooking Basics: DIY Stock

I love making my own broths and cooking stocks. It is a simple task, that requires little attention, and saves us a little money. I use broth when making soups, stews or cooking meat in the crock pot, as well as in lieu of water when cooking lentils or grains. I find using a broth instead of water adds an extra layer of flavor.

Want to know the difference between a stock and a broth? Stocks are made with bones and connective tissue only, no actual meat. A broth is when meat has been cooked in the liquid. By this definition, technically most homemade stocks are actually broths, because it’s a big job to make sure you get all the meat off of a bone — and in my house, I don’t even try. Why bother? It’s just more flavor, right?

Anyway, broth or stock, making your own is seriously simple. Every time I cook, I save the vegetables scraps and any chicken or pork bones. (If you’re vegetarian, or just want a vegetable-only stock, just skip the bone part!) I keep them in a gallon-size resealable bag in the freezer. Once the bag is bulging full of broth-to-be goodness, it’s time!

What kind of vegetables can I save?
Ah yes. This is an important question, because some vegetables impart little to no flavor, others will overpower, and others are just downright essential. You should always save celery, carrot and onion bits, those are truly crucial as building blocks for a good stock. Avoid vegetables that will overpower, or leave a bitter taste, like broccoli or hot peppers. Don’t put in greens that could leave a slimy texture, and avoid thickeners like Okra.

Onions, carrots, shallots, garlic scapes, sweet peppers, ribs from kale or collards, and so on – those are all great bits to save for your stock.

A note on seasonings
I recommend that you leave all herbs and spices out of your stock when you make it. Even salt and pepper, and here’s why. Leaving your stock bland means you can use it in pretty much any dish, and you don’t have to worry about how it will effect the dish you’re making. You won’t be adding extra sodium to an already seasoned dish, or clashing flavors. If you really want to make pre-seasoned broths, make separate batches, and be sure to label them so you know what’s what.

Let’s get started!
I take the bag and dump the entire contents (often, still frozen), into a large stock pot. As with all the best, classic recipes, there is no true measurements made. I add enough water to cover all of my ingredients about 4″.

Bring the water to a boil, then reduce to low heat and allow to simmer. Do NOT put the lid on your pot, as this prevents the steam from escaping, and your broth won’t reduce. A good broth should reduce by at least half. This concentrates the flavor and makes for a more rich stock. I typically find that it takes about 3-5 hours, with very occasional stirring, to make. It’s great for a day when you’re going to be home, cleaning or working on projects and can pop in to check on the progress now and again.

Once the stock is finished, strain well and either keep in the fridge (good for about 3 days), or freeze. I like to pour mine into ice cube trays, this way have little bouillon cubes I can easily toss in when needed. I keep the frozen cubes in a resealable bag or container in the freezer, with a little label so I remember which is vegetarian and which isn’t.

Simple, right? You save money using leftover bits that you probably wouldn’t have had any other use for, aside from the compost pile. Enjoy!


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