It always kind of amazes me that there are so many people of my generation (and younger) that have no idea how to make certain things from scratch and assume those things just come from the store. A good example of this is stock. Vegetable stock, chicken stock, beef stock... so many people think it comes in a can from Swanson and either don't know how to make it or think it is a huge time-consuming task.
The other day I was watching the Food Network and caught Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa) discussing her recipe for making stock. Now, I appreciate that Ina makes good food with high quality ingredients, but I find her show a disappointment for the average viewer because she lives such an elitist lifestyle and it shows in her food choices. Not too many of us can sit around nibbling crab cakes for a Sunday afternoon apperitif before moving onto the main course of fresh caught salmon steaks, with caviar and caper compote, arugula chantrelle salad and sherry trifle for dessert in December. Sorry Ina, but most people can't afford these things. So I stumbled across Ina showing how she would make a lovely chicken noodle soup for lunch using her own homemade chicken stock.
Ina's recipe for stock sounds delicious, but who can afford to use three whole chickens just to make broth? And piles of fresh veggies, and fresh bunches of herbs as well?
Here's my recipe for stock, it's simple, inexpensive, and yes it does take a lot of time, but like doing laundry, you're actual involvement in that time is negligible.
First of all you have to have a system in place for stock-making, the goal with stock is to use every part of the food and waste nothing, it is what poor people have done for decades to get the most flavor from their food. A good system involves a "Stock" bag in your freezer, to which you can add the leftovers of whatever mirepoix (meer-pwah) ingredients (that's carrots, onion, and celery) you use. The centers of celery with the short pale stalks, the ends of carrots, skins of onions... so long as these trimmings are not dirty or moldy they will work fine. Each time I use these vegetables in the kitchen, or if they start to fade before I can use them, I toss them into the "Stock" bag in the freezer. If my stock bag is slim I will fill in with fresh veggies, but I prefer to use the trimmings in the stock bag. Appearance of the veggies in this doesn't matter, you just need the flavors. I know this post isn't very garden related, but if you have a garden it's a great way to fill your stock bag, veggies that were nibbled by pests make a great addition to the stock bag, as well as those that bolted or became woody or failed to bulb (the flavor's still there, they just don't have the right texture or appearance). Why toss them in the compost when they can be used in stock?
|Stock bag from the freezer.|
|Veggies and herbs go into the pot.|
|Looks terrible, smells and tastes fabulous.|
|All set for a nice long simmer.|
|Reduced by half. 3-4 hours later.|
|Colander full of strained chunks.|
|Stock! Well, almost.|
|Ready for chilling overnight.|
|Fat separated to the top of the container.|
|Ready to freeze for chicken and dumplings!|