Stock is pretty important in our household - we seem to go through litres of the stuff. My husband was not brought up with stock cubes, so finds stock made with Oxo very suspicious. The Oxo cubes are hidden behind some of the more random spices in our household for secret, mainly gravy making, purposes!
There are some great commercial stocks on the market, the Essential Cuisine ones are really good. However for everyday use we have stock in our freezer.
There can be quite a pleasing smug feeling having your own stock in the freezer, "Oh look, I'll use my homemade stock." However for us it is a convenience thing as it is the most ridiculously easy thing to make, costs just about nothing and is the basis of some of my easiest meals. Stock gets boiled up in one of my favourite Christmas presents from four years ago. I remember my husband carefully buying a non-domestic present (which I've temporarily forgotten) to ensure that I didn't feel too much like a 1950's housewife. Our stock pot is awesome, and we use it all the time.
One of the most satisfying things I do meal wise is to roast some meat on Sunday, freeze sliced layers of the meat and make stock from the bones. Later in the week we use the meat and stock for soup. Yum.
Uses for stock:
- Mix half a cup with cornflour and put through a stirfry to make the veges take on that glossy sheen that takeaways from the shop have.
- Add in some sliced meat, a handful of brocolli, some spring onions and quick cook noodles (like udon) and you have a really easy and cheap meal.
- Freeze in ice cubes and use when you need to add some flavoursome liquid to cooking.
- Great to use as the liquid when making baby food purees
- Making your freezer work efficiently! Freezers work best when they are full, and our freezer must be very efficient as it is always full of containers of stock!
First of all you need to gather the ingrediants. You can go and buy the ingrediants for stock if you want, but it is less work to use scraps/ by-products of other meals. We make two kinds of stock, light and dark. Light is from bones from poultry (and often pork for flavour). Dark is mainly from beef, and sometimes pork bones are added for flavour. Bones with cartilage still on them work best.
Everytime we have a roast or some kind of meat with bones in we consider if the bones can be kept for stock. We put these bones in clear seal bags or plastic containers in the freezer. We also keep and freeze vege scraps. Awesome scraps for stock include: tops of carrots, celery ends, those little peels from mushrooms, ends of courgette, spring onions. Vege scraps that might be a bit too flavoursome (but use if you want) include brocolli and asparagus. I've used potato peelings, but don't like too use too much potato because it can break down with the long cooking time and infiltrate the stock too much.
Once you have a good collection it is stock making time. Some recipes for stock advise roasting the bones before turning them into stock. The reason for this is improved colour and (often stated) improved flavour. I can't tell the difference in taste, but have noticed a colour difference. My make-do philosophy means no extra work without great benefit so I don't roast the bones. You can also add the following for extra flavour if you want: a knob of ginger, three or four whole black peppercorns and a clove of garlic (not too much).
I fill up the stockpot with water and add the bones and vege scraps. You can also use a crockpot or a lidded container in the oven. If putting in a stockpot you want to set the temperature as hot as possible without boiling (I realise this is a rather infuriating instruction). You want to avoid the stock boiling. Simmer for ages, at least two hours.
To drain I tend to use a slotted spoon to remove the vege scraps and bones and leave to cool. If you want crystal clear stock then you need to either clarify it or strain it really well. You can strain through a clean chux cloth or muslin. There are cool techniques to clarify the stock involving whisking with egg whites. I have never in my life done this, and can't envision a situation when I would need crystal clear stock.
If I'm in a hurry to freeze it then I throw in some ice cubes (a large stock pot load can take a couple of hours to cool down). I freeze it in lots of different sized containers (whatever will fit).
- Use pig trotters or oxtail bones. These will produce a rather fatty stock, and one that will set when cold. This is the gelatine. I remove the layer of fat that hardens on cooling and then have a delicious stock.
- My ramen post links to a delicious ramen stock. Essentially, I made stock with heaps of pig trotters, chicken frames and added caramalised garlic, ginger and onions. The stock smelled fragrant, and had a nice pale brown colour.