making stock

i’ve been working on putting together some presentations for upcoming classes i’m teaching.  i often use the search feature on this blog to locate topics and photos so i can steal the images to use, knowing i have full rights to the images.

in doing so, i’ve really been surprised by the wealth of topics that i haven’t written on.  even though there is plenty of material, don’t expect me to be capitalizing on it any time soon.

with the little one around, we’ve found ourselves a little bit more domestic, doing much more than taking care of the basic household duties is sort of overwhelming.

i’m surprised that i’ve never written about making stock, one of my favorite ways to capitalize on undervalued scraps and ends in the kitchen and transform into something of value.  stock is the the compost of the kitchen, turning essentially trash into gold.  it’s real alchemy!

it’s also the base of so much good cooking, good stock is crucial to good soup, sauce, and is a wonderful addition to grains when cooking, adding depth of flavor.

in some ways this blog is an outgrowth of an unpublished zine called “kountry trash”  that never developed, that was almost 10 years ago.   one of the main articles was on making stock, so i’m considering this the opportunity to finally redeem myself for never publishing the zine.  i’m glad it’s taken so long to share this, as i feel i’m a much better stock maker than i was in my early days.

whenever i’m cooking i’m thinking about stock.  every scrap is potentially a good addition to the stock pot, but i have found you have to be selective.  some things work, others not so much, and believe me, i’ve tried some bad ideas; corn cobs, cabbage cores, pea shells, none of these should make it into the stock pot.  i’ve settled on a pretty select group of scraps that i like.  ones that i always save from the vegetable kingdom; carrot tops and skins, parsnip tops and skins, trimmings from celery, mushroom stems, parsley stems, parsley root tops and skins, celeriac trimmings, shallot skins.  those are my main ones – i like the flavor of potato skins, but it makes for a cloudy stock, which i’m not to into.  i avoid all of the brassicas (cabbage, broccoli, turnips etc), and chenopods (beets, swiss chard, spinach etc), but almost any of the  umbelliferaes (carrot, celery, parsley, etc)  are fair game, though fennel and cilantro need to be used with care as they add powerful flavor.  an onion skin or two is welcome, but too much can color the stock dark, i like the lighter color and milder flavor of shallots, and a stray lemon is always welcome too, but not more than one or two per stock pot.

all of this gets put in freezer bags and collected in the freezer for months at a time.  it barely makes a dent in my compost pile, but it adds up and usually in a couple of months i have a few bags of veggie scrapes ready for the stock pot.

you can of course use this to make veggie stock – which is always good, but i almost always have a bunch of bones and meat scraps kicking around the freezer too.  chicken stock is by far the most common stock for me to make, as we roast a chicken about once a month, other meat is in much smaller amounts and less common.  if you have smaller amounts of bones you can always make smaller amounts of stock in a small pot, the only issue is that small volumes are harder to keep at the low heat you need to use.

this last batch used three chicken carcasses, and lots of veggies, requiring me to pull the big stock pot out of the basement.

with all the scraps in the pot it’s time to add water.  i don’t like weak stock, so i try to minimize the amount of water added, just enough to cover everything.


i add some herbs, usually bay, thyme, some fresh parsley, and some pepper corns. you can adjust the herbs to suit the intended use, or leave them out for something neutral in flavor.

bring it slowly up to heat, and don’t let it come to a boil, bring to low, low simmer.  foam will usually arise, skim this off.  allow the stock to simmer uncovered for at least an hour, but longer if you like, i go for about 5 hours.strain

after it’s done cooking i strain it and chill it.  since it’s a good amount of hot liquid, and you don’t want to overwhelm the fridge,  let it cool down before putting it in, or if it’s cool outside just stick it outside to cool (just make sure you put a lid on it).porchcool

an amazing transformation will happen if the stock has plenty of gelatin in it, becoming semi solid, and the fat will had solidified on top.  scrape the fat off, use it too cook with if you like (and you should).  pack the stock in useful sizes; i pack some in 2 quart containers, some in 1 quart, and a bit in pints.  label put in the freezer and it will last for a long time, at least a year.

when using this stock recipe note that it has no salt in it, so you will need to add salt to recipes that you usually use commercial stock, which has plenty of salt.

i want to thank hugh fearnley-wittingstall “meat” book for great recommendations of making stock.

how do you reuse kitchen scraps in your household?


3 responses to “making stock

  1. This was very helpful. I have been making broth (and making that into soup if it lasts long enough before I eat it just like that) for about two years now (only chicken and turkey so far, but have some beef bones in the freezer). I feel like a total wasteful-wendy here. I have not been using the tops of carrots and haven’t been saving scraps at all. 😦 Well, you have given me inspiration and some food for thought in more ways than one. Thanks!!

  2. You can actually make good stock from corn cobs! I save a bunch of them (either from eating or after cutting the niblets off for freezing) to do all at once in a big pot. Start with 10 -12 cobs and enough water to cover them and just let them simmer until the water deceases by about half. Remove the cobs and continue to reduce to taste. It makes a great stock for chowders and creamy style veggie soups.

    I have less luck with regular veggie stock so I think I’ll keep your list handy to know what not to throw in.

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