We are often asked why when there are all kinds of stock cubes and bottled substitutes available on the market would we even think about making a meat or vegetable stock—that surely this is some onerous task that has been rendered useless now. Using home-made stock in a soup or sauce adds a depth of flavor and builds such a character to the dish that anything else just becomes an imitation.
Time, of course, is the reason most people don't bother with stock making anymore it seems, yet with a little planning, a small amount of vegetable preparation, a stock will more or less take care of itself once on the stove. Vegetable stock is so simple, quick and easy to make it is not even worth freezer space, just make when needed. Likewise, a fish stock can be made and frozen, but as it takes little time to make is delicious made fresh. One to try that is simple to make and cheap would be an easy chicken stock recipe. If you're looking for more depth (or a good substitute for veal stock) then try the dark chicken stock recipe.
7 Tips for Successful Stocks
- Save chicken carcasses, beef, lamb or even fish bones. Wrap them up and freeze until you have sufficient to put the stock pot on. It is as easy to make a large pot of stock than to fiddle around with a small quantity, then the effort really becomes worthwhile.
- Never boil a stock; boiling makes a stock greasy and cloudy. This is especially important when making fish stock. Fish bones are very delicate and if boiled hard will result in a bitter tasting stock, far better to gently simmer for the shortest time possible to extract flavor only, not bitterness.
- Stock when ready must be cooled quickly to eliminate the risk of salmonella. Plunge the stockpot into a large sink or bucket filled with cold or iced water.
- Do not completely cover the pan while it is cooling as this turns a stock sour, leave the lid slightly ajar to help steam escape.
- Once cooled any excess fat will have settled on the top and can be easily removed with a spoon.
- Strain the stock and boil the liquid down until it is reduced to about a third, creating a wonderful concentrated stock.,
- Pack your stock into small containers and pop it into the freezer. You then have it to hand whenever a recipe calls for it. This helps make cooking more spontaneous when choosing a recipe you are not put off by the fact that stock is required.