If you make soups, stews, risotto or pho, homemade stock is a game changer. It is so simple to make stock your own from things you would usually throw away. Once you get into the habit of making your own you’ll never look back. Your food will taste better, you’ll save money, and your health will benefit. Homemade bone broth or stock is rich in protein, gelatine and collagen, making it wonderful for repairing the gut, maintaining joint health and plumping the skin.
Let me tell you how easy it is…
First, what is the difference between stock and broth?
In England we say stock, in the US most people refer to broth. I use the terms pretty interchangeably, but to be correct, both have the same starting point (liquid produced from simmering meat or vegetable scraps) but broth has been seasoned with salt afterwards and stock is unseasoned. I prefer my stock to be unseasoned so that I can season the finished dish myself.
Buying stock and broth
So many of us have got used to buying stock and broth that we don’t realise how good the homemade stuff is. In England it is pretty easy to find ‘fresh’ stock in the chiller with meat, but even that isn’t as good as home-made. In America I struggle to find fresh stock in the supermarket. Most stock here comes in cartons which take up a ton of space in the cupboard and, more importantly, just don’t taste good.
Look at the ingredients on even an organic bought broth/stock and you’ll see some weird things in there –yeast extract, colour, preservatives, lots of salt. Homemade stock is pure, simple and has a true flavor of what it is made from. It gives you more control over the flavour of the finished dish too. No comparison.
Making your own liquid gold from things you’d usually throw away
Get in the habit of using your freezer as a store cupboard for the ingredients for future stocks. (Look away now vegetarians) I admit, mine does sometimes look like the freezer of a serial killer as I have a few large bags of chicken bones in there ready to be turned into stock when I have enough of them.
Whenever you have cooked chicken on the bone – even rotisserie chicken, simply throw the bones (but not the skin) in a Ziploc (or any other brand zip topped plastic freezer bag) until you have enough bones to fill a gallon (3.7 liter) bag. I am not asking you to go as far as my Great Aunt Joyce who has been known to sneak bones off the plates of our family en route to the kitchen after dinner! They are going to be boiled so actually a bone that has been gnawed by family gives her no qualms. You may think otherwise.
I also keep vegetable trimmings in another Ziploc in my freezer – carrot ends, leek trimmings, floppy carrots or celery stalks, spring [green] onions and parsley that is too limp to eat. Avoid cruciferous vegetables though as they make stock musty.
To make chicken stock from leftover roast chicken bones:
Place the bones of the leftover roast chicken in a large pan or stockpot with any vegetables you have, such as onions, carrots and celery (see proportions in vegetable stock recipe), and cover with cold water.
Bring to a simmer, cover with a lid and cook gently (don’t boil) for 2-8 hours depending what time allows. As a general rule, the longer it can simmer, the better the flavor will be. If I’m heading out I put the pot in the oven at 100C/200F for 8 hours to allow it to bubble away and make stock while I do other things.
When the cooking time is up, place a large strainer or sieve over a large deep bowl and strain the broth through it. This is the messiest bit. Discard the bones and either store the stock for 3-4 days in the fridge, or freeze and use from frozen when needed. (see below for details on how to store).
Your chilled stock will be gelatinous so don’t worry, that is the collagen that is so good for your gut and skin – it melts to liquid as it heats again. Delish.
To make vegetable stock
A good vegetable stock should have something from the onion family (leeks are fine), carrots (but not too many as they will make the stock overly sweet), fennel trimmings, and celery (for earthiness). I usually include a bunch of parsley stems too. It should have a fairly neutral, savory flavor.
Either use a full gallon (3.7 liter) bag of mixed vegetable trimmings from your freezer (see above) or use the following guide and increase proportionately to suit your needs.
Take an onion, chopped in quarters, plus 2 whole carrots, 3 sticks of celery and around 20 stems of parsley. Cover them with boiling water (about 3 inches above the veg) and simmer on a low heat for around an hour. Then strain and store as per the chicken stock recipe above. Less water will give you a more concentrated stock.
Storing your liquid gold
Always be sure to label your stock when you’re freezing it. That way you won’t accidentally put chicken stock in oatmeal thinking it is apple sauce like I once did! Homemade stock can be frozen in a few ways:
- Ziploc Write the type of stock and quantity on your bag before you fill it. Put the bag inside a jug before filling then seal and freeze, sitting in a bowl just in case of leakage. Once it is frozen the bag can be taken out of the bowl and left in the freezer. If you are very sure of your bags, you can lay the bag of liquid flat in the freezer and create your own thin sheets of frozen stock, which defrost super-fast and take up less space.
- Mason jar Put the stock into glass jars, leave a little space at the top as the liquid will expand as it freezes.
- Plastic containers Put cooled stock into any plastic freezer containers, leave a little space at the top as the liquid will expand as it freezes.