Stock from Scratch.
My life changed when I learned how to make stock. Seriously! I know that sounds totally dramatic, but I have made so many yummy soups & stocks out of leftovers which is a great way to save money and eat really well at the same time.
I remember the first time I made stock from scratch, I was living in Hawaii and helping out in a kitchen for an organization called YWAM. We had just served a huge Thanksgiving dinner to our students and staff and there were significant leftovers. Looking at all the turkey and veggie trimmings, I was thinking, what in the heck am I going to do with all that? We had 6 leftover carcasses and a significant amount of veggie peels and ends, and I didn’t feel right throwing it all away. My friend who worked the kitchen with me suggested we make soup which sounded like a great idea… but how do we turn this all into soup? Neither one of us had a clue. I called up my brother who was a chef at the time, and he walked me through making my first stock from scratch. That was some of the best soup I have ever had, and we received compliment after compliment. We were able to feed over 100 people from the leftovers. It is actually a pretty fun memory for me from so many years ago, and that leftover turkey soup experience forever changed the way I looked at cooking. After that, soup from scratch was my thing.
Why make your own stock?
Homemade stock or broth is actually a cook’s secret weapon. I love using my homemade stocks for gravies and soups. It brings rich flavor to your dishes and allows you to get every last shred of goodness out of the leftovers that would otherwise be thrown away, such as bones, meat scraps, and vegetable peels. Stocks are inexpensive since they are made from items you already have. Making your own stock also gives you the freedom to play around with flavors, herbs, and levels of salt. Most store-bought stocks are high in sodium and packed with preservatives and “natural flavors” that are not all that natural.
Instead of throwing my trimmings away, I keep a few large bags in my freezer, one for bones and the other for veggie trimmings, and add to them as I have things available. What do I mean by veggie trimmings? If I make a salad and have cut the ends off a carrot and peeled it, I save that and put it in the container. Other veggies to never throw away…a little stalk of celery or a few green beans, pea pods, the papery outer layers of onion and garlic, mushroom stems, apple cores and peels, herb stems—all things that are destined for the trash. Even though you wouldn’t want to eat them as they are, they all still have great flavor and nutrition to provide. Sometimes I even save the uneaten items off my kiddo’s plate. It’s not gross, I promise! You are going to boil it all down anyways. I don’t like to let food go to waste.
Making stock is not an exact science: You can make it from just about any meat or fish leftovers, fruit and veggie trimmings, or any combination of them. Use the following recipes as a general guide, but feel free to play around with them.
Chicken or Turkey Stock
- 1 to 2 pounds organic chicken or turkey bones, raw or cooked, fresh or frozen
- 1 bay leaf and any herbs you’d like to add (optional)
- 2 to 4 cups celery, carrot, onion, and garlic skins and trimmings, fresh or frozen
- A splash of apple cider vinegar (optional)
- 6 cups water
Pick any edible pieces of meat off the bones and put them aside in the fridge/freezer for later use in soup. Put the bones and all your other ingredients in the water and bring to a boil. Let boil for a few minutes and then turn the heat down as low as the burner will go, cover, and simmer for at least an hour (up to 12 hours). If you plan to simmer it more than a few hours you will want to add a little water now and then to keep the water level over the bones. One hour of cooking time is enough to draw great flavor; longer simmering helps extract more of the natural gelatin from the joints and minerals from the bones. This type of stock is called “bone broth” and is very good for your gut health.
When your stock has cooked as long as you want it to, let it cool slightly and strain it into another large container. Discard the bones and veggie remains. If a clear stock is important to you, strain it again through a coffee filter or a couple of layers of cheesecloth, but I don’t personally ever strain my stocks.
As your stock cools, the fat will rise and solidify on the surface, making it easy to remove. You will want to remove that layer. I usually just use a ladle. If you’ve used organic chicken or free-range chicken, save the fat and use it in place of butter or olive oil for sautéing, (the fat is where the healthy omega-3s are found). If you started with a conventional chicken, discard the solidified fat (it is very low in omega-3s, pesticides tend to be concentrated in it)
- 3 pounds organic beef bones (ask the butcher to break them open or to cut them into 1-inch slices to expose the marrow)
- 1 sprig thyme and 1 small bunch parsley (optional)
- 2 to 4 cups veggie trimmings, fresh or frozen (optional)
- 6 cups water
Spread the beef bones in the bottom of an oven-safe pot or Dutch oven and roast uncovered at 450 degrees, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until well browned. Move the pot to the stovetop and add the remaining ingredients. Bring the stock to a boil, then turn the heat down as low as the burner will go, cover, and simmer for at least an hour or as long as 12 hours. Remember to add water when simmering longer than a few hours. Cool and strain as you would chicken stock. Save the fat if you used pastured, organic beef, as it will be higher in omega-3s, but discard the fat if you used conventional beef bones; it’ll be higher in pollutants. Here is a great bone broth recipe: Homemade Collagen Bone Broth
- 6 to 12 cups veggie trimmings and peels (fresh or frozen), and/or whole veggies scrubbed clean (but not peeled) and cut into
- 1-inch or smaller chunks
- 6 cups water
A classic veggie stock is traditionally made with onions, celery, and carrots but this is not a hard and fast rule. I have been creative with my veggie stocks. My stocks are very rarely the same since I have a tendency to just throw stuff into the pot. Hah! It is actually really fun to play around with different veggies and flavors. One of my favorite stocks happened when I experimented with apples and cinnamon in a chicken stock. Anyways, place your veggies/veggie trimmings you have decided to use and your water in a large pot, bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Cool and strain.
Tip: For great flavor, either roast the veggie chunks with a little olive oil in a 450-degree oven, stirring occasionally, for 30 to 45 minutes until they are nice and brown before putting them in the pot or sauté everything in a little olive oil in the bottom of the pot until soft and translucent before adding the water.
Storing Your Stocks
Use your stock right away and turn it into amazing soup, or you can store it in glass jars in the fridge and use it within a week. If you can’t use it all. It is OK to freeze it as well. I also use stock instead of water to cook rice or other whole grains and reduced it to make yummy sauces and gravy.
Tip: Freeze stock in one- and two-cup containers for cooking and as ice cubes for seasoning. Freeze the cubes in a stainless or silicone ice cube tray, and pop them out into a larger container for storage. When you need an extra flavor boost, add one or two cubes to your dish.