Friday, April 29

In the kitchen: homemade stock

Making stock is one of the easiest things you can do to give your meals that extra little "something." It's rewarding, too - not only do you get less salt and no preservatives (as compared to the store-bought kind), you get to recycle food waste and save money: a big pot of chicken stock costs less than $5.

I keep a couple of large ziplock bags in the freezer, and as I'm cooking I take the veggie scraps that would normally be composted - onion skins, garlic papers, carrot scrapings, leek greens, celery stalks, parsley ends, thyme branches - and put them into the bags. I also save the shells from prawns in a separate bag for prawn stock.

Once the bags are full it's time to make stock. I dump the veggies into a big pot and see what I'm low on - if there aren't enough carrots or onions I'll chop up a few and toss them in, or add in a few stalks of celery. It's a great way to use up limp and tired vegetables that were forgotten in the crisper.

One thing I never put in my stock are any of the "farty" vegetables, like broccoli, cauliflower, peppers etc. They just have the wrong flavour, as far as I'm concerned.

Chicken, turkey or pork stock
2-3 lbs chicken necks and breast bones or pork neck bones or turkey wings (wings taste the best and you only need 2-3)

Put the bones and veggies into a large pan and roast in the oven for 1-2 hours - they should be golden brown when you take them out. Add a bay leaf, six peppercorns, a few sprigs of fresh thyme and a few pieces of allspice. Cover with about 2 inches of water and set to simmer.* After a few hours (this can be anywhere from 2-4; it depends on how thick/rich you want your stock to be) strain the stock. I reserve a jar for the fridge to use over the next few days, and freeze the rest in two-cup portions.

Prawn stock
One large or medium size ziplock bag stuffed with prawn shells

Put the prawn shells and veggies into a large pan and roast for about an hour at 350 degrees. Remove from stove, add in a diced tomato or the ends from several tomatoes. Cover with 1-2 inches of water and set to simmer. I let this one cook down quite a bit so that the flavour is extra rich. It can be frozen for later use, or else I use it right away in a prawn bisque or seafood curry.

Veggie stock
You can roast your veggies in the oven or just put them right on the stove covered with water - either way works. Add in the same spices as for chicken stock. Freeze or keep in the fridge for use during cooking.

  • Add lemon grass and one piece star anise to any of these for a stock that can be used for Thai or Vietnamese dishes.
*A slow cooker is also great for making stock - just roast everything as usual and then put it all into the cooker, covering with water and cooking on low for 6-8 hours.

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