We are asked all the time about stock making - how to do it, what to put in it, how long to cook it, etc. It's sometimes a hard conversation because there are so many different methods and techniques that often it comes down to preferences and how much time you have on your hands. But we're always here to helps, so let's talk about stock!
First, let's look at the classic technique for making stocks. This can be more time involved, but it also results in a richer stock with deeper flavor reduction. As always, we encourage you to understand the fundamentals of stock making, then move on to your preferred method.
What is a stock?
A gelatinous, flavorful liquid that is used in the preparation of sauces, soups, and bases for other recipes. A stock is produced by simmering bones, vegetables, herbs, and spices in a cooking liquid. The simmering process extracts flavor from the ingredients in the cooking liquid while allowing a reduction to take place. Reduction occurs when a liquid simmers for an extended period of time – reducing the amount of water while concentrating the flavor.
What is the composition on a stock?
A stock is comprised of 4 ingredients:
So – Using above as a template for stock:
4 # nourishing element (bones)
13 oz mirepoix (vegetables)
Bouquet Garni (aromatics)
1 gallon (8#) water
· Nourishing Element – The most important ingredient of a stock. This is where the flavor, nutrients, color, and most often gelatin come from. Gelatin is an essential part of a stock that is produced when the connective tissue in the bones break down. Gelatin is what gives a stock its body. If making a vegetable stock, vegetables will be your nourishing element. Vegetable stocks do not contain naturally occurring gelatin.
· Mirepoix – a mixture of roughly chopped vegetables used to add flavor, nutrients, and color to a stock. Mirepoix usually consists of equal parts and uniform pieces of: onion, celery, and carrot.
· Bouquet Garni – a sachet of parsley, thyme, bay leaves and peppercorns tied in cheesecloth and then inserted into the stock.
· Liquid – the largest portion of the stock. The liquid used to make the stock should be cold. This will allow for the maximum extraction of the flavors in the ingredients. The liquid component of a stock is usually water or a remouillage. A remouillage is the second weaker extraction of a stock. This is made from the strained ingredients from a stock, mixed with liquid and cooked again for ½ the time of the original stock.
The 5 Steps in Stock Production
Selecting a cold liquid, natural clarification, skimming, simmering, and straining. Cold liquid is necessary for stock production as cold water will release more flavor, also, as the bones and collective tissue breakdown they will release albumin. Albumin can naturally clarify a liquid by coagulating impurities in the liquid. Simmering a stock (not boiling) promotes the natural clarification process performed by albumin. Skimming, or depouillage, means to remove the impurities from the stock. This is done by routine skimming of fat and other impurities from the top of the stock with a ladle. Simmering the stock between 185-200 degrees allows for the stock to properly clarify and fortify. Straining the stock is done by ladling liquid from the stock through a cheesecloth lined strainer.
Preparation of White, Brown, Fish, and Vegetable Stocks
White Stock (fond blanc) – Simmer the mirepoix and bouquet garni with the nourishing element. White stocks are colorless and produce a mostly clear stock.
Brown Stock (fond brun) – Made with any nourishing element. The difference is in a brown stock the nourishing element and the vegetables are roasted, and usually painted with tomato paste to add some acidity.
Fish Stock (fond poisson) – Only use bones from lean fish or shellfish. Do not use carrots in a fish stock as it will color it. Fish stocks do not simmer as long as a meat stock.
Vegetable Stock (fond legume) – Use vegetables with a basic color and a neutral flavor. Combine the vegetables with herbs and spices complimentary to the dish you are going to create with it. Do not use stronger or cruciferous vegetables – the strong flavor can overpower other flavors so your stock will be out of balance.
Cooking Times for Stocks
Beef Stock – 6-8 hours
Chicken Stock – 3-4 hours
Fish Stock - 2-3 hours
Vegetable Stock - 45 minutes-1 ½ hours
So, to sum it up - to make a traditional stock, add your bones, mirepoix, bouquet garni and water to a pot, bring it to a slow boil, then turn down and let simmer for the time listed. Skim as needed and add water if the stock gets too reduced. See why it's so hard to give an exact recipe? Stock making is a method, not a recipe, so it is more dependent on outside variables. And remember - a traditional stock will get gelatinous and thick when cooled - this is a good thing!
Now, it's time to talk a little bit about realistic stock making at home. We understand that not everyone had 6-8 hours to roll a beef stock at home. So there are ways to make it a little faster and easier. Here are some of my favorite tips and tricks:
· Don't throw away your veggie trimmings, chicken and beef bones or seafood shells. Place them into a baggie and freeze them until you have time for stock. When you're ready, just pour the items into a stockpot and bring them to a slow boil. Turn down and simmer until the stock has good flavor. In order to develop flavor quickly, start with less water.
· Take this one step farther, and instead of "stock" think soup starter. Put things together that would make a great soup base. Making salsa? Save your tomato pulp, onion trimmings, jalapeno and pepper peels and add them to chicken bones to make a great Tortilla Soup Starter. One of my all-time favorites is Chicken & Fennel. It makes a great base! So while you can't use them with everything like a stock, they will reduce waste and make a great soup.
· Use your pressure cooker (somewhere Dave is shaking his head...). But it can make an amazing, gelatinous stock in 30 minutes. Just add whole, bone in, skin-on chicken with the mirepoix, bouquet garni and water to the fill line. Turn on high pressure for 30 minutes and let the pressure cooker do the work. If you have a strainer basket that fits in your pressure cooker, make it even easier by placing the chicken, veggies and herbs into the basket. That way when it's done you can just lift it out. You'll also end up with tender, juicy chicken meat to use for a recipe and it will fall right off the bone. TIP: Only use the natural release method, NEVER quick release!!
· Make sure to avoid these ingredients when making stock: Red onions, cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, Brussel's Sprouts, Broccoli or Cauliflower or spicy peppers - unless you want spicy stock.
We hope this makes you think about making your own stocks at home! Here are some of our favorite soup recipes that you can use with your delicious homemade stocks: