Posted by: edibleplanet | October 1, 2009

Making stock – it’s not as hard as you think

Recently we have been trying to be thrifty, moral citizens and buy our chicken whole, unfrozen and free-range. We cut it up into portions (you can get 8 of them) and put them in the freezer. Aside from the wonderful flavour of chicken that has been reared properly and cooked with the bones in, we have a carcass that we can make into stock.

We have really got into our stock making. If all you have ever tried is the stock from the supermarket, then it is worth giving this a go. Sometimes we roast the carcass for extra roasty flavour, sometimes we just bung it in the pot. You can use all the bones and leftover bits from a roast (even if the bones have been nibbled – it’s going to boil for hours anyway). We sometimes make beef stock from the t-bones left over from a steak dinner. A bone from a lamb roast is perfect too – take all the leftover meat off and get a stock on the go.

Water is added to cover the meat and then we normally add our mirepoix (stock vegetables – onion, carrot, celery).

Celery normally comes from the garden, but here’s the cool bit!! None of the veges need to be in good condition. Bendy carrots? Chuck ’em in! Limp celery? Get it in there! You could even see that the celery was going limp, throw it in the freezer and then add it to your stock later. Onions can be biffed in skins and all, leeks can go in there, any tired herbs can be used. Just about the only thing that you shouldn’t use are brassicas like cabbage and brocolli.

We normally throw in some aromatics as well. Black peppercorns are a must, and always, always a couple of bay leaves. Juniper berries often find their way into the stock too. The thing we don’t add is salt! Stocks aren’t supposed to be salty. You should be seasoning any dish the stock is added to anyway, and you’d lose a lot of control of your seasoning if you dumped a load of salt in there with the stock.

Once you have the pot loaded up, you simmer it very, very gently for hours. We set ours going just after dinner and it bubbles away gently to itself all evening. We turn it off and sit it outside in a safe place just as we go to bed, in the cold, so any fat solidifies and sits on the surface.

I never really “got” stocks when I first tried to make them. I couldn’t understand how this watery dishwater was the thing that all the top chefs were raving about, and why people bothered with them. Then I discovered the secret to good stocks—REDUCE THEM!

In the morning, the stock gets skimmed to remove the fat and drained. All the bits from the pot get a good squeeze in the sieve to get the last bits of liquid and flavour from them, then the stock goes back onto the stove at a very high heat to reduce by at least half. If you can be bothered to reduce more then it’s worth it. Not only does it make the stock easier to store, it massively concentrates all those wonderful flavours that you were after in the first place. You can always add more water later if it is too intense. I can have the stock reduced before it’s time to leave for work 🙂

Give stock making a go! It takes ages, but most of the time the stocks take care of themselves on the stove, and you aren’t actually doing anything towards them.

— Karl



  1. Karl

    Risking a stupid question – why shouldn’t brassicas be used in making stock?

    • Not a stupid question – brassicas can make the stock taste bitter (especially if they are a bit past their prime), and they also contribute a distinctive boiled cabbagey, slightly ‘farty’ smell. Not too pleasant.

      But there’s no rules, and I haven’t tried all the different combinations and permutations. Maybe fresh brassicas, and in small amounts would be a good plan. We often end up with chunks of bendy broccoli and cauli in the bottom of the fridge and these aren’t so good in stock (you can make nice soup from them though).

  2. Hi, I had my first attempt at cutting up a whole chicken and while it didn’t go all wrong I wasn’t amazed at my efforts. I plan to have a go at making stock with the frame (which is still rather meaty). If you are having a demo on butchering fowl I’d be keen to see it done.

    • Heh. The key seems to be very sharp knives! I’d be happy to show you how to cut one up at some stage (let me know when you next have one to slice up).

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