Guest Blogger Rob Heidenreich
Good quality stock or broth is the foundation for making delicious soup. Although many people buy broth in a carton, stocks and broths are easy and inexpensive to make from scratch. Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind when you make soup stock at home:
1. Choose an appropriate pot for the amount of bones you have. If you have a massive stockpot and only one chicken carcass, you will not end up with a flavourful stock. Similarly, do not try to cram too much into a small pot since bones and vegetables sticking up out of the liquid will not release any flavour. As a rough guideline, the total quantity of bones and vegetables should half fill the pot.
2. Choose fresh, quality aromatic vegetables for your stock. Essential for any stock preparation is the traditional French mirepoix (celery, carrots, onions), but many other vegetables (celeriac, parsnips, leeks, bulb fennel, etc.) make wonderful additions when used in small quantities.
3. Prepare the vegetables to be used in the stock according to the amount of time the stock will be simmered. The longer the cooking time, the larger the pieces of vegetable.
4. Always fill your pot with cold water and bring the ingredients up to a simmer slowly. Starting with cold water and slow-simmering allows for maximum extraction of flavour. Likewise, if you wish to keep the stock clear, do not allow it to boil rapidly and skim the surface of the stock while it simmers to remove fat and impurities.
5. Remember never to add salt to any stock before it is finished. Strongly seasoned stock can’t be reduced to make sauces and glazes without becoming too salty.
6. When considering herbs, add only the more subtle-flavoured varieties such as parsley, thyme and bay leaf.
7. The amount of time the stock is left to bubble depends on the type of bones you use. As a guideline, think six to eight hours for beef and veal, one and a half to three hours for chicken, and no more than 30 to 40 minutes for fish bones.
8. Allow the simmered broth to settle before carefully straining it. For maximum clarity, line a sieve or conical strainer with several layers of cheesecloth (a coffee filter will do in a pinch) and ladle the liquid through it into a sanitized container.
9. Cool the stock quickly to avoid the growth of bacteria: Set the pot in a sink with something underneath to allow the flow of cool water under the pot as well as around it.
10. Finally, if you’re not going to use all the finished stock for soup, it’s a good idea to freeze it. I like to portion stock into small containers so that I don’t have to thaw more than I need for a particular recipe. It’s a good idea to use muffin tins (or even ice-cube trays for highly concentrated stocks) to produce easy-to-use ”stock pucks” for adding to sauces or stews.
Dana’s tip: I freeze the carcass every time I make roast chicken in freezer bags. When I have three, I pull them out and use these bones as the basis for a big pot of chicken stock.