Did you know most store bought broth (chicken, veggie, etc…) contains gluten? A few brands don’t, but rather than taking the chance – and spending the money – I just make my own stock. The flavor is much better and richer, and it is so easy!
Any critter with bones can be used to make stock, but I use whatever we’ve eaten recently. We froze the ham bone from Easter and I’ve used that for this batch.
It is so easy! The hardest part is that you have to be home all day, which for most of us homeschoolers is rare! (One of my friends calls it “car schooling” because we spend so much time running the roads!)
I have a pretty small stockpot. I want to get a much bigger one, but any deep pot will work. As you can see in the picture, mine has a drop in strainer. I don’t always use this, but it makes it easier to strain out the bones once they’ve given up all their goodness. I also have a metal tea bag in which I put the larger herbage – in this case, two bay leaves and half a cinnamon stick. When I am using a turkey or chicken carcass, I use sage and bay. You can use whatever spices and herbs you prefer…the only caveat being to be careful with salt. You are reducing this down and if you add salt in the beginning, it will be too salty at the end when the water has evaporated.
Add as much water as you can fit in the pot. Cover with a lid that has a steam hole or leave an opening for steam to escape – you want this to reduce. Simmer – don’t boil! – for 6-8 hours. The longer it simmers, the richer and thicker your stock will be.
When you’re done, cut the heat and let it come to room temperature. I usually start my stock first thing in the morning and cut if off at dinner time. Once it is room temperature, or at least cool enough to work with safely, strain it. I use a rice washing strainer that has tiny little holes to catch all of the pieces and chunks that bits of spices. I typically strain it at least twice. Running it through a cheesecloth covered colander also works well.
When you have the liquid strained, you then have to remove the excess fat from the liquid. Fat congeals and rises to the top when the liquid is cooled, so we can let plastic wrap do this job for us. Cover the stock with plastic wrap, laying the wrap touching on top of the stock. Then put another layer over to cover the pot. In the morning, when the stock is completely cooled, the fat will be stuck to the first layer of plastic wrap.
*Chicken fat is called “smaltz”, and is prized by chefs for its flavor. It can be used anywhere you would use butter or bacon fat. I throw it away because honestly, I’ve got enough fat of my own.*
The stock, when cold, should be jiggly like Jello. This is the gelatin from the bones that you simmered out all day before, and this is what gives stock that wonderful, rich, umame feeling in your mouth.
I store my stock in the freezer in two cup baggies. I fill the zip top bag with two cups of stock, squeeze out the air, and lay it flat in a baking pan. I typically get 6 bags out of a batch of stock (12 cups). Once the baggies are frozen, they are easy to stack and store because they are flat rectangles. I use a lot of stock so I don’t bother to date them, but if you don’t use it often you’ll want to put the type of stock it is and the date you froze it on the bag. It will last up to a year frozen.
You can also freeze the stock in ice cube trays and then store the frozen cubes in baggies for when you only need a tiny bit, like to loosen up a thick sauce.
Cost of home made stock = a couple pieces of plastic wrap and some zip top bags.
Cost of store bought chicken broth = up to $4/box (a box is about 2 cups).
You can use any type of animals or vegetables to make stock. I put in whatever I have. If I have half an onion sitting around, or some celery or carrots, I’ll add those. You can make stock from fish or shellfish by using the bones or exoskeleton, but they don’t have to simmer as long.
What can you use your stock for? Anywhere you’d use water, basically. I like to use it for cooking rice, adding to a casserole to loosen up the sauce, and of course, soup.
I hope I’ve inspired you to make your own stock rather than spending money on an inferior – and possibly allergen contaminated – product from the supermarket. It might be a little work to strain it all out, but the result is definitely worth it!