Stock Talk

“A Jewish woman had two chickens. One got sick, so the woman made chicken soup out of the other one to help the sick one get well.”-Henny Youngman

Soup may be one of the most beloved comfort foods throughout the world, and making it at home is well worth the modest effort. When the winter winds are blowing, the aroma of a simmering stock permeating your kitchen will warm your heart. Whether you are making a deluxe lobster bisque, Grandma’s Scotch Broth or Jewish penicillin, the secret to the best soups is the stock.

Making a great stock is easy, nutritious and economical. One look at the ingredients of store bought broth will have you scratching your head in confusion, and a taste of it will usually induces convulsions brought on by salt overdose. And when you consider the pathetic and dubious provenance of the protein that went into that Lot’s Wife can of store-bought stock, it is unlikely you will shell out your hard earned shekels for it, let alone feed it to your family.

You can purchase beef bones or chicken carcasses from your butcher for a song. Buy bones or carcasses from butchers who sell ethically raised meat. It is tastier, and better for you, the environment, and you know the animal had a better life.

Here are a few simple recipes for basic stocks, and they are all so good you may just want to eat it in a bowl as is.

Beef Stock

makes  two to three 750 ml containers.

4 pounds beef bones

1 onion,

1 carrot

2 stalks celery

1 tsp peppercorns

2 or 3 bay leafs

water to cover, about 5 litres

Cut veggies into chunks and roast with the bones at 375 F for 45 min. Add bay leaf and peppercorns to water and bring to simmer. Add bones and veggies and simmer partly covered for at least 3 hours, occasionally skim to remove flotsam and jetsam. As you will lose a fair amount of water during the lengthy simmer, add water to keep solids covered. This of course will dissolve more of what you want from the veggies and bones. Don’t worry that it will be too watery, you will reduce it later anyway after straining.

Strain. Depending on how strong you wish your stock, return the strained stock to your stove and reduce to taste. 750 ml yogurt containers are great storage containers for your stock.  Leave the fat layer on it as it “seals” the stock. Furthermore, it is easier to remove the solidified layer of fat after the stock cools. Don’t remove all of it though; a little fat is a good thing. Use within 1 week or freeze.  (Hint: label and date the container)

Chicken Stock

Same as above, but substitute 3 chicken carcasses for beef bones. Roast chicken and mirepoix at 375 for 35 minutes, and simmer for 2 hours straining occasionally. Strain, return to heat and reduce to taste. Store as above.

Lobster Stock

Whenever we have lobster, we save the shells and make lobster stock the next day. The shells from three 2-3 pound lobsters makes a flavourful stock which can be used for bisques and you will never make another clam chowder without it. The procedure is the same as above, with the exception that there is no fat layer (see how simple this is?)

Concentrate

Ok, you can stop concentrating now. Whenever making stocks, we reduce a small batch of it to produce a very strong stock essence, which we freeze in ice cube trays then store in zip lock bags. By itself, this concentrate would be too strong, but pop a couple into your gravies or stews for a quick and convenient hit of flavour.

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