A key to flavor in low budget cooking

Stock. Chicken stock, turkey stock, venison stock, beef stock, fish stock, or vegetable stock. STOCK STOCK STOCK! My kitchen wouldn't be complete without it. Stock and broth are two different things, by the way. This blog entry is about STOCK!

I have yet to master vegetable stock or even touch on fish stock, so I'm not going to talk about those. Chicken and turkey stocks are my favorite and I use them almost exclusively.

I used to put celery in all my stocks 'cuz everybody said to but I don't always want my stock to taste like soup so I stopped doing it. If you are making your stock specifically for soup, then be free with the celery and don't forget to add some celery leaves as well--they contain lots of flavor. For me, the ideal all-around stock contains few ingredients. This stock can become the can't-cook-without-it base for your soup, your secret ingredient for sauce (I use it in Asian sauces and in plain ol' gravy), or diluted with water to cook noodles in or to use in the best rice ever made. And if you're making congee (oh so easy and oh so good), you must have stock.

If you make a whole chicken or turkey, be sure and save those bones in the freezer for future use!

Chicken/Turkey Stock:

Chicken or turkey bones--I prefer to use two chicken carcasses but maybe that's because I always make such a big batch of stock. One turkey carcass is always enough.
Two or three cups of white wine if you have it
One large onion, halved. I prefer to use the peel although some people say it can make your stock bitter (I can't tell that it does this)--I do cut off the big gnarly end--mostly out of habit.
Several cloves of garlic, mashed, but still in skin.
5 to 10 black peppercorns, or to taste. Just throwing in a teaspoon of pepper or more to taste is fine too. I don't like a lot of black pepper myself
2 to 3 teaspoons of salt depending on your preferences
Dried or fresh parsley if you have it. A lot.
Save your leek tops in the freezer to throw into stocks, you won't be sorry. Or toss in some green onions if you have some extra in the fridge.
Poke around the fridge and feel free to toss in some stray veggie here or there just to see what happens--turnips, squash, some herbs, or even an apple or pear.

I limit what I put in my stock so I can use it in various recipes without being stuck with a flavor in there that I don't want--I can always add tomatoes, carrots, celery or whatever I want to the recipe I am using the stock in if I want to.

Cover your bones, veggies, and spices well with water and bring to boil then simmer for at least three hours. Once done, strain it well through a colander or sieve, then place in fridge overnight. The next day, the fat will have separated from the stock and hardened and you can just pick it off and throw it away. The more gelatinous your remaining stock is when it is cold, the better you have done. So pat yourself on the back if you have a big bowl of chicken jello. You now have a virtually fat free stock that is plum packed with flavor.

I like to freeze several 1/2 cup and 1 cup packages of stock for sauces. That whole thing with pouring it into an ice tray so you can freeze cubes of it is messy. I just buy the cheapest sealable bags that I can, pour 1 cup into each bag (a canning funnel is very handy here) and then freeze them. Once they are frozen, I stuff as many of them as I can into a gallon size freezer bag. Frozen stock, if not sealed well, will begin to dehydrate in your freezer and, if not stored well, it will just disappear. It needs, ultimately, to be stored in a quality freezer bag or container. You can vacuum seal your stock by pouring it into vacuum bags and setting the bags carefully in the freezer, unsealed. Once they are frozen they can be sealed. It's not really worth the fuss, however.

I also store stock in four cup amounts. It's about the perfect amount for a nice pot of soup--not enough to feed a large family but more than enough for you and one or two others.

Venison Stock Recipe:

Venison makes for such a strong stock that if you are going to do this, you must really like the flavor of wild game. Also, even for the most avid wild game fan, it's better to use a spike or young doe for your stock, older or bigger deer are going to have a stronger "gamey" flavor. This applies to Axis as well as White Tail. Axis stock comes out golden like turkey stock and always tastes lighter and more delicious to me than White Tail stock. Venison stock is delicious and when I can venison meat, I prefer to can it in venison stock.

On to the recipe....

You needs you some deer bones. You can crack rib bones easily with some pliers or a hammer--cracking the bones will make your stock much better. Don't go crazy, a crack here or there is fine. You don't want shards of bones ending up in your stock. If using leg bones, I find that a hammer is the easiest way to break the bones.

Add the bones you are going to use to your stock pot--a rear leg (needs a very large pot) or two front legs or five or six cracked ribs is sufficient for one batch of stock. Depends on you and how strong you like your stock. Making venison stock is really dependent on a very large pot unless you snag some vertebrae and take the time to separate them which is, actually, quite a pain.

1 large onion, halved with skin--big gnarly end removed just in case that's what those chefs are really talking about in regard to bitter stock

Pepper to taste--I prefer peppercorns but ground black pepper will do

Several cloves of garlic, mashed but not skinned

Two cups of red or white wine, I prefer white in venison stock

A whole bunch of fresh parsley or several tablespoons of dried parsley

Add water until it's all covered and refer to Chicken/Turkey Stock recipe above to finish up.

Beef Stock Recipe:

Follow the recipe for Venison Stock but instead of front legs/back legs/etc, use whatever bones you have available. If you happen to see some really cheap ribs at the store, buy them for stock. Or ask the butcher if he has some beef bones back behind the counter. I can't get beef bones from the butcher in my small town so I just buy ribs.

About carrots:

I don't like cooked carrots. And even though they add a nice flavor and wonderful color to just about any stock, I don't use them. Feel free to include a few carrots or parsnips (if you're lucky enough to get any where you live) to any of the stock recipes above. Personally, when using them, I advise not using too many. Carrots are sweet. You may like the sweetness they add to your stock, or you might be like me and just prefer not to go there.

Chef Christopher Allen Tanner On Making Stock--I can't wait to try it his way... by roasting the bones first!


Jessica said...

Yeah, I love stock. People are always shocked that I have homemade chicken stock on hand at all times--but chicken is so cheap and the homemade stock is great in everything from ramen to rice.

Genie said...

Hi Jessica!

I love having it around, I don't know how people don't always have it in their freezer! Just making it makes me feel good.

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