Stock, the kitchen spiritRecipes for stocks and soups
The whole house, or at least the kitchen, is permeated with the delicious, warm, appetizing smell that rises from the pan on the stove: Someone is making stock. How many people still take the time to do that? And do we know what to do with the resulting brew?
Making your own stock is not difficult, and takes less time than you'd think, because really, you don't have to be standing guard all the time the stock is simmering. Ultimately it saves time, because once you've made a large amount of stock, it can be deep-frozen in small quantities. Next time you need good stock for a soup or sauce, all you have to do is thaw it.
A sauce or soup can be all right, good, or delicious. If you use a stock cube, you'll never get a delicious dish. That isn't always necessary either. When you cook your cauliflower on a rainy Thursday and you want to make a simple sauce to pour over it, just use a cube. But if you want to serve a mouthwatering sauce, you'll have to use a good stock or fumet.
I love making stock. On a quiet day I take my largest pan (content 20 litres or nearly 5.25 US gallons, there are even bigger pans, but there's no way I can lift or even shift those mammoth-pans). I fill it with meat and/or bones, vegetables, spices and herbs, add water and heat, and my house smells like Paradise the whole day. My cats agree with me, they keep walking in and out of the kitchen, sniffing the air. I have an extra freezer to keep all frozen delicacies.
In this corner of my site I publish recipes for all kinds of stock, and some recipes for the leftover meat (because meat that has been used for making stock is still very tasty).
At the bottom of the page there are links to all the stock and leftover recipes. A good stock or broth is not really cheap to make, it requires a lot of meat and vegetables if you use a 5 gallon pan. However, compared to some of the basic stocks that were in use in the nineteenth century it is not so bad: To get one liter stock one needs more than one kilo meat, according to Escoffier in his Guide Culinaire. But on the other hand, the reduction of the stock was less drastic than nowadays.
Tips & Tricks for making stock
First some tips for making broth, and the description of a few actions that will have to be performed by the making of all stock.
You won't find a grain of salt in most of my recipes for stock. The taste is purely what is extracted and reduced from the meat and vegetables. Because these stocks are used as a base for soups and sauces, it is best that salt is added only in the last moment, after tasting. Or try omitting the salt completely. Prefab soups and sauces always contain way too much salt, and we, the poor public that eat these products, have gotten used to this. But salt often just hides the lack of real taste. Re-educate yourself, try to appreciate the taste of the ingredients without enhancers.
Preparing vegetables for stock
In most stocks leeks are used. You clean those best by simply slicing them two times lengthwise, but not completely, so you'll get a brush, connected at the root end. Now it is easy to wash the leeks under the tap, you just spread the leaves to rinse out the earth.
When using onions, do not discard the outer skin. That yellow or red skin can be used as a natural way to give your stock a beautiful deep red or brown colour. Use ecological grown onions, and wash the skin well before using it. If you want a light-coloured stock you peel the onions as usual.
The vegetables that were used in the stock can't be re-used, contrary to the meat. They have lost all flavour and texture. If you want to serve vegetables in your soup, it is best to add fresh vegetables after straining the stock, and cook them just before serving with the soup until they are done to your taste.
Celeriac, celery and celery
And now a small problem regarding a vegetable that is sometimes used in stock: In Dutch, we have knolselderie (celeriac), bladselderie (celery), en bleekselderie (also celery). I am amazed that the English language makes no distinction between 'bladselderie' en 'bleekselderie', since they are rather dissimilar in how they are used in the kitchen (herb vs vegetable). In most recipes it will be evident which of the three celeries is meant, but in recipes for broth sometimes one uses blanched celery (bleekselderie), other times leaf celery, occasionally both together, or even celeriac. Someone from Australia informed me that in his country leaf celery is called 'Chinese celery'. Chinese celery is a cultivar, a variety of leaf celery, but to call all leaf celery 'Chinese' would be incorrect.
To strain the stock it is best you use two sieves that fit together, with a moistened cheese cloth or an old, clean towel (washed without conditioner) between them. Pour the stock through these sieves. The bones and vegetables and everything large will remain in the top sieve, most small particles will be catched by the cloth. If you don't use the top sieve, the cloth will be clogged up very quickly, and cleaning it will be more laborious. It is also easy to pick out the meat from the top sieve. This meat is very tasty, you can use it not only by adding it again to your strained stock, but also to prepare some delicious dishes. I have added some recipes for re-using soup meat to the list below. As stated above, best throw away the vegetables, as they have become absolutely tasteless.
A tip for cleaning the straining cloth: First rinse it under the tap, then put it in a pan with water, a little salt and a dash of vinegar. Let boil for 15 minutes, stirring now and then. Rinse it several times with warm water, and hang out to dry.
A small amount of fat makes a tasty broth. In Holland we say: "A good soup has eyes", the eyes being the small drops of fat that float on the surface of the stock. But sometimes stock has to be completely degreased, for example when you want to make meat jelly.
Because fat floats on water, removing it is not difficult. The easiest way is to to let the strained stock stand for a few minutes until the fat has surfaced. Then you drop a sheet of (good quality) kitchen paper on the surface of the stock. It will soak up the fat. Gently remove the sheet, and repeat with new sheet, until the surface is nearly fat free. The very last droplets you can pick up by using a coffee filter.
If there is enough time, you can also first refrigerate the stock. The fat on meat stock will solidify, you can scoop it off easily. Chickenfat will remain softer, here the method with the paper towels works best.
You have now strained and degreased your stock, but it still isn't clear. You'll have to clarify it for that. How to do that can be read in the description of making meat jelly.
The taste of stock is concentrated by partly evaporation of the water in it. If you want to make a broth for soup, the stock has to be reduced after straining by one third. If you are making concentrated stock or fumet, the stock has to be reduced by two thirds or even three quarters. This means that out of five litres (1.5 gallon) stock you can make either 3.5 litres (1 gallon) soup, or 1.25 to 1.75 litres (3 to 3.75 US pints) concentrated stock.
Quickly cooling a large pan of stock
It is very important that concentrated stock cools down quickly before it is frozen. The quickest way is to fill the sink halfway with cold water and place the pan with the stock in it. Put a metal spoon in the stock (metal conduces heat, therefore helps with the cooling). Stir the stock, and also stir the water in the sink around the pan. Check the water temperature. If the water has warmed up, pull the plug, and fill the sink up again with cold water. This way even a large pan of stock will be at room temperature within ten minutes. ready to be stored in the freezer or the refrigerator in ten minutes, even with a 20 litres/5 gallon pan.
Use small containers if you want to keep the stock in the freezer. If the stock is meant for soup, a quarter to half a litre (1 or 2 cups) are good quantities. But very concentrated stock is often used one tablespoon at a time. Then you use ice cube holders and small containers (1 decilitre or 3 ounces).
Don't EVER forget to put labels on all containers, because once frozen all stock looks alike.
When the stock is cooled to room temperature or has been refrigerated for some time it may have turned into a sludgy mass. Do not be afraid your stock has gone off, it just means you have made a good, concentrated stock. When you reheat the stock, it will return to its liquid form. More on this in the recipe for meat jelly.
Recipes for stock, fond/fumet and soup, and for
|Stocks||Soups||Historical stock recipes|
|Fonds/Fumets||Leftovers||Historical soup recipes|
medieval pea soup