A stock is a flavored liquid you can use to make a sauce, stew, or braised dish.† It is an extremely important ingredient for almost any kitchen to have.† If you already know all about stocks, this may serve as a good refresher for you, and if you donít, it could possibly revolutionize your cooking!
It is possible to use a "base" (available from most purveyors) to flavor water to make it taste similar to stock, but it never really comes close to the real thing.† If youíre just cooking for yourself and a few others at home, most grocery stores sell a fairly good quality of broths in cartons, but if you buy one of those, try to get one without MSG.
The ingredients and effort it takes to make one are miniscule in the first place.† The most important ingredient is the bones (available through your purveyor or a nearby butcher).† For a white stock, youíll just add them straight to the water, or if youíre looking to make a hardier brown stock, roast the bones in a very hot oven until they are dark brown (not burnt).† Many different meats can be used.† The most common is chicken or veal, but you can also use fish, game, and other ingredients.† You can use any part of fish trimmings (bones, skin, and heads) excluding the gills, as they are very bitter.† You can even use all herbs and vegetables to make a vegetarian stock.
Another important ingredient is the mirepoix.† Mirepoix is a combination of onions, carrots, and celery.† This is a classic combination of vegetables that adds a great deal of flavor to many recipes.† For a white stock, wash and dice these in large chunks and throw them right in the water.† For a brown stock, add them to the bones about 10 minutes before the bones are finished roasting.† That way the vegetables will be nicely roasted as well.
Other ingredients you can add if you would like are bay leaves, peppercorns, and other herbs.† If you have other vegetable scraps lying around the kitchen, like herb stems or tomato scraps, feel free to add them as well.† You may add salt to enhance the blending of the ingredients with the liquid, but use only a tiny bit, as you want to season your stock in the final cooking process of the soup/sauce rather than here.
The ratio is pretty much always 8 pounds (4kg) of bones to 5-6 quarts (5-6l) of water to make 1 gallon (4l) of stock.† Always start a stock with cold water, bring it to a boil, then lower the temperature to a gentle simmer.† At this point skim the scum off the top of the stock and add the mirepoix and other ingredients.† For chicken, veal, or game stocks, simmer for about 6 hours.† If youíre using beef bones, let it go for about 8 hours.† Since fish bones are so delicate, use half that weight in bones and only simmer it for 30-45 minutes.† Simmering any longer will spoil the flavor of a fish stock.† Also, as required throughout the cooking process, skim the scum and grease off the stock (donít stir it in).
When the stock is finished, put it through a very fine strainer (and preferably cheesecloth as well), then cool it down as quickly as possible.† This is generally best done by shocking it (submerging the containers of stock into a larger container filled with ice water).
If you donít need all of it immediately and want each batch of your stock to last a while, you can freeze it for 6 to 8 weeks. If itís just for home use, you can freeze it in ice cube trays and store the cubes of frozen stock in plastic bags to be able to pull out whatever portion size you need for that meal. The more gelatinous your stock comes out, the longer a shelf life it will have. If itís extremely gelatinous, it was cooked a bit too fast.
Stock can be used in many different aspects.† Instead of water, use stock for making a soup or sauce.† Reduce a brown stock until itís naturally thickened; adding a bit of rosemary and thyme will make a fabulous sauce for meats or poultry. Or a brown chicken stock is a great complement to roasted broccoli soup.