Kitchen Focus

When cold weather has you feeling chilled to the bone, it's time to make soup. Makes easy work of that by having homemade stock on hand.

Before you dismiss the idea as too much effort, pause and take stock (pun intended!) of the steps involved. Making stock is as simple as tossing a nice selection of ingredients into a pot, adding water and simmering it for hours. Then you drain the liquid away and call it stock!

You can make stock from just about anything, but there are four common types: vegetable, poultry, meat and seafood. I'll briefly describe each:

  • Vegetable Stock: You can use all kinds of vegetables for this stock. The flavor will vary slightly, depending on the mix you use. Tomatoes can overwhelm stock flavor, so while I do use them, I keep the amount small (unless of course, you want a strong tomato flavor). You would be wise to avoid members of the cabbage family -- including broccoli and cauliflower -- in vegetable stocks as they can be overwhelming. Making vegetable stock is a great way to clean out the refrigerator, too. If you are worried about food going bad, through on a stock pot and take advantage of the bounty. Start saving peels (well washed, of course) and trimmings while you cook. Your stock will be strained before being used, and all those unattractive peels will be gone, but they will have imparted a lovely flavor to your stock. Some excellent vegetables (and vegetable scraps) to use are: onions, garlic, potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, carrots, celery, mushrooms, peas, corn (empty corn cobs can also add lots of flavor to vegetable stock), parsley, green beans, beets, bell peppers, scallions, green onions, shallots, fresh basil or other herbs, and so on. You might even consider adding a fruity element with apples, pears or the like. Simply fill your pot about half full of solids and add the remainder in water and simmer for at least an hour before draining the liquid and enjoying on its own or in recipes.
  • Poultry Stock: The great thing about poultry stock is that you can -- and should -- buy inexpensive chicken or turkey parts to make it. Poultry stock is also a great way to use the bones that are leftover when you de-bone chicken breasts or you can also use a leftover cooked chicken or turkey carcass instead of fresh raw meat to make stock. So don't throw out those bones!!! As for the vegetables that go into poultry stock, you can use whole fresh ones, or save leftover scraps just like we did for vegetable stock. Because you are simmering, in part, to remove collagen from the bones, simmering for at least two hours will be needed to make a proper poultry stock.
  • Meat Stock: To help make meat stocks to be dark and rich, I recommend roasting your meat, bones and vegetables for about 45 minutes in a 450° oven, before adding them to your stock pot and adding water. You can make meat stock without this step, however, it will simply have a lighter color and not as rich a flavor. As with all the stocks here, you can use either whole vegetables, or scraps, as we did when making vegetable stock. Just use an approximate equivalent amount of scraps instead of the whole vegetables. Meat stocks tend to take the longest to really properly form. At least four hours of simmering will be needed to get good results.
  • Seafood Stock: Seafood stock comes in handy for many recipes. You can use any inexpensive white fish scraps, bones and trimmings. You can also use crab, shrimp and lobster shells for adding flavor to seafood stocks. Seafood stock doesn't take terribly long to make. An hour of simmering time should work beautifully. Seasoning the stock with sautéed garlic or onion gives it a richer flavor.

In keeping with tradition, I'm sharing a couple recipes to get you started. One vegetable stock recipe and one beef stock recipe. They are both fairly classic treatments and can serve as basic starting recipes that you can feel free to build on. They also serve as examples of how fairly simple and straight forward making stock can be. Enjoy and explore.

Vegetable Broth

  • 1 pint finely chopped celery
  • 1 pint finely chopped carrots
  • 1/2 pint finely chopped turnips
  • 1/2 pint finely chopped onions
  • 1/2 pint tomatoes
  • 4 springs parsley
  • 1 3/4 quarts cold water

Put the vegetables in the cold water and heat them gradually till just below the boiling point.

Keep them at this temperature for about three hours. This may be accomplished by cooking in a double boiler.

Drain off the water.

This broth may be served simply with the addition of salt, or cream may be added.

Other combinations of vegetables may be used, adding to them an equal bulk of cold water after they are chopped and proceeding according to directions for this recipe.

  • Preparation Time: About 3
  • Yields: About 2 quarts

Classic Beef Stock

  • 6 pounds beef soup bones
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 large carrots
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 stalks celery, including some leaves
  • 1 large tomato
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsnip
  • 1/2 cup cubed potatoes
  • 8 whole black peppercorns
  • 4 sprigs fresh parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 12 cups water

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Slice the onion. Chop the scrubbed celery and carrots into 1-inch chunks. In a large shallow roasting pan, place the soup bones, onion, and carrots. Bake, uncovered, for about 30 minutes or until the bones are well browned, turning occasionally.

Drain off the fat. Place the browned bones, onion, and carrots in a large soup pot or Dutch oven. Pour 1/2 cup water into the roasting pan and rinse. Pour this liquid into the soup pot. Add the celery, tomato, parsnips, potato parings, peppercorns, parsley, bay leaf, salt, thyme, and garlic. Add the 12 cups of water.

Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat. Cover and simmer for 5 hours. Strain the stock. Discard the meat, vegetables, and seasonings.

To clarify the stock for clear soup: In order to remove solid flecks that are too small to be strained out with the cheesecloth, combine 1/4 cup cold water, 1 egg white, and 1 crushed eggshell. Add to the strained stock. Bring the stock to a boil. Remove from the heat, and let stand for 5 minutes. Strain it again through a sieve lined with the cheesecloth.

  • Preparation Time: About 6 hours
  • Yields: 8 cups