“Making stock sounds like a lot of work and I never have enough bones for a full recipe”
Neither do I to be honest. To get around this I keep a large, sealed container in my freezer and add any spare bones I have leftover to it. When the container is full I bring it out to thaw in the fridge overnight and the next day I’ll rinse off the bones and roast them well.
Rinsing the bones gets rid of any unwanted blood or organ pieces, making for a cleaner flavoured stock. Roasting them adds additional flavour and rendered fat but isn’t necessary if you prefer a more neutrally flavoured stock.
Once I have these roasted bones, all I need to do is place them in a pot with some water and aromatics and simmer them for a few hours and strain. Simple, quick stock at home.
Something that puts people off stock making is how tedious it can be. In restaurant kitchens stocks are meticulously skimmed of any protein scum and degreased of any fat that pools at the surface of the stock. At home I never bother with either of these steps. If I simmer gently enough, the coagulated proteins can be strained off easily through a strainer. When I strain and chill my stock, the fat readily separates from the stock and is easier to remove.
Turn your stock into homemade stock cubes
I’ll pretty much always do this to save space and have quick access to small portions of strongly flavoured stock whenever I need it.
This is a lot easier than it sounds. Once the stock is strained and has been degreased of any fat, I’ll return it to a clean pot and reduce it over medium heat. I’ll typically let the stock reduce down to the point where it’s about 1/8th of its initial volume. At this point I’ll strain it again through a fine meshed strainer and pour it into ice cube trays.
By reducing the volume of the stock, we have both concentrated it’s flavour and also allowed it to take considerably less space. Once these set nicely in their ice cube trays, pop them out and store in an airtight container in the freezer. In this way every time you want to use stock you can either add it in the form of these handy cubes or alternatively, just dilute them in warm water to bring them back to their original volume and flavour.
You don’t need to be fussy about the kinds of bones you add. Make the stock with whatever bones you’ve collected and combine them for your very own “house stock”. If you have large pieces of bone try to break them down a little bit before cooking. If you have a whole chicken carcass for example, snap or chop it into two or three pieces to offer more surface area for a better stock.
For the vegetable and aromatic portion your options are quite vast also. I would recommend against the use of very starchy vegetables as many of these won’t add much flavour and add unwanted starchiness to the stock. Common inclusions include onion, carrot, celery, leek, spring onion, tomato, mushroom, garlic and ginger. As well as herbs and spices such as thyme, rosemary, black peppercorns, bay leaves, parsley etc.
If you are cooking your stock for a short amount of time add smaller diced vegetables. If you are simmering for longer you have more time to extract the flavour and nutrients from your vegetables and can therefore cut larger pieces. A vegetable stock for example can be made in under 45 minutes and so I would recommend cutting your ingredients as small as possible. On the other hand, I usually cook my chicken stock for 3-4 hours total and cut my vegetables into rough 1 inch pieces.
I prefer peeling my vegetables to make sure they’re going in clean but many will not bother with this step and even make stocks out of their vegetable peelings. As long as they’re clean, go ahead.
In the same way that you collect your bones slowly over the course of several weeks by freezing them, you can hold on to usable vegetable scraps in a separate container. The knobbly tops and tails from onions, carrot and celery all make fantastic additions to the stock pot.
To follow is my go-to recipe for stock making at home, truthfully I rarely weigh anything out and only loosely time my stock production. This doesn’t need to be fussy. This is the sort of cooking I’ll do on a lazy Sunday. I’ll get my stock going first thing so I can lazily enjoy my morning coffee on the sofa with lovely background aromas of roast chicken.