Good stock is an important success factor for risottos, stews and sauces. And in many cases, good stock means home made stock. Most store-bought stock has too much salt in the best case, and in the worst case even lacks flavor. Not to mention bouillon cubes… Homemade stock is easy to make, just put some ingredients in water and allow to simmer for some hours. It is a good way to use up leftovers, including vegetable scraps and bones (after eating the meat off of them!).
It always surprises me when a lamb recipe uses beef stock for the sauce, or when a veal recipe uses chicken stock for the sauce, or… well I guess you catch my drift. Of course such substitutions can be made when the ‘proper’ stock is not readily available, but I believe that to get a lamb dish that tastes of lamb, or a veal dish that tastes of veal, it is best to use stock made from meat and bones of the same animal. This is why there are many stock recipes on my blog, that are mostly very similar.
There are a few things to know about stock:
- Many instructions in recipes for stock are to help keep the stock clear. This includes blanching ingredients, not allowing the stock to boil, among other things. If you are going to use the stock in a way that you won’t notice whether the stock is clear or not (for instance, a thick sauce), you can leave out those steps.
- The meat flavor comes from meat, bones give off some flavor but mostly gelatin that will help to thicken the stock. So make sure to add bones if thickening is important, and make sure that if you make stock from bones that there is some meat attached to them for flavor.
- Flavor extraction is faster if the ingredients are cut into small pieces (therefore I use ground meat to make meat stock).
- The time it takes to make stock depends on the main ingredient. Beef takes the longest (4-6 hours), fish the shortest (20-30 minutes). Chicken (2-3 hours) and vegetables (1 hour) somewhere in between.
- Roasting ingredients before using them to make a stock will make a “brown stock” with a fuller flavor (and darker color).
- A pressure cooker provides better and faster flavor extraction. Use half the time in the pressure cooker as prescribed for a regular stockpot.
- To get rid of the fat, allow the stock to cool (first to room temperature, preferably in an ice water bath, and then in the refrigerator). You can then easily scoop off the fat. Don’t discard it, but use it instead of butter or oil in many recipes (e.g. to roast vegetables or to brown meat).
- Never put salt in stock before it has been reduced to the desired strength/thickness, as subsequent reduction would make it too salty.
There are many homemade stock recipes on this blog. Here is a list (some are included as part of other recipes):