I recently wrote about the benefits of homemade stock. Today I want to share with you a few of my favorite stock recipes. I know making your own foods at home may seem very burdensome and time-consuming, but overall, it is far better for your health, your enjoyment of food and your budget!
If you have never made stock of any kind before, start small; you can probably use equipment you already have on hand, such as a 7 quart pot or Dutch oven, and a strainer, as well as storage containers for the end result and some leftovers you may wish to freeze. (I'll discuss how to pressure can stock in the next installment of this series.)
Chicken or Turkey Stock
If you have never made stock, start with chicken; due to its smaller size, you can use what equipment you already have and get a decent amount. Yes, you can also break apart the turkey, but it's much easier to dump the entire leftover carcass in a 20 quart stock pot, something most beginners don't have.
Start with leftovers of a roasted chicken, or use an entire bird if you like. Because the meat will be “spent” after making the stock, I don't use the latter in my own recipes but it makes great pet or chicken food. (Yes, I said chicken food – they actually LOVE chicken!) Put whatever you decide to use in the pot and add water to completely cover – the less water, the more concentrated the stock, and more flavorful. Sometimes, I want a more bland flavor, so it doesn't take over the flavor of what I am making, so I make a variety of batches.
Break up a few carrots, some celery stalks (including leaves) and quartered, unpeeled onions. Toss in some peppercorns. I've been known to add some lemon pieces or even Serrano peppers for a spicier stock, but for now, let's keep it simple! Gently heat up the pot, and I personally, never let the mix boil, but will keep it at a low simmer, often over night.
Use a small strainer to scoop off any foam that accumulates on the top of the stock while it is cooking; since I don't let mine come to a full boil, I don't have that issue, but do get rid of it if you do. I leave the lid partially open to allow the stock to reduce. Benefit: the house smells amazing!
For turkey stock, take your carcass from after Thanksgiving or Christmas, and put it in a 20 quart stock pot. I also throw in the wings and leave quite a bit of meat on the bird, because, really, who isn't sick of eating turkey after several days? Follow the rest of the directions above.
I've only made beef stock a couple times, but the first time I had an amazing result – purely beginner's luck. I ended up with a very full-flavored stock that turned gelatinous once cooled down, absolutely brilliant for French Onion soup!
Now, the recipe I used can get a bit pricey, which is why I am such a huge fan of making stock when I get an elk. Start with about 5 lbs of beef shanks, and a few pounds of marrow bones. Have your butcher cut them crosswise into smaller segments if they are large, allowing more of the marrow to cook its way out of the bones and into your stock.
Place the bones in some water in the pot, and pour in some raw, organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar ( about half a cup is good). This will draw the calcium out of the bones, and into the stock, so your body can enjoy the benefits! While the bones are soaking, roast the shanks at a high temperature (over 400 degrees) until they are nice and browned/caramelized. One they are to that point, put them in the pot and deglaze (scrape the bits of drippings and add a bit of liquid) the pan pouring the tasty remnants in the stock pot.
Add your carrots, celery stalks and unpeeled, quartered onions, peppercorns, etc., and start the simmer. When I made this stock I let it simmer for 3 days!
By far the biggest yield I get when I make stock is from elk. I process my elk meat myself, so as I am cutting it up, I put scraps, including some connective tissue and silverskin right in the pot. I start with some bones – leg bones work great, I use my DeWalt saw to cut them up, and soak them in some water with apple cider vinegar like I do the beef stock. These scraps and bones are tossed in the garbage if you take your game to a processor, something I have witnessed, and was saddened at the waste.
When I start heating the water, I add scraps and the same vegetables listed above. Because I have so much meat and bones, etc., I can almost fill my 20 quart stock pot – a must have investment if you decide to process turkey or game for stock on a regular basis.
Because elk is so lean, and its fat is very different from beef, I will simmer it at least overnight, but it will not turn gelatinous like the beef stock. So, overnight is fine, longer if I have something to do the next morning and want to get to it later.
OK, My Stock is Done. Now What?
Congratulations, the hard part is over! Find another large pot ( I have at least 2 7 quart Dutch ovens) and place a strainer over the top, the kind with a long handle and a “catch” so it can rest securely on top of the pot. I do this in the sink, in case I spill, and I do... Carefully start pouring the stock through the strainer, and either set aside or return the meat, bird, bones, and vegetables to the stock pot or set aside.
You may want to strain it again, running your stock through a cheese cloth, but I don't bother. Take the items you set aside, and make a nice meal for your dogs or cats – be sure to remove all bones, as cooked bones splinter and can be very harmful if consumed. I also remove the onions, as they can cause issues for dogs, and they aren't good for chickens, either. I typically make stock during cold weather, so a warm meal is a welcome treat for the birds or other critters.
You may want to use your stock straight away; if so, throw in some raw parsley or other green herbs, to add a final blast of micro nutrients that won't be cooked out by simmering over night. If your recipe calls for a bay leaf or two, add it after, rather than before, to leave you more flexibility depending on how you want to use your stock. Same with seasonings like salt and pepper.
Refrigerate or freeze what you don't use, and next I will teach you how to pressure can your stock!