Stock is a flavorful liquid made by simmering ingredients such as meat, poultry, fish, or vegetables in water for an extended period of time. The solids are removed at the end. Because the flavour of the ingredients is the only thing that matters, stock is often made with left over-ingredients and by-products such as bones, that couldn't be used elsewhere.
Stock can be made with a stock cube or extract, but for best results, make your own. If you cannot, a jar of fond (condensed stock) is the next best thing.
Stock and broth are similar, and the two terms may be used interchangeably by some. Technically, stock uses bones, or bones with meat, while broth and bouillon are the result of cooking any food-items with water to obtain a flavoured liquid. Stock is also usually cooked longer.
This article starts with vegetable stock because most non-vegetarian stocks will use some amount of vegetables as well, to add depth to the flavor, so this information is useful for all stocks. Home-made vegetable stock will have a relatively weak flavor, but a strong aroma.
The basic ingredients for a vegetable stock are onion, carrot, leek, and celery. You can make a good stock without any of these, but they are the classic 'backbone' of making stock, and almost all vegetable stocks will contain at least two. Other ideas for vegetables include tomato, bell pepper, fennel, broccoli, mushroom, and garlic. Be careful when using very aromatic vegetables, as they can easily overpower the stock. Do not use beets, which will turn the stock black. Do include the peels of onion and garlic, which will help to color the stock. About 750 grams/26 ounces of vegetables per liter of stock should suffice.
To deepen the flavour of the stock, some herbs and spices are usually added. Some of these will dissolve (like salt), for others it's best to enclose them in a little bag or bundle so you can easily fish them out later. This is called a bouquet garni. Some good herbs to use include bay leaf (about 3 per liter of stock), black peppercorns (about 6 per liter of stock), salt (a pinch), rosemary, and thyme.
Do not chop your ingredients too finely—just halve or quarter them. It's a very good idea, especially with vegetable stock, to caramelize your ingredients first. This can be done by pan frying them lightly in oil or butter until they turn brown, but the oil will coat the ingredients, and you may have to de-fat the stock later. The best way to caramelize your ingredients is to put them in the oven, on a tray, until they start to brown.
Add all the ingredients to a pot (preferably large and thick). Cover with cold water, bring to a boil, and simmer anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how much stock you're making, and how strong you want it to be. Do not let vegetables simmer for more than an hour or the flavour will become wilted and sour.
The stock should be tasted to see if it's ready. When it is, pass it through a sieve to get rid of the large ingredients. If the sieved stock isn't clear yet, put a wet tea towel or cheesecloth in the sieve, and pass the stock through it again.
Fish stock should generally be made using "white" fish bones like haddock, flounder, cod, or snapper, although some Japanese recipes use tuna or similar species for a highly flavored specialized stock. Shellfish stock is generally made the same way as fish stock. Combine fish bones or shellfish shells with cold water to cover, and add some diced mirepoix (celery, onion, white part of leeks, mushrooms, parsnips, etc.). Bring to a simmer, skimming as necessary, and simmer for 40 minutes. Strain the stock and cool it. Salt is usually necessary, add toward or at the end, to taste.
- Sweat (cook in hot oil and/or butter without browning) the bones or shells and mirepoix before adding the cold water. This is called fish fumet.
- Replace part of the water with dry white wine or vintage dry cider.
- Add aromatics such as herbs and spices (thyme, bay leaf, peppercorn, parsley stems). These may be added directly to the stock or tied in a cheesecloth (known as sachet d'épices). Add any other aromatics to impart a particular flavor.
Here's the basic method for chicken stock, which you can adapt for other poultry.
After you've eaten a chicken, save the raw or cooked carcass. Put it in a pressure cooker or a large saucepan, and add enough cold water to cover. Add some fresh herbs, such as bay leaves and sage, an onion, a carrot, and a stick of celery, and bring to the boil. Pan drippings are very good to add, as long as they are not too burned.
If you use a pressure cooker cook at pressure for 30-40 minutes. If using a pot, let the stock simmer very gently for at least three hours, but no longer than four lest the bones cloud the stock and overpower the flavour. Drain the liquid through a sieve into another pan. You can use the stock immediately or cool it as quickly as possible and refrigerate or freeze it.
Beef, mutton and pork broths are made by slowly simmering meat (do not remove gristle - it contains collagen) and bones with vegetables and flavourings. Do not add salt at this stage, it should only be added when the stock is being used in a recipe. Use cold water and warm slowly, which this prevents the meat from sealing.
If bones are used in stock they may be roasted and cracked before simmering.
In a pressure cooker broth takes 45-60 minutes, stock with bones 75-120 minutes. If an open pan is used the liquid should barely be moving, and certainly not boiling fast, and times of several hours for broth and 7-10 hours for bone stock are not excessive.
Defatting and ClarifyingEdit
To get most of the fat out of a stock, you can simply chill it. The fat will harden and float on top of the stock where it can be scooped off easily. One can also use a fat separator, which is like a big measuring cup with a siphon from the bottom, which allows you to pour the stock out while trapping the fat.
To completely clarify stock, use the following method:
- Beat egg whites to soft peaks, one for each quart/liter of stock.
- Crumple the eggs-shells and mix them through the egg whites.
- Stir the mixture in to the stock and bring it to a simmer, do not let it boil. The egg-whites will coagulate, rise, and take any particles and cloudiness out of the stock.
- Keep a close eye on the simmer (push the coagulated egg-whites to the side a bit to see) and let it simmer for about ten minutes.
- Remove the pot from the heat and let it sit for another ten minutes.
- Finally, sieve the stock again through a tea towel.
Glace and ConsomméEdit
A glace is made by reducing a stock down (gently, stocks shouldn't boil) to about a quarter or less of its original volume. glace can be used as a basis for sauces, or simply to facilitate storage, and turned in to stock again by adding water.
A consommé is the result of the clarification process that uses egg whites and a fine dice of mirepoix to create a raft. this raft traps and removes impurities from a stock result in the classic clear quaity of a consommé
Stock will keep for about a week in the refrigerator. Frozen stock will keep for around six months.
Stock is used as the basis for most soups and in many dishes as a flavouring or base.
Notes, Tips and VariationsEdit
- Though mushrooms are good for enriching a stock, it is also possible to make the mushroom the main or even the only ingredient of a stock. For this you would need about 200 grams/0.4 lb of mushrooms and an onion per liter of stock.