Sunday, February 10, 2008

Stocking Up - Making your own soup stocks

A foundation of a good stock gives soups and stews a strong life and helps mellow whatever other ingredients you may be adding into a wonderfully flavorful dish.
Sure, I know it's easier to grab a can off the shelf.. but I really prefer making my own to canned. I like having control over the salt content and know just what's going into my pot.

Typically, in my stock pot will be yellow onions or shallots, carrots and celery & fresh herbs.. a nice foundation for a good vegetable stock. Mushrooms may also be added as well.. depending on what recipe I will use my stock in.

Whether I am making vegetable, chicken or beef stock, I usually set the time aside when I will be in the kitchen for a few hours. I like to prepare my stocks early in the day and let it simmer while I work on other kitchen projects. Before dinner, I then strain my stock and let it cool down for a few hours. Then, before bed I just pop it into the fridge.

1) To begin your stock
In a large stockpot add your veggies and cover all with 3 inches of water.
If I am making chicken or beef stock I toss a whole chicken into my pot, or at least half a pot of soup bones or beef shanks along with my vegetables & add water.
Heat your stock on a medium setting until it just begins to boil. As it reaches it's first boil, skim off any foam that has risen to the top of your stock. Lower the heat to a barely simmering point (don't allow it to boil) for at least 4 - 5 hours.

2) Cooling the stock
Pour your hot stock through a fine mesh strainer. If I am making chicken or beef stock, I remove chicken or beef bones firstly.. & strain the stock separately.
If it's chicken stock.. I then separate the meat onto a platter to be added back into my stock pot once it is also strained.
Now allow your finished stock to cool to room temperature.. at least 3 hours, before refrigerating.

3) Storing your stock
I seldom freeze my stocks, but you easily can. It's best to freeze it into small to medium containers in the amounts you are likely to use... or try freezing your stock in ice cube trays & then store in freezer bags for later use.

4) Other additions...
I add very little salt to my stocks, but do add freshly ground peppercorns, my herbs of choice - oftentimes mushrooms, garlic, leeks, wine, potatoes, parsley, bay leaf and fresh thyme.

Use your stocks to make homemade soups, stews, rizotto's. Enjoy!

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