Are you all staying warm and safe? This winter storm has been no joke, but I’ll admit to having enjoyed a few days being snow-bound. We’ve been having lots of fun together stuck inside. We’ll see how long that lasts! I’ve been making lots of soup since I’ve had some extra time on my hands, and the base for all of my soups is homemade stock of some sort or another.
Now that I’ve been making homemade stock for several years now, I thought I would share some extra tips and tricks that I’ve come up with since my original post. Pastured, happily-raised chicken (and other meats, for that matter) can be a bit costly, which is why we are sure to use the entire bird whenever we eat chicken (or turkey). There are at least five great reasons to make homemade stock (and probably more, but I’m trying to do better at getting to the point):
- It helps stretch your food budget, which is especially helpful when you’re buying happily-raised meat that is a bit pricier than its conventionally-farmed alternatives. We roasted a chicken on the first night of #snowmageddon14, so we ate it just plain with some roasted vegetables on the side the first night, then on top of salad the next day for lunch, then last night as barbecue chicken pizza. I had enough meat leftover to make some chicken chili this morning, and then I threw the rest of the carcass, the juice/fats from the roasting pan, and the leftover bones in a big pot along with some veggies from my stock stash in the freezer to make a big batch of stock. I figure my $13 chicken gave us enough for five meals on its own and then at least two big batches of soup down the road.
- It’s super healthy and beneficial all on its own. I try to keep a quart in the fridge to heat up for daily drinking during the winter months.
- It makes THE best soups. Trust me.
- It not only tastes much better than the store-bought stuff, but it’s cheaper and better for you since you control what goes in it.
- It’s too easy not to at least try.
Are you convinced to try it for yourself? Check out my original post first, and then come back here for some additional tips.
Freezer stock stash
As I mention in the original post, I keep a bag or container in the freezer for the ends of veggies and mushrooms to be used for stock. When I’m cutting onions (every day at our house) or peeling garlic, I put the ends and papery peels in the stock stash. I’m reading Eating on the Wild Side, and, in it, author Jo Robinson cites numerous studies on the health benefits of Alliums of all types. Her studies show that the health benefits of onions are actually concentrated in their peels, so I have extra incentive to make use of those somehow. This is just another way to make your food go farther. Before my stock stash, I would have composted the ends of carrots, celery, and onions, but now I throw them in the stock stash to give them an extra life.
I love my pressure cooker. My grandma gave it to us as a wedding gift, and the poor thing has been well-loved since then. I read somewhere a few years ago (I have no idea where now) that when you’re making stock, that delicious aroma in the air that makes everyone’s stomachs growl, is actually flavor compounds that you lose from the stock during cooking. The author said to try pressure cooking stock instead because it keeps more of those compounds in the stock versus in the air. I tried it a time or two, and I’m convinced that pressure cooking stock is the way to go. It makes more intensely-flavored stock in my experience. If I have a big batch of bones and veggies, I’ll use a big stock pot (see below), but otherwise, I tend to use the pressure cooker. I’ve also found that I can get two rounds out of one batch with the pressure cooker. The directions aren’t really much different versus traditional stock. I dump in the chicken bones and about a cup of vegetables from the stock stash, some salt, peppercorns, a few cloves of garlic, maybe a bay leaf, and any fresh herbs that might be laying around. Then I fill up the pressure cooker about two-thirds full of water, seal up the lid, and set the heat on high. Once the pressure starts, I turn the heat down to medium for about 40 minutes or so. I then let it cool off for about an hour, strain out the solids, and use or freeze the stock. I typically add the stock solids back into the pressure cooker, add another cup of veggies from the stock stash, and start the whole process over again. In that way, I get about six quarts of stock for every chicken, I would guess.
We had a huge crop of hot peppers in the garden this year (hooray!). I froze or dehydrated most of them because they all turned toward the end of the season, so we had to do something fast. I started including cayenne and jalapeno peppers in the stock…usually just 2-3. I’ve been using this stock for my chicken tortilla soup or chili or anything else that calls for stock that I think could use a little kick. It’s extra tasty! (Just be sure to label it properly – I made and froze a batch of really spicy stuff a few weeks ago but didn’t realize until later that I forgot to label the spicy one accordingly. I’m sure we’ll find it soon enough!).
Turkey stock is the best, if you ask me. My mom ordered a happily-raised turkey to serve for Christmas, which I was extra excited about because I love turkey and am always sad when Thanksgiving is over. She is always kind enough to save the leftovers for me. A turkey carcass definitely won’t fit in my pressure cooker, so a few years ago, I figured out that I could use my big stock pot with the pasta strainer that came with it (we got these as wedding gifts and have never actually used them to make pasta – oops!). You just put your bones, veggies, salt, and herbs in the strainer part, then sit it in the stock pot, then fill it up with water. I like to bring it to a boil, then take it down to a simmer for at least eight hours. This makes the house smell like heaven.
We have a good friend who is a vegetarian, and she came over for our small group Thanksgiving. I wanted her to be able to eat everything but the turkey, so I made a big batch of mushroom stock to be used instead of chicken/turkey stock. It was delicious! I basically just saved the stems of 2-3 pounds of mushrooms that I had used for other things (I just added them to the existing veggie stash in the freezer) and followed the same directions as above except I didn’t use any bones obviously. It was delicious, and I’ve started saving the ends of mushrooms in my stock stash so I can make more batches once I get enough stems. It would also be delicious to roast some mushrooms and then make stock out of those.
Use up sad veggies or leftover herbs
We buy organic veggies in bulk from our co-op during the winter months, so we occasionally get too much of a veggie or or herb that I haven’t used up or eaten before they start to look a bit sad. I of course try to plan ahead so this doesn’t happen, but when it does, I’ll make a batch of stock and throw the wilty celery or cilantro in a pot and grab a few handfuls of additional veggies/bones from the stock stash…delicious stock in no time!
I freeze the stock in wide-mouth quart jars if possible. When I make it, I make several quarts worth, so I typically can’t use it all at once (unless I’m making some big batches of soup). If I’m running short on space, I cook down the stock even more to make it “concentrated.” Because the turkey made so much stock (merry Christmas to me), I cooked it down by about half (kept it at a low rolling boil for another four hours or so) and then froze it. When I use this stock, I’ll add water to it because it will be much stronger than my typical “recipe.”