Homemade stock— have you often thought you’d like to make stock from scratch? Maybe you just weren’t sure where to start...
Wait no longer, for there is no better place to begin experiencing the romance of soup making than by creating your own homemade stock.
And it all begins with wholesome ingredients — fresh vegetables and herbs; clear, cold water; whole spices; and fresh meat and bones.
And what you end up with is a nourishing liquid that will form the flavor foundation for your fine soups.
Auguste Escoffier himself, considered by many to have been the greatest chef of all time, underscored its importance when he said that stock is everything in cooking.
Seven Surefire Principles
Great stock begins with meaty raw bones with a high collagen content. And the method of extracting their nutrient-rich goodness is through long simmering.
As the bones slowly release their collagen, they also release their flavor. The collagen is desirable for nutritional reasons, but it also adds body to the stock and gathers flavor from the neighboring vegetables and spices.
2. Mirepoix (meer-pawh)
A classic mirepoix is a combination of 2 parts onions, 1 part carrots, and 1 part celery. This aromatic combination provides a deep flavor foundation for traditional stocks.
3. Herbs and Spices
Aromatic herbs and spices are simmered in the stock to add extra flavor. They can simply be tossed into the stock pot with the vegetables or wrapped in a square of cheesecloth to form a sachet.
4. Cold Water to Cover
It is important to start by covering your ingredients with roughly two inches of cold water and gradually bringing it to a boil. The cold water helps to start the flavor extracting process by drawing savory juices from the meat and bones.
5. Simmer, Don't Boil
Bring the cold water to a gradual boil, but without delay reduce the heat to a simmer. The heat should be low enough that only an occasional bubble is detected.
It is this simmering that allows the slow release of collagen from the bones.
Besides providing nutrition, collagen brings flavor out of the bones and also picks up the flavors of the aromatic vegetables.
Not only does rapid boiling hinder the release of collagen, it can make the fat very difficult to remove and result in a greasy tasting stock.
6. Skim the Surface
Skim the surface of the stock to remove any clouding froth and fat. Skimming the surface is especially important during the first 30 minutes of simmering.
Any additional fat that you want to remove can easily be lifted off the surface with a spoon after the stock has chilled for several hours. Or if you want to use the stock immediately, you can either remove the fat with a spoon or with a fat separator.
7. Gently Strain through a Fine-Mesh Sieve
Carefully strain the stock through a fine-mesh sieve to remove the vegetables, bones, and herbs. You can also line your sieve with a layer or two of cheesecloth to render an even clearer stock.
On the other hand, if flavor is what you are after and cloudiness is not a concern — pressing the solids with a ladle will help extract any flavor they might still be holding onto.
Though not every soup requires the use of stock, those that do rely on it to carry flavor. That is why the soup won’t shine with flavor if the stock doesn’t.
Homemade stock making allows you to direct the transformation of nature’s wholesome ingredients into a nutritious and delicious nectar. Enjoy the simmering time… for you are creating something wonderful.
Explore these pages for soups that soothe like logs ablaze in your cozy hearth...
"Auguste Escoffier | Biography - French Chef | Britannica.com." Encyclopedia Britannica. Accessed June 2, 2015. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/192394/Auguste-Escoffier.
Bittman, Mark. "Soups." In How to Cook Everything: 2000 Simple Recipes for Great Food, 2nd ed., 121-160. Double B Publishing Inc., 2008.
Editors at America's Test Kitchen. "How to Make Stocks and Soups." In The America's Test Kitchen Cooking School Cookbook: Everything You Need to Know to Become a Great Cook, 435-469. 2013.
Escoffier, A. "Fundamental Elements of Cooking." In The Escoffier Cook Book: A Guide to the Fine Art of Cookery, 1-14. New York: Crown Publishers, 1941.
Rombauer, Irma S., Marion Rombauer Becker, and Ethan Becker. "Stocks and Soups." InJoy of Cooking, 114-151. New York: Scribner, 2006.