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Making Your Own Stock

Soup stock is the foundation for many of the tastiest soups, and it’s a flavor enhancer for many a dish too. But canned and packaged stocks are generally high in sodium and may include artificial ingredients, like monosodium glutamate (MSG). You can find healthier and organic varieties at your co-op, but if you use stock frequently in your cooking, it can get expensive. Despite what you may think, making your own stock requires minimal effort, costs little money, and will keep you, well, stocked for months.

There are a million and one uses for a good homemade stock, including:

  • Making your own soups and stews
  • Adding depth to homemade pasta sauces
  • Using in place of water or butter to infuse rice, couscous, or other grains with flavor
  • Braising greens and other vegetables
  • Deglazing pans to make gravy
  • Substituting for wine in any recipe

The most versatile stocks are chicken and vegetable stock, but the possibilities don’t stop there. Beef stock, fish stock, chili stock, ginger stock—the list is limited only by your imagination. For the sake of simplicity, file away this basic how-to for chicken or vegetable stock and improvise from there.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 pound chicken bones (if making chicken stock); either buy them from your co-op’s meat counter or farmers’ market meat stand, or reserve the bones every time you roast a local, pastured chicken and freeze in a plastic bag until you’re ready to make stock
  • 1 pound assorted vegetables: carrots, celery, onions, garlic, or other root vegetables, washed and chopped into large pieces
  • 1-2 dried bay leaves
  • A few handfuls of fresh herbs: thyme, rosemary, sage, parsley, or whatever else you have on hand, washed and added to the pot, stems and all
  • 2-3 tablespoons whole spices: black peppercorns, coriander, caraway, fennel, etc.

In a large soup or stockpot, add all the ingredients and cover with 12-16 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for 3-4 hours. The liquid should reduce slowly; if it seems to be drying out quickly, add more water and turn down the heat.

After 3-4 hours, strain the stock, discarding all solids (it’s okay if a few whole spices escape the strainer). You should be left with 8-10 cups of stock. Season to taste with salt or just wait to salt until you use it in a recipe. Divide stock into one-cup portions in small plastic bags or containers and freeze (this way, you can thaw just as much as you need).

Just one Sunday afternoon spent making a batch of stock can save you $20-25 on the store-bought variety over the course of a few months. And you’ll have a healthier, more flavorful ingredient to use in your kitchen—no bones about it.

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7 Responses to “Making Your Own Stock”

  1. Alisha Stafford July 27, 2010 11:12 am #

    Making homemade stock is one of my favorite things to do – especially if the weather is a bit overcast! I like to make HUGE pots of veggie stock, then reduce it down to intensify the flavor. I freeze the stock in 2 cup increments, and also use my ice cube tray for smaller portions. I love being able to have fresh stock when cooking quinoa, risotto, or any other grain. It is truly the best!

  2. Kevin Moore January 3, 2014 10:00 am #

    Of course I prefer my home-made stock, but I'm kind of envious of the aroma of store bought varieties….I just can't get mine to smell that good. What am I missing.

  3. Co+op, stronger together January 3, 2014 1:47 pm #

    Hi, Kevin. Thanks for your question. We recommend making sure you have a little meat on your stock bones. Bones add body to your stock and meat adds flavor and aroma.

  4. Toni Ester January 5, 2014 1:13 pm #

    Put the chicken bones (or whatever meat bones you're using) into the oven and roast them till golden before adding them to the stock pot. This adds much depth of flavor and aroma to the stock. You can roast the veggies first, too. Also, don't ever let the stock boil…it allows impurities and fats to infuse into the water…just slowly simmer.

  5. Kevin Moore January 7, 2014 10:57 am #

    Thanks for the replies! I will definitely try roasting the bones…I've done this with beef broth but for some reason never thought to do this with chicken. I usually use chicken backs/chicken feet…are the backs suitable for roasting? I'm tempted to add some additional meat to the stock but I don't want to waste meat either…any strategies?

  6. Toni Ester January 7, 2014 11:45 pm #

    The culinary course I took recommended chicken backs, so you're right on track. They also said not to add extra meat (other than what clings to the bones), because that makes a "broth" and not a "stock."

  7. Co+op, stronger together January 8, 2014 6:31 am #

    Typically just the meat left on the bones is used. And, yes, you can roast the backbones, too.