Stocks, the edible kind

There is something delightful about turning a bunch of chicken bones or odds and ends into a delicious soup!  Stocks were one of the first things we talked about in class – one of the fundamentals for building soups, stews, sauces etc.  While I had made stocks in the past, it turns out that I had been a lot of things “wrong” – oops!   Guess that’s why I’m in school.

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A few general points about stocks

  • Stock is made from bones, mirepoix (onions, celery, carrots), water, and seasonings
  • The basic proportions are 80% bones, 10% mirepoix and 100% water (not sure why they teach it this way since it doesn’t add up to 100%, but essentially for a set amount of water, the bones should make up most of it and should be immersed under the water)
  • Mirepoix ratios should be 50% onion, 25% celery, 25% carrots.  For light coloured stocks, do not use as much carrot as it will add colour to your stock.  The size of your mirepoix will depend on how long you will be cooking your stock for – larger pieces for longer cooking times
  • Do not overcook the stock (beef/veal 6-8 hours; chicken/game 3-4 hours; fish 30-45 minutes)
  • Never add salt (it’s the basis for building other things – season at the end of your final product)
  • Do not cover stocks with a lid
  • Simmer, do not boil
  • Remove scum/impurities as it forms
  • Do not stir stocks (this will make your stock cloudy)
  • Do not corrupt flavour with strong flavoured spices, vegetables or herbs

Method for preparing white stocks (e.g. chicken stock)

  1. Cut bones into pieces 3-4 inches long to expose more surface area and help in the extraction (not as relevant for smaller chicken bones and fish)
  2. Rinse the bones under cold water (or blanch) to remove impurities that may cloud the stock or add unpleasant flavour
  3. Place the bones in a stockpot and add cold water to cover (cold is preferred to hot: cold water speeds extraction as many proteins are soluble in cold water but not in hot)
  4. Bring water to a boil and reduce to a simmer, skimming the scum that comes to the surface
  5. Add the chopped mirepoix and herbs/spices (in class, we typically make a spice bag using cheesecloth, adding to it a few fresh parsley stems, cracked white peppercorns, dry thyme and a bay leaf; at home, I just use bags designed for loose leaf teas)
  6. Keep the stock at a low simmer (boiling the stock will make it cloudy) and skim the surface as often as necessary
  7. Keep the water level above the bones and add water if the stock reduces below this level (bones exposed to air will turn dark and discolour the stock – which happened to mine here!)
  8. Simmer for the recommended length of time (see above)
  9. Skim the surface and strain off the stock through a china cap or sieve lined with several layers of cheesecloth
  10. Cool the stock as quickly as possible to avoid spoilage (you can set the pot on a rack in a sink and allow cold water to flow around and under the pot, while stirring the pot occasionally for even cooling)
  11. When cool, refrigerate the stock in covered contains for 2-3 days in the fridge or frozen for several months
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