Stock is a kitchen tool that transcends the simple desire for things to taste better. While it definitely helps us achieve that, it is also packed with health benefits, financial savings benefits and sustainability benefits, helping us make the most of the animal and minimise kitchen waste. Seriously, stock will save the world and change your life!
“But stock is so laborious” Nope, it takes 2 minutes to set up, then it takes care of itself, with a bit of straining at the end.
“But I can get it easily from the supermarket” If you like msg, fake salt, GM ingredients and a whole host of other additives, then by all means! There are the store bought ones without the additives too, but they cost a fortune. They can be up to $10 for half a litre and still not even be very good quality. The easiest visual marker of quality is whether they’re jelly-like or not. The more jelly-like, the more gelatin, and that my friends is the holy stock grail for both flavour and health benefits!
When you learn to make and commit to making a good stock, you are streets ahead of the average home cook. Your sauces, stews, soups… they’re all going to taste incredible. If you have it at hand, you use it. Having stock at hand means you can whip up really beautiful dishes and soups and get deep nutrition in a super cost effective way. You must pay attention to the raw materials here for the full potential of stock.
It is essential to use bones from ethical, organic animals that are pasture raised. Cheap, factory farmed animal meat will not only mean an unethical stock, but it will also mean less minerals, antibiotic contamination, potential hormones and altered omega ratios, pushing the 6′s higher, and we don’t want any of that. So, you do need an awesome go to butcher. Mine is GRUB in Sydney, who deliver state wide. Do a little investigating and find yours. I can buy organic chicken carcasses for just $2.50 each and grass fed beef bones enough to make 20 jars of stock, for about $15.
Every time you roast a chook, keep the bones, pop them in the freezer and keep until you have 2 or 3 carcasses worth. I keep bones we’ve eaten from too – after 12-24 hours in a pot, I really don’t think it’s going to matter! Also keep veggie scraps from cutting onions and carrots for other things. The tips, skins and peels are great to add to stock. Waste not. Get clever. They build up quick and then it means buying less stuff to make a stock, as it’ll all be from leftovers, just as in the great restaurants the world over, who have a constant stock pot on the low flame, tossing kitchen scraps into it around the clock.
To get you over the line and excited about making stock from this day forth, here are 10 amazing health and sustainability benefits to making stock.
1. It is packed with minerals from calcium to magnesium, sulphur to silicon, and things like glucosamine. Basically it contains all the stuff we’re told to buy in expensive synthetic mineral supplement form for joints and arthritis, except it’s cheap, natural food and very easily digested.
2. It is packed with gelatin, if made properly and simmered long enough. Gelatin supports skin and hair health, digestion, cellulite, tightens loose skin and is awesome for joint pain and inflammation. There’s a fabulous detailed gelatin post here, from the Wellness Mama.
3. It is singularly the cheapest nutrient dense food per cup. Bar none.
4. It makes your food taste like chef’s food, bring depth of flavour and richness to soups, stews, sauces, gravies and all that jazz!
5. It optimises digestion and Brillant Savarin knew this – am thinking this is why the French traditionally always start with a soup.
6. Fish stock is thought to prepare women for easy child birth – so that’s where I went wrong!
7. Fish stock is also fantastic for lazy thyroid issues, providing iodine!
8. Stock cures colds. Grandmas know this the world over!
9. Stock means when we’re done eating the meat around the bones, we use the bones for their goodness – Nothing going to waste!
10. Stock makes stuff taste good. Really, really good – Thought I’d remind you of that one!
So, how do you make it?
I just pop enough filtered water to cover the carcasses, 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, then plop a carrot, celery (if I have it, otherwise leek or spring onion is fine), an onion, a little celtic sea salt and some herbs – handful parsley / 3-5 sprigs thyme / 1-2 bay leaf is the traditional bouquet garnis, but it’s not the end of the world if you only have one or two of these – hope my chef friends aren’t reading this! For truly gelatinous stock I highly recommend sourcing some chickens feet. In a large Le Creuset pot, I fit 3 carcasses and 4 organic chicken’s feet and only JUST enough water to cover it all with the veg and get the most awesome jelly stock.
I roast a good couple of kilos of knuckle bones first on 250C for an hour and soak the marrow bones (usually one big marrow bone sawn in a couple of spots by the butcher to fit into the pot) in filtered water enough to cover and 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar. Then, once the roasted ones are done, I add them to the pot, top up more water to cover all bones, and then add all the veg / herb stuff listed above, times 2, because the beef batch is generally pretty big. I have a big stock pot, to ensure I only need to do this 2-3 times a year. It’s the way forward!
Extra tip for the roasted beef knuckle tray – deglaze the tray the knuckles were cooked in with a little water and scrape off the crunchy bits and get it all into the pot – flavour, flavour, flavour!
I do large-ish white fish heads that are really cheap from the markets (NOT oily fish like salmon / mackerel / sardine as it gives a horrible bitter taste), say 3-4 heads, filtered water to cover, a couple of tablespoons cider vinegar and all the veg above, but I usually add a fennel bulb for fish. Totally optional, just personally, I love the flavour.
Fish stock only needs a couple of hours to extract all the goodness from the bones and flavour.
Chicken I pop on after dinner and transfer to a super low oven just before bed, and then take out next day some time.
Beef I do a full 36-48 hours and often a second batch of another 24-36 hours that won’t be as gelatinous but will still have plenty of minerals with added apple cider vinegar (1/4 cup) to the pot. The bones just keep on giving and it’s the best way to achieve maximum gelatin extraction on that first batch.
STORAGE: I store by straining and pouring into glass jars, with a full inch empty from the top rim for expansion and the lid not screwed on too tightly – This way you avoid cracked glass. I’ve never had a problem with glass breaking if one doesn’t fill level too high. You can safely store for 6 months in the freezer. A solid layer of fat will form on top as the jars cool. That’s a good thing. Use it to cook with. They’re healthy fats and we make better use of fats than our water ways can!
A NOTE ON WATER: Filtered water is highly recommended. Heavy metals concentrate when water is boiled. Fluoride too, which contrary to popular belief, is quite toxic to us inside the body. Get a good system or large pot / jug that removes not only chlorine, bacteria and pesticides but also heavy metals. You will not regret it. The taste of the resulting water is awesome.
So voila. Get inspired. When you need to re heat roasted or pan fried meats, you can do it in a little stock on the pan to stop it drying. When you have panfried something, deglaze it (add liquid) with a ladle of stock for an instant jus. For something a little more exciting, add a little passata and cream to that, or mustard and cream, for a very quick panfried meat sauce.
If you want to try some recipes of mine using home made stock, try this delicious organic chicken dumpling soup , cracking cruciferous soup , 6 minute fish soup or the Luscious Sweet potato red lentil soup - All fabulous, easy and great for singles and families and all sugar free, dairy, nut and grain free!
Remember, to make stock a consistent and easy part of your routine, you must prepare it in big batches, not so often, so you don’t get put off by the process. You absolutely can do it and I can’t wait to hear of your successes. Something that tastes amazing and makes your hair, nails and skin glow AND saves the planet by minimising waste? Yes please!
Real Food. Happy Bodies.
Image credit: Sandy Sutton’s Design Blog for the feature image. I never cut my veggies that pretty for stock. They all just get plonked it!