Making stock at home is often seen as time-consuming and complicated, but armed with these tips and tricks, made-from-scratch, flavoursome bragging rights will be all yours without any stress.
Close to the bone - When making a meat stock, the focus isn’t on meat but on bones and connective tissue – simmering them for long enough draws out flavour and nutrition. Adding a splash of apple cider vinegar (or other acid like wine or tomato) to the pot can help the bones give up their goodness. Choose bones with a lot of cartilage and therefore collagen – knuckles, neck and tail bones are great. A good stock will solidify once cooled, due to all the gelatin.
Shades of stock - In classical French cooking, white and brown stocks are clearly defined bases for many sauces and dishes. A more casual approach is to tailor your stock to suit your taste-buds and the dishes you tend to cook. In short, a brown stock sees bones and vegetables roasted before simmering, while a white stock sees raw ingredients added to the pot.
Scrapbook - Making stock from leftovers is a wonderfully economical approach. Seal leftover roast carcass and bones, crustacean shells, even shellfish shells, in a freezer bag, label with date and contents, and pop in the freezer. Once you have enough collected, make a stock whenever you find the time. Do the same for vegetable offcuts – carrot peelings, celery leaves, the green part of leeks and spring onion, fennel tips.
Start to finish - Start with your ingredients in enough cold water to cover whatever vegetables and bones you’re using, bring to a rolling boil and skim any scum off the surface with a slotted spoon. Then turn the heat down so the liquid is just bubbling, put a lid on, and cook for several hours, or if you’re keen on the disintegrating cartilage, bone broth route then you might even cook it for a whole day. Top up with boiling water if the liquid is getting low. You can make stock in the slow cooker (no steam, no rattling lid) or pressure cooker (takes a fraction of the time): you’re just limited as to quantity.
Hold the salt - It can be tempting to add salt to stock while cooking if it’s tasting a bit bland, but it’s best not to – the flavour comes from the long slow cooking drawing minerals out of the ingredients so give it time and the magic should happen. Also, you can always add salt and other umami boosters to a dish you cook later on that uses the stock.
Strain it - Strain cooked stock through a sieve or, for bonus bragging rights, line a colander with cheesecloth or a clean tea towel and strain through that. Let it cool before chilling or freezing.
Quick-fire stock solutions - The popular Japanese base dashi can be made in a jiffy in a French press (coffee plunger). Put some bonito flakes, kombu pieces, and dried shiitake mushrooms into the glass carafe, fill with boiling water, let it infuse for 10 mins before plunging. Dashi is brilliant in Japanese ramen or udon soups, and braises. Experiment with adding miso paste or dried shiitakes to the mix before plunging for greater flavour.
For Southeast Asian dishes, you can make a 20-min stock by boiling aromatics the likes of lemongrass, ginger, galangal, makrut lime leaf, star anise, along with any other vegetable odds and ends, then adding extra flavour towards the end with tamarind paste, lime juice, chilli, fish sauce or soy sauce.
A shortcut Chinese-style stock is easily made by adding to boiling water dried shiitake, ginger, garlic, spring onion, and any other vegetable pieces, then adding soy and/or oyster sauce for extra flavour towards the end of 20 mins or so simmering.