Saturday, October 10, 2015

Making Stocks At Home

The terms 'stock' and 'broth' get used interchangeably by many people when talking about cooking liquids, and while they are similar, they are different. A broth is liquid made in the same fashion as a stock, however instead of bones, its flavor is derived by cooking meat in the liquid. Stocks tend to have a greater depth of flavor or mouth feel than broths due to the gelatin and marrow released by the bones during the cooking process. So to sum it up a broth gets it's flavor form meat, and a stock gets it's flavor from bones.

The basic liquid I use for my soups, stews and many sauces is a classic 'white stock.' The term white stock refers to any liquid made with chicken, rabbit, lamb or beef bones, mirepoix, and a small amount of seasonings and spices. A brown stock is simply a white stock with tomatoes or a tomato product added to the stock. A vegetable stock can be either as white or brown stock without the bones (which in theory really makes it a broth).

In addition to the bones, all stocks white or brown start out with a roughly cut combination of chopped onions, carrots, celery known in French cuisine as a 'mirepoix'. The basic formula for mirepoix is a ratio of 2 parts onion to 1 part each of carrot and celery (2:1:1). Now when I cooked in the restaurant I followed this ratio pretty closely to maintain a consistency of product and flavor. At home, I am not quite so pigeon holed to following this exact ratio, but I find old habits die hard and I unconsciously almost always end up following this formula. I guess you can blame it on muscle memory. My point is use what ever ratio of carrot to onion and celery your family enjoys. Having said that, if you have never made your own stock the 2:1:1 ratio of onions to carrots and celery works extremely well at giving you a solid stock to build on.

Ends And Pieces (Super Charging Your Soup Base With Flavor And Nutrients)

I may have mentioned in one of my earlier articles that one of the things that was drilled into my head many years ago during culinary school was that nothing goes to waste. In our kitchen, each time that we cut or prep vegetables, we save all the ends, pieces and peelings (carrot, zucchini, squash etc.) and they go into a one gallon zip lock bag and are placed in the freezer. When we get 1 – 2 bags full of ends and pieces I throw them in a large stockpot, and add enough water to cover the vegetables by two inches and bring to a boil. I then reduce the heat and simmer the vegetable pieces for 45 to 60 minutes.

Then I strain the vegetable ends and pieces through a fine mesh strainer. Once cooled, the liquid is then poured into placed in plastic 2-liter bottles (only 75% full) and frozen until I get ready to make a big pot of stock. Sometimes, I put it into small bottles just to have in case I need a quick vegetable broth. The vegetables that I have simmered and extracted all the flavor and nutrients from are then cooled and fed to our chickens. Making this 'pre-stock' is a totally unnecessary step, in making your own stock, but it is a great inexpensive way of giving your stocks that added flavor and nutrients that you might otherwise miss.

The Recipe

There are a couple of different ways to make a stock. I am going to include instructions for how we made this in the restaurant as well as the way I make it at home. I prefer the home version as I am not attempting to make a consommé or clear vegetable broth with my stocks. But by all means try it both ways, however I feel you get a more flavorful and nutritious stock by following my home directions, and nothing goes to waste.

White Stock (Makes 2 Gallons)

10 pounds of bones (Chicken, Rabbit, Beef or Veal)
10 – 12 quarts of water or (super charged pre-stock)
16 ounces (3 large) onions, chopped
8 ounces (3 large) carrots, chopped
8 ounces (4 stalks) celery, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 whole cloves
¼ teaspoon black peppercorns
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ dried parsley

To make a brown stock add 1 pound of petite diced tomatoes, tomato puree, or tomato sauce. If you do not have any fresh tomatoes, grab a 15oz canned of diced tomatoes, tomato puree, or tomato sauce from the pantry. If you do not have any of those then try a 6oz can of tomato paste, I promise I will not tell anyone.

Chef's Note: I do not generally have 10lbs of bones lying around my kitchen like we did in the restaurant. So occasionally I substitute the bones for 6 tablespoons of powdered chicken bouillon to add just a bit of additional depth to the stock. Obviously if you are making it vegan, you would omit the powdered bouillon. Btw, most restaurants do not do their own butchering or break down sides of beef or lamb anymore and they use commercial paste or powdered soup bases in their stocks. For more information about powdered bouillon see my article 'Restaurants Use Them, So Should You?'.

How We Made It In The Restaurant….

Make a bouquet garni (small sachet) by placing the bay leaves, cloves, peppercorns, dried thyme and dried parsley in a piece of cheese cloth and tie it with baker's twine. Set the bouquet garni aside to add to the stockpot later.

If using bones, cut them into 3 to 4” pieces and place the bones in your stockpot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and with a ladle carefully skim off any scum that has collected on the surface. Then add the mirepoix (vegetables), bouquet garni, and tomato product if you are making a brown stock to the stockpot and simmer for about 90 minutes if you are making this a vegetable stock. Simmer for 3 to 4 hours for if using chicken or rabbit bones, or 6 to 8 hours for beef and veal bones.

Strain the stock through a china cap (cone shaped strainer) lined with several layers of cheesecloth. Throw out the bones, the veggies (mirepoix), and the bouquet and cool the stock and place in the walk-in cooler.

How I Make It At Home….

Slice the onions thinly and sauté them in olive oil until they begin to turn golden brown. Do this in small batches to keep the onions from burning. Put the caramelized onions in a small bowl and then sauté the carrots and celery together just until the celery becomes translucent. At this point I usually peel and dice up a few zucchini or yellow squash if I have any in the fridge and sauté them with the carrots and celery. Once the celery is soft, add the onions back to the pot (if you are making a brown stock add your tomato product as well) and add two quarts of water or 'pre-stock' to the stockpot and bring to a boil. Cook to vegetables for 30 minutes then remove the stockpot from the heat.

Carefully ladle the vegetables and the liquid into a stand mixer. Place the lid on the mixer and hold the lid firmly as you pulse the mixture until it is pureed. Then add the puree to your 12 to 15qt stockpot and repeat the process until all of the mirepoix (vegetables) are pureed. Once complete, add the bay leaves, cloves, thyme, parsley, and ½ teaspoon black pepper (in place of the peppercorns) to the stockpot and add the remaining 8 quarts of water to the stockpot and bring to a boil and cook for 60 minutes.

Chef's Note: Caramelizing the onions not only adds sweetness to the stock but gives it a greater depth of color and flavor. This is not a necessary step, just one that I think enhances the stock that you will be using to make your soup base. The white stock in jar 'B' is darker in color because of the caramelized onions and the carrots which were in the mirepoix that was pureed.

Storing Or Preserving Your Stock

If you are not going to use your stock right away, you need to find a proper way to store it as it is only good in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days. So you have a couple of decisions to make, when I have small amounts of stock and I do not want to tie up my canning jars I pour the stock in 20oz Gatorade or 2-liter soft drink bottles and place them in the freezer. Just remember that liquid expands when it freezes so if you decide to freeze your soup stock only fill the bottles about 75% full. If you have a vacuum sealer, you can freeze your stock in small containers, then once it is fully hardened take it out of the container and vacuum seal your blocks of stock.

Most of the time I prefer to can my stocks and soup bases. Fortunately, I have the storage space and the equipment to do so, but I understand not everyone does. The added advantage to canning my stock is that it does not take up precious space in my freezer and the canned stock is shelf stable until opened. All stocks are low-acid foods and low acids foods whether or not they contain meat or meat products, they must be pressure canned to make sure they are safe for you and your family. For more information regarding pressure and water bath canning check out the article 'To Pressure Or Not To Pressure, That Is The Question' on our blog.

Pressure Canning Your Stock

By the time you reach this point you have done all of the complicated stuff, now comes the easy part. One at a time, ladle your hot stock into your sterilized jars leaving 1-inch of headspace. Then, wipe the rim of the jar with a damp clean paper towel. Place the heated lid on the jar then hand tighten the ring and using your tongs, place the jar in the simmering pressure canner. Repeat this process until your canner is full, then place the lid on the canner and process at the recommended time and pressure (see below).

If you have more stock to process than your canner will hold, only fill enough jars to completely fill the canner. Once the first batch of stock has been processed and removed from the canner, check the water level in the canner and adjust it as necessary. Then fill additional jars with stock following the previous instructions and process the remaining stock. Continue to do this until all of your stock has been safely processed.

If per chance, you do not have enough jars of canned stock to fill the pressure canner (which happens to me all the time) Take empty jars filled with warm water without lids and add those to the canner to take up the empty space. These water filled jars will keep your precious bounty from falling over and possibly breaking during the pressure canning process. Remember to take care as the stock in the canning jars will be boiling and quite hot to touch. The following are the USDA recommended processing times for canning stocks and meat broths depending on altitude and jar size.

Recommended Processing Time In Dial Gauge Pressure Canner

Pint Jars 20 minutes at 11lbs (0 – 1,000ft), 12lbs (2,001 – 4,000ft),13lbs (4,001 –  6,000ft) and 14lbs (6,001 or greater).
Quart Jars 25 minutes at 11lbs (0 – 1,000ft), 12lbs (2,001 – 4,000ft), 13lbs (4,001 – 6,000ft) and 14lbs (6,001 or greater).

Recommended Processing Time In Weighted Gauge Pressure Canner

Pint Jars 20 minutes at 10lbs (0 – 1,000ft), 15lbs (greater than 1,001ft altitude).
Quart Jars 25 minutes at 10lbs (0 – 1,000ft), 15lbs (greater than 1,001ft altitude).


Homemade soups and stews are an inexpensive way to feed your family. Making your own stocks is the first step in making these flavorful and nutritious soups and stews that your family will rave about. While you can make delicious soups and stews with store bought broths or stock, doing so adds quite a considerable amount of cost to your meal. For about $4.00 you can make 2 gallons (256 ounces) of white or brown stock. Btw, that's about $0.02 per ounce compared with a Great Value 32oz container of chicken broth that sells for $1.86 or $0.06 per ounce. That means you save a minimum of 67% by making your own stocks instead of buying them at the supermarket.

If you are looking to find additional ways to stretch your food dollars, be sure and check out some of my other articles on the subject on our blog. And as always, if you have enjoyed this article, please share it with your friends and don't forget to send us a friend request on Facebook and Google+ so that you will not miss out on any of our new articles.

Additional Article On Our Blog:

Additional References On the Web:

Complete Guide to Home Canning, Guide 1: Principles of Home Canning, United States Department Of Agriculture,

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