We typically make our own stocks and broths in my house. Whenever we have bones, we either cook them down into stocks or broths right away, or we freeze them for later use. Stocks and broths are the base for many home-cooked meals. Of course it’s pretty easy to just go get a tetra pack of stocks, or a can of broth from your local grocery store. Sometimes we still end up doing that too!
However, I think the homemade stuff is more delicious and nutritious. It’s pretty easy to make too. But first, let’s have a quick chat about the difference between a stock and a broth.
A stock is made from bones, and maybe a few aromatics. Typically it is made from animals and is divided into two categories: White stock and brown stock. White stocks are made from raw bones and it has almost no colour. If you are butchering an animal at home, or even just taking the bone out of your bone-in chicken or something, save those bones and use them to make white broth. The second category, brown broth is made from bones roasted with tomato paste. You can use the different stocks to change a recipe slightly, giving it a different tone or taste, but typically you use the white stock in things like cream soups, light sauces, etc and you use the brown stock for heartier recipes such as dark soups and stews or gravies. It is the brown stock that is most often used to make sipping broths.
You can also make a vegetable stock, its maybe the most common stock used in our home because we just save all our veggie scraps in the freezer, and when it starts to take over, we take it out and make veg stock (which ironically, we often then return to the freezer!). Vegetable stocks are very light and fragrant. How they taste depends on what you put into them. One way to turn veg stock into a brown stock is to add oingon brûlé, which is just a fancy way of saying “burnt onion”. Basically, you (ideally) grill or heat the onion (in a cast iron pan) until it is burned. You just cut it in half, put it on the dry pan or grill, cut side down, and cook until it’s blackened. You add it to the veg stock post-boil (when you put in your bouquet garni–more about that later) and simmer it down with the rest of the stock.
There is one essential rule for stocks: you never, EVER salt a stock. When you use your stock to make a soup or sauce, or want to serve it up as a broth, then and only then, do you salt (and/or pepper) it.
No matter what kind of stock you are making, here are some rules for getting the perfect stock:
- For crystal clear stock:
- trim all the bones of excess fat and meat
- cover them with cold water
- after the initial boil of the bones, keep the stock at a slow simmer and skim (not stir) it regularly with a slotted spoon.
- Do not cover it!
- Ratio of bones to water for stock is about 50% bones by weight.
- Strain your stock through some cheesecloth, it will help keep it clear
- Cool the stock quickly. Best way to do this is to pour the hot liquid into a clean metal container and immerse it in an ice bath. Then move it right into the fridge.
Oh delicious, warming, nutritious broth. Broth is a stock that has been seasoned with salt, spices and maybe some other stuff (like meat!) and is drinkable all on its own. In fact, in many parts of the world broth and bread used to be the most common meal eaten from kings to serfs. It’s still the case in many places today. You can either turn a stock into a broth, or you can make the broth directly, but some of the steps will still be the same as the stock.
OK, so now you know about stocks and broths. There are so many delicious recipes online, and using what you learned here you can figure out how to perfect your own method. We hardly make our stocks and broths the same way twice, because we just use whatever is on hand at the time. As mentioned before, any veg scraps in our kitchen go into a ziplock bag in the freezer. It’s economical and less wasteful as every part of the veggie ends up being used. You can really throw anything at all in there, onion skins, carrot peels, carrot heads, whatever you peel or chop off and don’t use, throw it in a ziplock and put it in the freezer to use for stock or broth. The source of our bones will change too. We actually don’t often have raw bones in the house. The most common source of bones around here is the carcass of a rotisserie chicken! It makes amazing broth, because it is already deliciously seasoned. Often when pressed for time, we just toss them as-is into the pot, but if we have the time, we brush the bones with tomato paste and roast them for about 15 minutes in the oven before putting them into the pot.
The Bouquet Garni
The bouquet garni is basically your seasoning, think of them as teabags for your broths. You take your seasoning herbs and wrap them in cheesecloth squares and tie them with a string (you could also use a teaball). Then you toss them to the pot while it’s simmering. You just fish it out when the broth has finished, before you strain it. Incidently, bouquet garnis also make fun hostess gifts, throw some in a jar and tie it up with a pretty ribbon, present it along with hand written instructions for your favourite broth recipe!
Some stock recipes:
- How To Make the Best Soup Stock
- Make a Quick, Flavorful Vegetable Stock in Just 10 Minutes
- How to Make Chicken Stock
- What’s in the Couldron?
- How To Make Beef Stock
There are so many good broth recipes online. Have a look around and you’ll quickly find a favourite, or maybe with all the tips here, you’ll end up with your own home brand!