Stock: do's & don'ts
Any golden rules about making stock?
I have just recently started and have not yet established any definite boundaries. I have been freezing left over vegetable peeling's (onion, carrot, potato, tomato, red pepper, mushroom stems) and dumping them into a big pot o water with some left over meats (chicken, lamb, or beef)
Generally observe the following extremely short list:
a) don't use salt (add this later when using the stock)
b) toss in a very small amount of bay / thyme / rosemarry / pepper
I just tried adding some citrius to the last batch (left over lemon) that really gave it a tang (oops?) and i am wondering if this will provide too strong a flavour?
comments / ideas?
I'd skip the carrot and onion peels in favor of actual carrots and onions. Onion skins are often moldy, and I've never noticed their having any particular flavor. And carrot skins contain a lot of embedded dirt that even a good scrubbing can't remove (or if you scrub them well enough, then you've basically peeled them). And if you're not buying organic, who knows what's been sprayed on your vegetables.
I often make batches of what I think of as neutral stock, adding only onion to whatever meat/bones I'm using. This allows me to take it in different directions at a later point, adding herbs, garlic, ginger, other vegetables, etc., rather than committing myself to making a big pot of really specifically flavored stock.
I think the flavors you add depend on what you want to use the stock for. An old Nigella recipe from the NY Times (I think) called for some Seville orange, but that was for a particular soup. Claudia Roden suggests some tomato in chicken stock if you want it to be extra rich. And if you're going to use your stock for Asian recipes, for instance, you may want to add some ginger and forego the carrots.
I stick to one kind of meat at a time for a stock. I also do use salt, but then just consider that when making a recipe with the stock. Bay leaf and peppercorns are fine, but I wouldn't use thyme or rosemary, or any herb that would compromise the neutrality of the stock. Use it in the final recipe instead.
Also, as someone else said, don't boil it. Just a very slow simmer is best, otherwise you end up with a very cloudy stock.
My basic chicken stock contains the following: celery, carrot, parsnip, onion, peppercorns, bay leaves, parsley, salt. Maybe some garlic.
Yeah, there are some rules governing making stock.
First off, throwing a bunch of scraps into the pot won't get you the best end product. Generally you are looking for a clear stock, not cloudy so you want to avoid starchy veg like potatoes. The ratio of bones to aromatics should be 5 to 1. That is to say, for every 5# of bones you should use 1# of mirepoix. And the classic mirepoix is 2 parts onion to one part carrot and one part celery. Onion skins will leave a bitter taste and should be avoided. Adding other scraps like peppers, tomatoes, mushroom stems, etc. is OK but don't overdo it. You don't want to overwhelm the meat component whose flavor should predominate. I mean, you want your chicken stock to taste like chicken and not red pepper right? As the stock simmers (never boiling) you will want to skim off the foam that collects on the surface. If you don't it will make your stock cloudy and have an off taste.
OK, so here's the way to do it:
Bring the bones to a gentle boil in enough wtaer to cover them completely. As soon as it reaches a boil, lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Skim off the scum as it gathers on the surface. Simmer uncovered for at least 2 hours. Add the mirepoix and a handful of parsley stems and mabe a sprinkle of whole black peppercorns and a bay leaf or two. Continue cooking for another hour or two.
Strain the stock and discard the solids. (After that much cooking there is nothing left in them. All their flavor has been transferred to the stock.) It is important to cool the stock now as quickly as possible. (I usually put it into small rice bowls so it will cool quickly and then into the fridge.) When it cools completely you can scoop off any fat that has solidified on the surface and then freeze the stock.
A really good stock will be thick and gelatenous and full of flavor. If you want a dark stock you can roast the bones before adding to the stock.
Chicken bones and especially back bones are quite gelatinous and make a good, flavorful stock. Beef bones do not and it is harder to make a full flavored stock with them. Veal bones on the other hand are excellent for stock because they are loaded with collagen which breaks down as gelatin when it cooks.
If you are going to invest the time needed to make a good stock I'd recommend you read up on it first.
You can brown the bones and veggies in the pot in a hot oven before adding liquid. Adds depth of flavor and color. Onion peels, the lighweight dried ones, have tons of flavor and color. Buy onions and put lots of dried peels in your bag, they weigh nothing. The peels also make spectacular colored hard boiled eggs, sort of a deep copper color. For some reason garlic is not good in stock, I think it gets bitter with too much cooking. I like to simmer a long time to get the marrow out of the bones. I currently use a crock pot on low and let it go 12-14 hours even.
I like to add bay leaf, but don't usually add other herbs until afterward.
Just my opinion and experience: Onion, carrot, mushroom - yes. Tomato, red pepper - no, they add too much acidity, color, and flavor to a stock that you want to be versatile. Potato - no, it adds no flavor and too much starch that clouds the stock. I would definitely add celery for flavor and zucchini (optional) for body. I like some garlic, too. I also freeze peelings in a bag to use, though I've read that for the best, clearest stock you'd only want to use fresh, clean vegies that you'd eat.
Chicken and beef, yes. Lamb, no - unless you are making a lamb stock. The key ingredient is the bones. They need to be roasted and browned, not burned. Bones provide the foundation and gelatin that is most crucial to the end result.
Start with cold water, not hot. Bring just to a boil and immediately turn down to a simmer. Skim the foam that will float to the top just as you reach that first boil.
Cooling quickly after simmering is crucial. Strain the hot stock into a stainless steel or other heatproof bowl sitting in an ice bath. Then place the stock, cooled to lukewarm at the hottest, into small containers and fridge. (Do NOT place a large container of hot stock into the fridge -- it will take too long to cool, it will warm the rest of the fridge, and it will spoil or sour much too quickly.) Do not skim the fat yet, letting it rise to the top will create a seal to help preserve it in the fridge or freezer. Keep in the fridge for two to three days at the most, better to freeze and defrost as needed. Finished stock should have a consistency just softer than set up Jello when cooled in the fridge.