Stock is great to have on hand in the coming months with temperatures dropping. Soups are an easy way to make large amounts of nutritious foods that keep well and will keep you warm. But stock is not what it used to be in the homes of America. Instead of making it at home, you can go to your local super market and pick up a quart for five to nine dollars depending on quality. But what do we lose by buying it at the store, and what do we have to gain from making stock at home? With a little time and culinary knowledge, stock can help give you quite an edge both in the kitchen and in your financials.
Lets start with some terminology to clear some things up. Stock is a strained liquid that results from simmering meats, fish, herbs, and vegetables in water. In order to be called a stock, there must be gelatin in the liquid from simmering bones, that’s what gives soups their hearty feeling. Broth is a fortified stock, meaning there is additional meat and bones simmered in the stock, after the stock has been made. Mirepoix is a French culinary term that refers to a mixture of onions, celery, and carrots that are used to flavor sauces, soups and stews. Soup is a liquid dish that uses stock to cook and serve meats, vegetables, and starches. Stew is like a soup, but has a thickening agent to give the sauce more body.
Stock is the backbone of French cooking, which is one of the most influential food cultures in the western world. Almost all western cooking styles are derived from French techniques and methods. Many classical dishes and sauces cannot be made without stock. French cuisine, as we know it now, began when the disparity between the rich and the poor was very large in France, around the time of the French Revolution. The poor would often serve as cooks for the aristocrats, cooking all the high quality dishes of meats for the rich, while the bones and vegetable scraps were saved, and turned into a stock for the staff. Stock was invented to conserve flavor nutrition and reduce waste, a great way to keep green no doubt.
When you buy stock from a store, you are creating a couple problems right off the bat.
Energy is being spent for transport of the stock, whether it is physical energy for you to get to the store or the energy your car uses to get you there and back, not to mention how far the product itself has traveled to the store. Given if you make it at home you will have to travel for some ingredients as well, but if you shop smart, you can reduce the carbon footprint of your culinary venture. The stock you buy has packaging that you then must be the steward of, not all of which is recyclable, and this also affects the price. Part of the reason boxed stock costs more is because of packaging. And when it comes to instant stock, don’t even bother, nothing compares to the real deal.
Stock is incredibly easy and requires very little skill and time to make. If you make it at home, you can control sodium levels, flavor composition, and seasoning. You also avoid artificial preservatives, emulsifiers, and other ingredients by using your own stock.
Although different stocks have different flavors and applications, chicken stock is by far the most common and arguably the most versatile. Yes, it is a great base for many broth-based soups, as well as puréed and cream soups but stock can do so much more. Use it as your cooking liquid for rice, reduce it down to make a delicious sauce for meats or vegetables, cook vegetables in simmering stock, even if seasoned properly, it’s great by itself.
I believe that the real reason young Americans are not making stock is because there is not enough cooking happening in the first place to justify making stock. So below is a killer recipe for a roasted chicken, something EVERYONE should know how to do. It’s a beautiful and classic way to impress a date, or just enjoy a meal with friends without much kitchen experience.
Aside from a few spices, almost all the ingredients you need can be sourced locally at the Storrs Farmers Market to help grow our community and local food security, so next Saturday why not grab a chicken and make something that will warm the soul and your wallet?
-1 whole chicken
-1/2 stick of melted butter
-Salt and pepper
-5 sprigs of fresh thyme (1 Tbsp. of dry)
-2 sprigs of fresh rosemary (1 tsp. of dry)
Set oven to 425° F
Remove chicken from packaging and rinse out in the sink.
Dry thoroughly with a towel, wet meat does not brown.
Insert the herbs into the cavity of the chicken along with a pinch of salt and pepper.
Brush the skin of the whole chicken with a thin layer of the melted butter.
Cover the skin with a dusting of fresh ground black pepper and salt.
Place chicken in a roasting pan with a roasting rack, or on a bed of mirepoix if you don’t have a rack or you really want to be traditional.
Brown chicken in the oven, basting with remaining butter occasionally when too dry.
After chicken is even brown, about 15 min, drop the oven down to 350° and cook for about 40 min or until the internal temp. is at least 165° F.
Allow the chicken to rest for 5-10 minutes under foil, carve and serve.
(Makes about a gallon)
-1 roasted chicken carcass
-1/2 cup rough chop carrots
-1/2 cup rough chop celery
-1 cup rough chop onions
-4 qts. of water
-1 bay leaf
-12 whole peppercorns
-3 medium cloves of garlic
-2 sprigs of fresh thyme (or 1 tsp. dry)
-Salt and pepper to taste
Place all ingredients in a large stockpot and bring to a boil.
Once at a boil, reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 2-3 hours, skimming the fat and foam on top of the soup off with a spoon.
After cooking, strain your stock through a colander or a mesh strainer for a clearer stock, eat or compost the cooked veggies and discard the carcass in the trash.
Season stock to taste, and use in your favorite soups and other dishes, or freeze in reusable containers to have fresh stock later in the year.
Dan Wood is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.