Not sure why making stock is such a problem for so many people. It takes moments of your time, and makes everything taste better. So much better, that I got one of my children to eat lentil soup AND ENJOY IT.
There's no doubt that making stock satisfies my inner 40s housewife: when there's no stock in the fridge, I arrange the shopping and eating so that I can make some straightaway. I never freeze it: if there's a glut, then we eat risotto or soup, the two biggest consumers of stock.
Recently, I've been making Fergus Henderson's highly flavoured "trotter gear", a stock made of pork, garlic and wine, very good and cheap to make. But my mainstay is chicken stock, made with the carcass of a roasted chicken, although I sometimes use raw chicken wings. Either way, I use a lot of vegetables, and lots of different ones to give a depth of flavour: peppercorns, herbs from the garden, mushroom stalks - whatever there is.
There's no real recipe - you need to make it a few times to feel your way to the stock you like. But here are some of the things I wish I'd known when I first started to make stock, three decades ago.
- Put in plenty of halved onions, but don't peel them - the skins will colour the stock
- Use stalks and peelings - my stockpot generally contains parsley and mushroom stalks, carrot peelings, celery leaves. DON'T put in potato in any form, as the starch will cloud the stock
- Use loads of vegetables - three or four onions, three or four carrots. Their flavour will shine through, saving you time later when you're making soup or risotto
- Put in a handful of whole peppercorns, they add depth of flavour without heat. I'm currently using a mixture of pink, white and black peppercorns.
- DON'T put in anything with a very strong flavour, unless you need it in the dish you will make with the stock - I'm thinking of cabbage, cloves, chilli
- Don't cover the carcass with water - the stock is always better, always more like to jell if the water comes 2/3rd of the way up.
- No need to boil it to death - a gentle simmer for no more than two hours gives you great flavour. Strain it when it's hot, and get it into the fridge as soon as you can. A conical sieve is the best tool here, but I used an ordinary colander for 25 years.
- If you've got no stock, use water instead
The more flavours you put into your stockpot, the more flavour there will be in your stock - the less flavour you need to put into your weekday cooking. Frugal food that makes your life easier. The lentil soup I made yesterday was cooked in very strong stock, and tasted of carrots and chicken. Utterly delicious, utterly unsuitable for a vegetarian. But there's a good link below if you'd like to make vegetarian stock.
Things I've made with stock in the past year or so ... apart from dozens of risottos, soups, gravies
Gravy - try this one with Delia's spiced orange chutney
Stewed broad beans
Rabbi Blue's meatballs
Braised mixed lentils
Poached barley with herbs
Links to stock on other blogs
How to make stock from chicken's feet
If you don't make your own stock, use water instead
How to make vegetable stocks