Taking Stock and Making It

That picture, of course, is Normal Rockwell’s Thanksgiving fantasy. I’m sure there is one with a terrine of chicken soup, I just couldn’t find it. I know many of you will switch off at the mere thought of making stock, but you are missing out on something that not only links us to our past and a line of long forgotten ancestors, but to something that will give you a lot of happiness.
Jump straight to the recipe: #chickenstock

A boiler in my Staub

Making your own stock, broth or soup is one of the most rewarding things life has to offer. The smell of simmering chicken stock when you come home might even remind you of childhood, if you were lucky enough to have a parent who cooked. My own mother wouldn’t have known how to boil a stock cube and it still reminds me of home, which must be some Rockwellian fantasy. It’s that wholesome illusion, the 50’s nuclear family, the French country kitchen, the Yiddishe mamma making matze ball soup. Of course if you add cabbage, the smell, though sweet, will be more Soviet Union 1964 than French Country Kitchen. Even that is nostalgia, I guess.

I used to take out my big Staub pot to make stock, but it yields only about 2.5 litres, so it’s not really enough for a big family of two. Hence the recent shopping trip to acquire a pot more in tune with a large batch. This here Pujadas 20 litre monster can give you 6-8 litres of nice clean stock. But only if you make it right. That’s where I can help. Over the years, the way i make stock has changed considerably. I used to add lots of wine and handfuls of aromatics (that’s herb & spices to the uninitiated) and boil the stock literally for days. But those days are gone. I make a much cleaner tasting stock and have recently banished wine from my stock making, simply because I feel it is not necessary. When you use the stock in a recipe, the addition of wine can be a great thing, but I feel that you don’t need it in the base at all.

Chicken Stock

You don’t actually need a recipe to make stock, because the quantities can be varied wildly and you will still arrive at a great stock. But if you want the same stock every time, you need some kind of guideline. Mine is the size of a laksa bowl I have in the kitchen, so once I have a bowl full of each vegetable, I know I’m ready to go. I recommend you find your own system that allow you to work fast without having to weigh your ingredients. Here are the peeled and cut weights of all I have put into this chicken stock:

This recipe makes about 4.5 litres

  • 3 chicken carcasses (1.2kg total and up is good)
  • 2 packets of chicken feet (about 24 pieces)
  • 250-300g carrots
  • 250-300g celery branches
  • 250-300g leek
  • 250-300g brown onion
  • (150-200g fennel bulb) optional, but I highly recommend splashing out.
  • 2 tsp salt
  • About 10 litres water

Aromatics:

  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 cloves
  • 12 white peppercorns
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 small handful thyme
  • 1 big handful parsley
  • (5 sprigs chervil) optional, but nice.

To avoid scooping some of the vegetables and herbs out of the stock when skimming, I first boil the meat and only add the vegetables and aromatics once the stock is clean. Start by washing the chicken and the chicken feet under running water and putting them into a stockpot. Add water to cover and stir the meat around, then pour off all the water for a second wash. Refill the pot to about 2/3 full, roughly 10 litres. Add 2 teaspoons of salt and bring the water with the meat to a boil.

Do not add the vegetables or aromatics at this point! Once the water is boiling and a nice , skim off the scum at the top. Do this several times, until the stock stays quite clear. You will see the foamy stuff at the top going from grey-brown at the first cleaning to white at the next and finally there should be no or little foam.

Now add all the vegetables and aromatics and bring back to the boil. Once the stock is boiling, lower the heat and keep the stock at a steady simmer for 3 more hours. Turn off the heat, cover the pot and leave to cool down for 30 minutes.

For this broth, I have not degreased the stock and only strained it through a fine wire mesh. The fat carries a lot of flavour, so I like to only partially degrease, if my chicken was very fatty or, as in this case, not degrease at all.

Pour the stock through a fine strainer into plastic tubs and cover with a lid while still hot. Then leave to cool at room temperature. If you want to degrease, put the tubs into tha chiller overnight and just scoop off the solidified fat in the morning, then label and freeze your stock. The stock will keep for a year in a domestic freezer. Unlike restaurant freezers, domestic freezers don’t have blowers, so things actually keep much longer. I have defrosted stock I forgot was there after two years and it was perfectly fine.


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