I consider stock made from animal bones to be a panacea of good health. I hadn’t always recognized their value. I was introduced to the culinary concept by Chief and then got really in to learning about the health benefits. Stock is also known by the term broth. While the two are essentially one in the same, stock is generally used to refer to a liquid made from boiling down bone, while broth is made from boiling down bones that still have a significant amount of meat on them. Also, stock is a term that is sometimes used more in restaurants with a prescribed recipe whereas broth might be more scraps from whatever is available at home and will be slightly different every time.
Stocks are really simple to do but they are full of vitamins, minerals and amino acids that many people are lacking in our modern diet. In our throwaway, removed-from-the-process lifestyle, making stocks has kind of gone by the wayside. Ancient cultures, conversely, were very resourceful in using up every part of the animal, understanding that not only were bones not meant to be discarded, but that is where some of the most vital nutrients of the animal were contained including calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, gelatin, glucosamine-chondroitin and electrolytes. The gelatin is an additional source of protein to the diet and is thought to help keep bones healthy while the glucosamine – chondroitin helps keep joints healthy. Joints can sometimes be troubled as a result of over-training or arthritis.
Besides the resourcefulness and health benefits, there is also the excitement of contributing to your confidence and pride as a cook by preparing your own stocks. There is an irreplaceable, rich depth to homemade stock and it imparts a delicious flavor to everything you cook that requires stock in the recipe.
Cooking it also makes a house smell comforting, and I love making our kitchen a space of experimentation and tradition.
Stocks are a really important component for keeping you and your family healthy. Broths are very easily digested so work well for supplying nutrients in the system when the body doesn’t have much energy to supply to digestion, like during times of illnesses or for the elderly or with anyone having digestion problems. The liquid and electrolytes are also really good during times of dehydration during recovery or during times of over-exertion.
Because stock is generally made out of any leftovers it is very inexpensive. You can buy the leftover parts from the butchering process at a low cost or you can simply use the carcasses you’d normally discard, like the remains of a roast chicken. Using up these bits means that is an extremely frugal way to cook. Often times we’ll ask for some chicken backs at the meat counter and he gladly gives them away to us for a very low price.
I’m going to put the recipe for chicken stock here because I think that is the one that’s easiest to do as a beginner, but know that you can follow the same general outline for broths of beef, lamb, etc. Some of the red meats require roasting (about 40 minutes at 350 degrees F) before they are transferred to the stockpot.
A large stockpot
A slotted spoon
- 1 whole free range chicken or 2-3 pounds of chicken parts (bones, backs, gizzards, etc.)
- 2 Tbsps vinegar
- 4 quarts (one gallon) of cold, filtered water
- 1 large onion, quartered
- 2-3 carrots (coarsely chopped)
- 3 celery stalks (coarsely chopped)
- 2 bay leaves
- Other vegetable odds and ends you may have on hand
Cut the chicken up in to several large pieces if using a whole chicken. Put it in your stockpot with vinegar, onion, carrots and celery. Let stand for about 30 minutes to an hour before turning on the burner and bringing to a boil. Doing so helps to extract some of the vitamins and minerals with the vinegar. Once it begins to boil, remove the scum that comes to the top. It is important to do this step so that you can get rid of the stuff we don’t want and to help ensure clarity of the stock. This is best done with a metal slotted spoon or a small mesh sieve. Once all the scum has boiled off, reduce heat to a very low heat, cover and leave for at least 6 hours and up to 24 hours. You want the water to be turning over to some extent but want to keep the heat as low as possible – not quite to a simmer. You really won’t need to do much during this time so don’t be daunted by the long process. It’s really nice to do when you’re around home on the weekends, etc. and makes the house smell lovely.
The longer you simmer it, the more rich and flavorful the broth will be. Note that the broth will not be salted until it is ready to be used so keep that in mind when testing the flavor as you go. When you are finished, remove the bones or carcass with a slotted spoon. After deliberating for the last year, we finally invested in a stock strainer and Chief is in such a state of joy over it now! It really is quite handy. If there is a fair bit of meat left on the bone, remove it to use for things like curry, chili, chicken salads, or enchiladas. We recently used it as the meat for Vietnamese sandwiches (bánh mì), yum. The skin or soft small bones can also be given to your dog or cat who will be very happy about the treat! Larger bones can splinter so don’t feed those to animals.
Strain the stock and put it in containers to store in the refrigerator or freezer. We have made the mistake of putting it in glass containers that weren’t made for freezing and cracked them so be sure to get specially designed ones. It also works well to just put them in Ziploc bags and freezing them that way. Use larger gallon sizes if you are going to be making soups and smaller Ziploc bags for the times you just need a cup or so.