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Making Home Made Stock

(Newsletter Issue #030)


How to make your own home made stock or broth

Let's face it. Most home cooks don't make their own stock anymore. Instead, we turn to the supermarket for this essential liquid used to make soup, sauces, braised dishes and stir-fries, or for cooking grains. Most store-bought stock is riddled with additives, heavy on the salt, and not very flavorful. Here's how to make the most of stocks, bases, and bouillons, whether they be canned, frozen or aseptically packaged.

To get the best flavor, choose stocks sold in aseptic packaging. These undergo a flash heating and cooling process that helps preserve what little flavor commercial stocks have. Also, look for reduced-sodium stocks, which taste more like homemade than fully salted products. Reduced-sodium stock is particularly important if the stock will be reduced or simmered for extended periods, as in many sauces and soups. Starting with reduced-sodium stock ensures that, after extended cooking, the stock doesn't become unpleasantly salty. It's easier to add salt than to remove it.

To avoid monosodium glutamate (MSG), don't use bouillon cubes. They are almost certain to contain MSG and tend to taste little more than salt and dried onion powder.

Also, it is best not to use frozen stock products, as they are more expensive and yet taste remarkably watery. Unused portions of canned stock can be stored by transferring them to an airtight plastic container so that it doesn't pick up a metallic taste from the can and use it within 3 days.

If your stock or the dish that it is used in tastes too salty, toss in a few thin slices of raw potato during cooking and let it cook until the potatoes become translucent. At that point, the potatoes will have absorbed much of the excess salt flavor.

Store-bought stock can also be modified to suit your taste. Chicken bones are the ideal flavor booster. If you are in the habit of boning your chicken, keep a zipper-lock plastic bag of the uncooked bones in the freezer. Chop the bones as needed to release maximum flavor. In a saucepan, combine 1/2 cup chopped chicken bones and 1 quart store-bought chicken stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Before using, strain and discard the solids, For more flavor, saute 1 chopped carrot, 1 chopped rib of celery and 1 chopped onion in the saucepan before adding the bones. Cook the bones for 5 minutes, then add the stock. This will give the stock the flavor and mouthfeel of freshly made stock. Remember to use immediately or else freeze it.

If you are using stock that's not fat-free, store the unopened can in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours. When you open the can, the fat will have congealed for easy removal. If you're in a hurry, put the can (opened and unopened) in the freezer for 15 to 30 minutes.

Quick Fish Broth

In a large saucepan, combine 1 chopped carrot, 1 chopped celery rib, and 1 chopped onion. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until those vegetables begin to release moisture, about 3 minutes. Stir and add water if needed to prevent sticking. Uncover and cook until vegetables start to soften, 5 minutes. Raise the heat to high, add 1 cup white wine and boil vigorously for 1 minute. Add juice of 1/2 lemon, 2 fresh parsley sprigs, 5 cups water, and 2 fish bouillon cubes or 1/4 cup bonito flakes (available in most Asian groceries). Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes. Strain and discard solid. Use immediately or freeze. This will make about 6 cups.

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