A good stock is the foundation of all good soups, gravies and sauces. They can perk up even the dullest of recipes. It is simple to make and, when stored in the refrigerator or freezer, it is as handy as any stock cube and much more flavoursome. A handy tip is to freeze stock in ice cube trays, then transfer the cubes to a plastic freezer bag. That way you have perfectly measured, small amounts of stock for cooking.
A soup can only be as good as the basic stock that is used. However convenient it may be at times, no stock cube can be expected to give your soups the home made flavour that is achieved by boiling bones, vegetables and herbs, although these don’t actually contribute any fibre.
You can save a lot of calories by using stock for sautéeing instead of oils or fat. You can also add lots of flavour to everyday foods (such as rice) by substituting stock for water in cooking.
The four main types of stocks are vegetable, poultry, meat and seafood. You can often substitute one for another in many (but not all) recipes, with little to no ill affect to the overall recipe. Since stocks can make use of leftovers or items that might otherwise be thrown away, keep bags in the freezer for collecting ingredients such as vegetable scraps and meat bones. When you’ve gathered enough ingredients, throw on a pot of stock.
You can make any stock more intense in flavour by simply simmering them for an extended period of time until their liquid volume is reduced.
Stock cubes or powder are no substitute for a richly-flavoured homemade stock. They taint the finished dish with a distinctive salty artificial flavour which ruins the taste of the recipe. Making your own stock is simple and inexpensive so there’s really no reason not to. As stock can be kept for a week in the refrigerator, or frozen for longer storage, it is worth making several batches.
With the exception of brassicas (which include cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower), which can overpower the flavour of vegetable stock, you can use all kinds of vegetables for this stock. The flavour will vary slightly, depending on the mix you use. Tomatoes can also overwhelm the flavour of a stock, so keep the amount small (unless of course, you want a strong tomato flavour).
Making vegetable stock is a great way to clean out the refrigerator of food that is less than fresh, don’t limit your stock making ingredients to whole vegetables. Start saving peels (well washed, of course) and trimmings while you cook. Your stock will be strained before being used, and all those unattractive peels will be gone, but they will have imparted a lovely flavour to your stock. Some excellent vegetables (and vegetable scraps) to use are: onions, garlic, potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, carrots, celery, mushrooms, peas, corn (empty corn cobs can also add lots of flavour to vegetable stock), parsley, green beans, beets, bell peppers, scallions, green onions, shallots, fresh basil and many other herbs.
A good rule of thumb is to have about half solid ingredients to half water. It’s a good idea to throw in a tablespoon or so of whole black peppercorns and a bay leaf or two for added flavour. Cover your ingredients with the water, bring to a boil and let simmer for about an hour. Cool and strain to remove any pieces of vegetables, fruit or scraps. That’s all there is to it. You’ve just made vegetable stock.
Category: Cooking Tips
Sub Category: Stock
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