The next time you enjoy a Willowsford Farm chicken for dinner, set aside the bones and make stock. Home made stock tastes light years better than anything you can buy in the store and is significantly cheaper. You’ll find yourself using it all the time. Stock is the cornerstone of soups, stews, sauces, risotto, and countless other dishes. Chicken stock has a lovely rich flavor, but I also enjoy the brightness of vegetable stock for cooking. Making your own stock is not hard, but it will make you feel quite accomplished in the kitchen!
For chicken or turkey stock, bones and water are all you really need. If you decide to add vegetables, use one-part vegetables to one or two parts bones. For vegetable stock, the main ingredients should be onions, carrots and celery, which together are called mirepoix. You can throw other vegetables in the pot, but in smaller quantities. Mushrooms, fennel, garlic and tomatoes are tasty choices. The traditional seasoning for stock is a combination of parsley stems, bay leaves, thyme, and peppercorns known as bouquet garni. But other herbs can make great additions depending on the type of stock you are making. For instance, I like to add basil and oregano to vegetable stock. Wine is another option.
Start with a stockpot that is high and narrow to prevent evaporation. You never use a lid when you are making stock. If you are using bones, start with icy cold water to keep the stock from getting cloudy. And never use salt or pepper. Stock is an ingredient itself, not a dish, so you want it to be subtle in flavor so it’s versatile. For chicken stock, make sure the bones are clean and free of any fat or blood. Chicken stock takes about two hours simmering on the stove. For vegetable stock, make sure to use very ripe vegetables and give them a rough chop. It doesn’t matter how they look since you will be straining them out at the end. Vegetable stock takes about 45 minutes on simmer. When it’s ready, cool your stock quickly over an ice bath. Once it’s cooled, you can refrigerate stock for up to a week or freeze it for longer storage. For brown stocks, simply roast the bones and or veggies first to add flavor and color to the stock and be sure to deglaze the pan after so you get all the delectable, caramelized bits.