Stock is a culinary staple made from leftovers that you already have on hand, is an easy project—one that creates a base for soup, stew, roux, jus, gravy, or anything else that calls for both. You simply let the ingredients sit and simmer until the house smells good, and then strain the liquid. Once I saw how effortless the process was—and how much better the results were—I chided myself for having bought the commercially made version for so long. When you start making your own stock, you’ll resort to the store-bought variety only in emergencies (such as the imminent arrival of unexpected dinner guests!).
Why would you want to do this?
Homemade stock is much healthier than the packaged product, and it’s very easy. Making stock is a great way to get more than one meal out of leftovers you’d otherwise throw out or compost.
How is this different from the store-bought version?
Your stock will taste fresher and be much lower in sodium. It may have a residue at the bottom, but that’s just the leftover bits of whatever you cooked. When refrigerated, meat stock can become gelatinous, but it will liquefy again when heated.
There’s no additional cost for homemade stock because it’s made form ingredients that you’ve already purchased for meals.
Homemade stock is hard to mess up. If you can boil water, you should have no problem with this project.
You can experiment with many seasonings and flavors. Also, after the stock is strained, you can return it to the pot and cook it again, uncovered, to reduce it and make it more concentrated. You then freeze the concentrated liquid in ice-cube trays and use the frozen cubes similar to the way you’d use bouillon cubes.
There are essentially two main varieties of stock: meat and vegetable. Although in our kitchen, we most often use meats such as chicken, beef, and vegetable stock, I’ve noticed more exotic versions—such as clam and mushroom—on grocery-store shelves. Stock is a simple cooked infusion of flavors that is used as a base for, or to enhance, other foods. You make stock with what is left over from meal preparation—what you otherwise would typically throw out.
Homemade stock is healthy. As you cook vegetable stock, the vitamins and nutrients from the leaves, peels and ends of vegetables are drawn out into the broth. Likewise with meat stock—the extended cooking time releases the valuable nutrition in the bones and marrow, presenting the latter in a palatable form. My kids would never consent to eating marrow, but they like foods made with meat stock, and they get the benefits of the marrow’s high iron content while enjoying what they’re eating.
Our friends Jeff and Cindi taught us to put the vegetable trimmings from our daily meal preparation in a freezer container—I include meat bones in ours—until we’ve collected enough to make a batch of stock. If you use whole fresh vegetables, the cooked parts left after your stock is prepared can go directly into a soup.
This article was excerpted with permission from the book Urban Farm Projects: Making the Most of Your Money, Space, and Stuff, copyright 2014, I-5 Publishing, LLC. For more budget-friendly and environmentally conscience projects and recipes, pick up a copy today!