Thursday, November 13, 2008

Stock Up. But What's Stock?

If soup is the sum of all its parts, no part is more integral to a good soup equation then the base, or stock. Stock, is made by a process of boiling ingredients, fusing their flavors into water and then, by draining all the ingredients out, creating a broth. Nothing could be easier to do, and anyone who's made their own stock can attest that once you've tried your own, you can never go back to the watered down versions available at the store.

Elements of Stock

Stocks can be made from a variety of ingredients in variety of ways but the main components are generally a meat product, a mixture of vegetables, and/or herbs and spices.
  • Meat. Any meat product can be used for stock. You can use actual cuts of meat, but after being boiled for long periods of time, the meat is relatively useless which I find a waste. Using bones and discarded cuts of meat works great and also fits our frugal mindset. The meat products give the stock broth flavor as well as body.
  • Vegetables. Typical vegetables used in stock are onions, carrots and celery, which all are packed with flavor. However, again, you can use anything with strong flavor. You wouldn't want to use things like potatoes or cucumbers which have relatively weak flavors, however, its not too important what you put in because as you drain everything out, you're not out much if one of your ingredients doesn't pack a huge punch as long as you've used other strong vegetables as well.
  • Herbs and Spices. At the risk of being repetitive, herbs and spices help spice up your stock. General herbs and spices used in stock include bay leaf, whole peppercorn, parsley, sage and thyme, among many others.
Whatever ingredients you choose to use, the great thing about stock is it is hard to get wrong. You don't have to follow any particular recipe unless you need to be very specific about a particular flavoring needed for a recipe. You literally just throw some stuff in a pot, bring to a boil and simmer for a couple hours. It couldn't be easier.

For more instructions, stay tunned for my next post, where I give a detailed how-to on Chicken Stock.

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