I’m going to start with apologies; I’m vaguely sick and definitely exhausted but I promised a friend I’d write her up my stock recipe and a bunch of tips AGES ago so I decided today to just write up SOMETHING. I suspect it is less helpful than it could be and will try to clean it up later.
My partner’s on the low FODMAP diet. So we make a lot of stuff from scratch. Stock is one of the things I often made myself anyway; when his diet changed, I just needed to tweak the recipe a bit.
This is kind of hard to write because I never measure anything when I make stock, but basically, for a nice tasty stock, I find you need four things: meat, veggies, herbs/spices and salt. Well, and water, obviously.
With regards to the meat, I use leftover bits and bobs, including a lot of bones, because my Nonno raised me not to waste perfectly good food. I keep a couple of one-litre containers in the freezer and whenever we roast a chook, the leftover bones and skin all go in there for the next time I make stock, rather than just chuck them in the bin. Same goes for the bones and gristly bits after I slow-cook lamb shanks for stew (YES I SOMETIMES PUT LAMB BONES IN MY CHICKEN STOCK I ADMIT IT), as well as any fatty/gristly bits off the side of steak or chicken breast that I cut off before cooking.
That way, when we need stock, I just pull these containers out of the freezer and I usually have enough. For instance, this is two roast chickens worth of bones, skin and gristly bits, from the other night, in a 1.75ml container, about to go into the freezer:
Not the most attractive pic I’ve ever posted, but illustrative enough
If I don’t seem to have enough, I add some chicken wings, necks and/or carcasses from the organic butcher. I always add a bit more salt in this case, since they haven’t been pre-seasoned or roasted.
I’ve tried making stock just using a whole raw chicken, which is what a lot of cookbooks recommend. I found this pointlessly expensive and not as tasty. So there.
With regards to the veggies, I try to add about half as much of them (in terms of volume, just by sight) as chicken. Pre-low FODMAP, I used to add a few carrots; a whole garlic clove, cut in half if I could be bothered; ditto an onion; and leftover celery bits, like the base and the tough outer stalks and the crappy pale inner stalks, plus all the leaves — basically all those bits you don’t normally use when you buy a whole celery (again, I used to freeze these when they turned up in my fridge, along with any bendy carrots and half-used onions that I had no plans for, so I’d have them for stock-making when I needed them).
Post-low FODMAP, celery, onions and garlic are all out. Instead, I add three carrots or so and the green part of a bunch of spring onions. It isn’t as good but it’s fine and I try to make sure to add asafoetida and a lot of chives to any dish I use the stock in, to add some garlic/onion flavour.
With regards to the herbs and spices, I add about a cup of herbs from the garden when I have them — it tends to be a mix of oregano, parsley, marjoram, various thymes, rosemary and a couple of fresh bay leaves. Basically, whatever’s there. I don’t bother chopping them and I include stalks. If I don’t have enough fresh herbs, I use a good amount of dried stuff — say, three tablespoons worth?
I also add a big chunk of ginger (this I do cut up, but not too carefully), some whole cardamom pods and a couple of anise stars. The end product does not end up tasting exotic because of these last few additions; they just sort of help round out the flavour.
Then I just cover the lot thoroughly with water — about four litres — and add maybe three tablespoons of salt (it’s really not that much considering it’s going into four litres of water) and about two tablespoons of whole mixed peppercorns.
A bone-based stock should cook for four-six hours to make sure you get as much protein and flavour out of the bones as possible. I’ve read a few people on the internet insist that you soak the bones beforehand to help with this, or even that you should add vinegar to help them break down. I don’t do either of these things. It seems counterintuitive to me to soak the bones of a roast chicken and then discard all that lovely roast flavour along with the water; and I don’t think vinegar would help with it either. But go ahead if you like.
Something else I don’t do is watch the stock like a hawk to make sure it never boils. People do this so that the stock stays clear but frankly, I don’t care if my stock is cloudy. I prefer to set and forget. So, I stick everything in a big stock pot, crank the hot plate up to high until the water boils, reduce to a simmer and go do something else for four-six hours.
So, here is something approximating a “recipe” version of all that:
Chicken bones like carcasses, wings and necks – about two kilos worth
Veggies (for low-FODMAP version, this is three carrots and a bunch of spring onions, green part only; for normal version, this is a head of garlic, an onion, two carrots, and three stalks of celery)
About a cup of fresh mixed herbs, including stalks
A two-inch piece of ginger, chopped roughly
Two whole star anise
Three or four cardamom pods
Two tablespoons of whole mixed peppercorns
About four litres of water (enough to cover everything and then some)
Put everything in a big stock pot. Bring to boil and then reduce to low-ish heat so that it’s still simmering a bit.
Put the lid on and go do something else for four-six hours. Check on it occasionally and give it a stir if you really feel the need.
Turn off the heat and give it at least ten minutes to cool down a bit so that you don’t need to be terrified of burning yourself horribly.
I’m not joking about that last point, the pot and its contents will be very, very hot. Please be careful. Taking out the bones now with a slotted spoon will help it cool down a bit faster, as will sticking the whole pot in an ice bath.
Once you’re comfortable with the temperature of the pot and its contents, strain the stock through muslin or a clean tea towel on a strainer. I don’t recommend skipping the cloth and just using a strainer; you’ll get a lot of sedimenty bits from the bones and the stock is heaps better without those.
I never do this any more but this is the point where you would taste it to make sure it’s not bland. If it is, it’s not the end of the world — just tip it back into the now-empty stock pot, add a couple of pinches of salt and maybe some more herbs, and boil it until it tastes decent. Next time, add less water or more stuff.
But whether you boil it down or not, one step you probably aren’t going to want to skip is letting the stock sit in the fridge overnight so that all the fat can rise to the top and solidify. Then it’s an easy task to just scrape it all off with a spoon.
Let me know how you go!