Homemade Stock

Homemade Stock

Elizabeth Cecil

There’s a very provocative sentiment, very loosely attributed to Beethoven, that goes: “Anyone who tells a lie has not a pure heart, and cannot make good soup.” We wouldn’t dare assume your purity of heart, dear reader, but our tips for homemade stock will certainly take your soup to the next level. (And that’s no lie.)

One of winter’s best offerings because, most often than not, it can be cobbled together from things already lying around your kitchen. It’s a blank slate, requiring only time, a creative use of leftovers, and a large, unoccupied pot. There are few hard-and-fast rules for good stock-making, but we suggest that every stock be given time to simmer on low heat for at least a few hours. (Kate Athearn suggests up to two days [page 34].) Our preferred water-to-ingredients ratio is roughly 1:1, but, again, it’s all about personal taste.

1 Garlic
Basic, but essential for flavor. Find great local garlic at Ghost Island Farm and Morning Glory, among others, or, as Mollie Doyle recommends (page 12), try planting your own this season.

2 Onions
Another essential: these can be from whole onions cut up into cubes, or simply your leftover scraps from recent meals. (We keep a bag of vegetable scraps in our freezer for the explicit purpose of future stock-making, building it up over time.)

3 Peppercorns
Add liberally, for deep & spicy flavor. Need we say more?

4 Salt 
To salt or not to salt? Some people swear by an unsalted broth for a soup base; others go the pre-salted route. Either works for us, as long as you remember to label your stored stock, and adjust your soup recipes as necessary. If you do choose the salt route, MV Sea Salt or By The Sea Salt both make great additions.

5 Chili Peppers
This one is really about your own tastes. (You might want to reserve the addition for special-occasion stocks, rather than your basic one.) But they do add a nice bite to your base if you plan on eventually turning your stock into a spicier soup.

6 Fresh Herbs
We swear by thyme, sage, and bay leaves. Throw ’em loose into the pot, or dress them up in a bouquet garni, with a little twine. Voila! Instant class.

7 Olive Oil & Vinegar 
Good quality olive oil adds a depth of flavor that can’t be matched. A splash of vinegar, recommended by Kate Athearn, draws the minerals out of bones, providing for a much richer, nutritious stock.

8 White Wine
It’s all about the flavor.  (Also, you’re going to be cooking for awhile—you may as well enjoy yourself.)

9 Assorted Vegetables It’s the season! 
Celery, carrots, leeks, fennel, bell peppers, potatoes, leftover corn cobs— it’s all fair game. The only thing that we don’t recommend is too much tomato: it gives the stock a very strong, well, tomato-y flavor. Cut all veggies into chunks, or simply use leftover trimmings. Save those Island veggies while you can still get your hands on them.

10 Bones
For our stock, we threw in a few pork bones (pre-cooked) and chicken feet (raw), but you can really use whatever you have on hand. Pre-cooked carcasses or meat trimmings are all fair game. We love a nice seafood stock, with leftover fishbones and trimmings. (Try your local fish market—many will hand out these extras at no cost.)