Stock up and use everything

When cooking on a budget with few ingredients to choose from, it is very important to utilize everything. Doing so will add depth of flavour to the food being prepared. It is also respecting the ingredient by letting it pass on as much of its nutrients as possible, minimizing kitchen waste.

Nearly a year ago, I talked about building a pantry and how it is the backbone of your kitchen. A strong pantry gives more time and freedom for the cook to explore their creativity. One component I often see undervalued or overlooked in home kitchens is the use of stocks. Particularly, in reducing salt or eliminating salt as suggested by the Healthy Roots Challenge, using stocks and broths are another way to build a foundation of flavour when cooking things like soups, stews, sauces and vegetables.

A chef once told me that a kitchen’s food is only as good as the stock they make.

Vegetable Stock

The easiest stock to make is a vegetable stock. The aforementioned pantry building article gave a very brief example of one. The method I suggested was to put your vegetable peelings or trim in the freezer. When you have accumulated enough to make a stock simply put them in a pot and cook.

It is that simple, but there are a couple things to keep in mind. Brassicas like cauliflower or cabbage have strong flavours that will dominate your stock. Use them sparingly unless you’re making something that will benefit from their flavour profiles.

When I add starchy vegetables like potato or squash I refer to the liquid as a broth. Much like when you add meat to a stock it becomes a broth.

To make the stock, add enough cold water to cover the vegetables. Simply bring the pot to a boil and simmer for 45 minutes. Strain and use as desired.

Brown or White Meat Stock

Making a stock from the bones of hunted animals is another way to respect its life and ensure all the nutritious healing properties are passed on to whoever is consuming it. Making a stock with the animal’s bones truly embraces the idea of eating nose to tail. This method can be applied to any animal’s bones.

To make a brown stock, roast your bones on a baking tray in an oven at 400F until browned evenly. This may take 45 minutes to an hour or longer, depending on how big the bones are. Deglaze your roasting pans with water.

On the stove, brown some tomato paste with cooking oil until it is a few shades darker red. The acidity from the tomatoes will aid in the extraction of flavour from the bones.

Add bones and tomato paste to a large pot. Fill with cold water until the bones are covered by a couple inches. Bring to a boil and skim any scum that comes to the surface. Reduce heat to a low simmer and cook six to eight hours. You do not want the stock to boil. Doing so will result in a cloudy stock with a milky colour and fatty flavour. This happens because the fat and proteins get emulsified into the liquid. Skim periodically to eliminate as much fat and debris as possible. Let cool slightly and strain.

To make a white stock, omit the bone roasting and tomato paste. Instead, I use fresh tomatoes to keep the stock light.

Storing your Stocks

A properly cooled and stored stock will keep in the fridge for several days.  In the case of a meat stock, let it chill for a day and remove any remaining fat that has solidified on the top.

You can store your stock in your freezer in bags or in ice cube trays for quick and easy use. When I use the ice cube method, I reduce the stock after being strained to concentrate the flavours and save space in my freezer.