Before I started cooking, I considered broth and stock to be pretty much interchangeable. It’s only been fairly recently that I’ve realized there is a difference. The consensus seems to be that broth is made with meat, while stock is made with bones. Broth is suitable to be served as-is (to someone with a cold, for example). Stock, on the other hand, is usually used to make other things. Broth cooks quickly, while stock takes a long time to cook. If you put a whole chicken in a pot of water and boil it for an hour or so until the chicken is done, you have broth. If you roast a chicken, eat it, and then put the bones into a pot of water and simmer it for several hours, you have stock.
Some of the differences seem to run a bit deeper, but this seems to be a good place to start. The other thing that I should point out is that stock is insanely useful, and you should make some!
First, you need some bones. Whenever we have chicken or turkey, we almost always save the bones. (The exception is when the chicken was used in something really spicy that could bring an off flavour to the stock.) When I roast a chicken or we barbeque some chicken breasts, the bones go into a freezer bag and into the freezer. Once we have enough bones to fill our stock pot, we’ll wait until a slow Sunday afternoon and make stock.
The good stock at the grocery store can run up to $3.50 or more for a quart, and it’s always over-salted. Making your own stock at home, using stuff that you would have just thrown away, can represent some significant savings.
Plus, you can store it in quantities that make sense to you. Rather than buying a quart of stock and only using a cup, you can store your homemade stock in one, two, or four cup quantities. We typically do a mixture of these sizes: one cup bags are used for sauces, two cup bags are used for rice, quinoa or other grains, and four cup bags are used for risotto or soup. Measure the amount you want into a labeled freezer bag, press out the air, and place on a baking sheet. The bag will freeze flat, which makes it a cinch to store.
This “recipe” is more of a formula than a measured recipe. Adjust to your liking and what you have available. To make your own stock, you will need:
- Roasted bones from poultry, beef or veal (Collect enough to fill up your largest pot.)
- Old vegetables (Traditionally this is mireproix – carrots, celery and onion – but you can use any flavourful vegetables you have on hand.)
Put the roasted bones into your largest pot. (When we made stock from the carcass of our 22lb Thanksgiving turkey, we used my water canner.) Add the vegetables, cut into large chunks. Cover everything with water and bring to a boil.
Once the water is boiling, lower the heat until it just simmers. Keep an eye on the stock. If foam forms on the surface of the stock, skim it off and discard. Let the stock simmer for several hours. The longer it simmers, the more gelatin and goodness will leech out of the bones and into your stock.
After several hours, remove from heat. Place a large bowl into the sink, and put a colander inside the bowl. (If you want really clear stock you can line the colander with cheesecloth, but that’s a bit too fussy for me.) Pour the stock through the colander into the bowl. Remove the colander, and discard the bones and vegetables. Use or freeze the stock as desired.
Note: I do not add salt to my stock, although I will sometimes add a small handful of peppercorns. Since I usually don’t know what I’ll be using the stock for, I prefer not to salt the stock.