Kitchen Scraps to Homemade Stock
At the start of every new year, I make it a goal to refresh the kitchen. Refrigerator, freezer, pantry — no drawer or door is left unopened. It’s cathartic to give everything a good cleaning, all the while taking inventory of what needs to be replaced or replenished.
Always at the top of my list, though I make it many times throughout the year, is a big pot of rich homemade stock. Not only is this liquid gold cheaper and better tasting that store-bought, it feeds into another of my goals, to reduce food waste.
The average American home tosses roughly $2,000 worth of food each year, mostly produce, much of which being perfectly edible, with plenty of flavor and nutrition left to give. Any veg I know we won’t eat in time (toss the rotting stuff), as well as scraps like clean onion and garlic skins, leek greens, fennel fronds and carrot peels, go into a large freezer bag labeled Scraps for Stock. Next to that is another containing leftover chicken or turkey bones + reserved neck or back bones from breaking down whole raw birds. When both bags are full, it’s time to get out the stockpot.
Slowly simmered in a couple quarts of water, with a few spices, herbs and other fresh ingredients I have on hand, these preserved kitchen scraps are transformed into a rich, full-bodied stock. Heady aromas drift through the kitchen as all of the ingredients cozy up to one another to create wonderful flavor.
What’s in it for me?
Homemade chicken stock is low in calories and fat, is a good source of the B vitamin niacin (B3), and offers small amounts of phosphorous, potassium, and copper. Unlike many canned or condensed versions, homemade stock is low in sodium, and free of unnecessary preservatives, MSG, and other additives.
A study published in 2000 in the scientific journal Chest suggested that plain chicken broth soup may serve as a mild anti-inflammatory to potentially alleviate symptoms of upper respiratory infections. Because most stocks and broths and soups vary in types and amounts of ingredients, the findings aren’t absolutely conclusive, but give credence to feeding it to those suffering from a cold or the flu.
Another reason chicken stock is a good-for-you food when sick, is that it’s naturally hydrating and can help replenish depleted stores of electrolytes. These, plus the ability to aid in muscle rebuilding from small amounts of amino acids, make homemade stock a smart addition to recovery meals following intense sports play or an intense workout.
Here’s a helpful epicurious article discussing the differences between broth, stock, and bone broth. And if you’re curious about purported “magical healing properties” of stock made from bones, please read this piece from NPR. A teaser: “Scientists agree that bone broth’s so-called ability to heal… is probably overblown.“
This flavorful homemade stock is perfect jumpstart to your favorite soups, stews, brothy noodle bowls, braises or risottos. You can add flavor to saucy pasta dishes with a splash of chicken stock instead of/in addition to wine or cooking water. Easiest of all is to warm some of the plain stock and float in some wide egg noodles, some rice, some cooked chicken, and/or some veg for a quick bowl of nourishing goodness.
In 2017, why not resolve to boost flavor while reducing waste by making and keeping a few quarts of homemade stock on hand? I promise this kitchen staple will be a game-changer!
Tell me… Do you have any secret stock tips to share?
HGN RECIPES TO USE YOUR HOMEMADE STOCK
+ Creamy Carrot Lentil Soup with Crunchy Almond-Coconut Dukkah (GF + dairy-free)
+ Creamy Mushroom Soup (GF)
+ Spiked Chorizo and Black Bean Chilli with Chipotle, Roasted Garlic and Plantain (GF)
+ Fragrant Indian Basmati Pilaf — replace water with stock to boost flavor (GF + dairy-free)
- 3 to 4 lbs assorted chicken and/or turkey bones (see HGN Notes)
- 2 quarts (8 cups) cold water
- 1 large yellow or white onion, peeled and quartered
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped (optional)
- 2 large celery stalks with leafy ends, roughly chopped (optional)
- 4 to 5 fresh parsley stems
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme or rosemary
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 10 whole black peppercorns
- In a large stockpot, combine the bones and water. Heat over medium-high until just boiling. Skim the surface to remove any foamy scum. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and stir in the onion, carrots and celery (if using), parsley, peppercorns, bay leaves, and thyme or rosemary. (If you have any other veg/herb scraps you wish to use, now is also the time to add these.) Simmer, uncovered, for 3 hours.
- Using a skimmer/spider or tongs, remove and discard the bones. Pour the remaining stock and vegetables through a very fine mesh sieve or colander lined with cheesecloth, into a large bowl (preferably one with spout), pressing on the vegetables with a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids, and set the bowl aside to cool to room temperature.
- The stock is ready to use now, or can be stored for later use. If storing, pour or ladle the stock into airtight jars or plastic containers, and transfer to the refrigerator until the fat congeals on the surface, about 8 hours. Remove the solidified fat from the top, then return to the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or the freezer for up to 4 months. (Remember to keep about 1 inch of space at the head of the jar/container if freezing, to allow for expansion as the liquid freezes.)
+ Add clean mushroom stems, onion or garlic peels or ends, a couple thick rounds of fresh peeled ginger, or trimmings from fennel (anise), scallions, or leeks.
+ Use any fresh herb you have on hand, such as dill, thyme, rosemary, oregano, cilantro or basil, in addition to or in place of the parsley.
+ Swap green, white or pink peppercorns in for the black.
+ Roast the components of stock -- bones and/or vegetables -- before adding to the stockpot to draw out more flavor.
+ Incorporate uncooked chicken/turkey wings or chicken feet in addition to the bones for an even bigger boost in flavor. The chicken feet will make the stock more gelatinous as well, if that's your wish.
+ Add different aromatic spices, such as 1 star anise, 1 cinnamon stick, 2-4 whole cloves, 2-4 whole cardamom pods.
+ Need it vegetarian? Omit the bones, double or triple the veg, and definitely add the celery, carrots, and a few mushrooms for extra richness.
Without fancy lab equipment, I am unable to accurately analyze the percentage of absorbed nutrients in this recipe. The nutrition facts presented here are based off of a standard low-sodium canned chicken broth analysis from the USDA National Nutrient Database.
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