Every holiday, boxed stock and bouillon seems to fly off the shelves for the needs of gravy, stuffing, or stews, but many of the products found in the grocery store are laden with salt. Even the "low sodium" options need some help in the flavor department. Plus, if you accidentally pick up "chicken flavored" stock, it's game over. How can the home cook win? By making your own stock with fresh proteins, vegetables, and herbs.
No matter if you are making chicken, beef, vegetable, or otherwise, you can control the amount of sodium and fat included in your ingredients by including your family's preferred flavor combinations. Plus, stock is made from "throw-away" ingredients, another win for a "no-waste" kitchen.
Use Up Leftover Fresh Herbs Brighten up rich, heavy stocks with the addition of fresh herbs, stems and all. Italian parsley, thyme, rosemary, and sage are all heavier-duty herbs that will add flavor during the entire cooking process. Avoid herbs such as mint, dill, and lemon thyme as the more delicate leaves tend to add a bitter flavor. You can bundle up your herbs with kitchen twine for easy removal later, but it's all going to be filtered in the end so that step is not super essential.
Don't Ditch the Skins Yellow onion skins are the best for stock recipes, adding a rich, golden color and tons of incredible flavor. Instead of throwing them away, throw them in the pot and let the stock simmer away. Note: Do not include the hard stem found on the bottom of the onion, just the clean, yellow skins.
Play with Your Spice Cabinet You have tons of flavor agents hiding away in your spice cabinet, just waiting to be experimented with. Adding whole peppercorns to the stock mixture guarantees incredible flavor without requiring its partner in crime, salt. Also, experiment with whole spices such as cloves, cinnamon sticks, and star anise. These strong flavors can be mellowed out by the fatty stock, but feel free to only include them in the last hour of cooking to avoid overpowering spice flavor.
Slow Cookers For the Win Slow cookers can be your best friends when it comes to making your own stock. It's a set-it-and-forget-it game. The slow cooker controls temperature and time, without you having to babysit. Time is essential; boiling down water with herbs, vegetables long enough to produce a rich broth takes hours. When you eventually have to leave the house, the slow cooker has your back, unlike a hot stovetop.
Freeze for Later Stock recipes often make quarts of liquid, but you might not need it all at the same time if you're not immediately making soup. Always make the most out of your ingredients by making big batches of stock and dividing it into different containers for freezing. If a recipe only requires a small amount, simply scrape frozen broth into your recipe for a quick, flavor-packed addition.