There is absolutely nothing better than the taste of homemade soup stock. It’s hard to imagine that you can make delicious, rich, homemade stock from what really amounts to trash. And best of all, it’s almost free!
If you have some chicken, beef, or vegetable “stock” sitting in a can or box on a shelf somewhere, I encourage you to grab it and look at the ingredients. Even if it’s the most expensive, “natural”, “organic” stock you can buy, you’ll find that there are ingredients that simply don’t belong there. Why add sugar? Why add so much salt?
Don’t get me wrong. I love the convenience of stock or broth in a can or box. When you have a recipe that calls for stock or broth, you can just pull it off the shelf and it’s ready to go. Few people realize though that you can have that same convenience with homemade stock, it tastes so much better, and it isn’t filled with unwanted ingredients.
Save Your “Trash”
The first step to making homemade stock is acquiring ingredients. Luckily, ingredients for great stock are usually items that are thrown away or composted.
Start by saving cooked or raw bones. When I roast a whole chicken, I’ll save the carcass and the thigh/leg/wing bones. I toss them in a freezer bag and stick them in the freezer. I’ll usually keep the bones from two chickens in a gallon-sized freezer bag because that’s enough bone for one good batch of chicken stock. You can also save beef and pork bones too!
Also, don’t compost those celery tops, onion ends, carrot tops, and small bits of cooked vegetables that didn’t get finished at the meal but won’t make a “serving” worth saving. These veggie scraps add really great flavor to homemade stock. Just keep in mind that you don’t want to freeze raw veggie scraps that you’d normally blanch before freezing. Things like green beans, squash, and some greens are NOT good eats in stock if you just toss them in the freezer without doing anything to them first. And since we’re trying to keep this easy, it’s probably best that those items just go straight to the compost pile.
Making Homemade Stock in a Slow Cooker
Fill your slow cooker about half full with the bones that you’re going to use for your stock. (When I make chicken stock in my 6-quart slow cooker, I use two carcasses and associated bones.) Sprinkle the bones with a tablespoon of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, and then add enough water to the slow cooker so that the bones are just covered. Let the slow cooker sit like that on your counter for an hour.
After an hour’s time, add veggie trimming (if you’re using them), add a little more water (if needed) so that all the ingredients are covered by water, and turn the slow cooker on LOW. Leave it alone for 24-72 hours, depending on the size of the bones that you used. (Chicken bones are usually done in less time; beef bones and large pork bones can take much longer.)
That’s it! You just made homemade stock! Strain it, skim off the fat (if desired), and you’re ready to use it or store it.
Storing Homemade Stock for Later Use
Since it takes a lot of time (although not a lot of effort) to make homemade stock, you’re likely going to want to store it for later use. You have several options.
- If you’re going to use the stock relatively soon, you can store it in the refrigerator. Know though that the consistency is going to be different than store-bought “stock” because even if you skim off the fat, the gelatin from the bones will thicken the stock a bit. This is a good thing, because it adds a really rich flavor to your product and it’s very nutritious!
- You can freeze it. Some folks freeze it in ice cube trays and then put the stock cubes into a bag once they’re frozen. This allows you to add very small amounts of stock to a recipe. You can also freeze it in freezer bags, plastic containers, or canning jars. Freezing your stock in 1-2 cup portions will ensure that you won’t waste stock by thawing, say, one quart, when you only need one cup.
- You can also pressure-can your homemade stock in pint or quart jars. Follow the instructions for your pressure canner. While I haven’t done this yet myself, when I do, I intend to treat my stock like “soup”, following those directions to safely can it.
Making homemade stock is a wonderful money-saver, and once you’ve tried it just once, you’ll never want to eat anything else!