I spent a lot of time working in restaurants when I was younger. I was a waitress all through college and even for the first few years of my teaching career. As you may guess, I spent a lot of time talking to the cooks and today’s post comes from this time of my life. One of the clearest memories I have is of the huge stockpot simmering on the gas stove at the end of the night, full of onion peels, chicken parts, carrot ends and anything else that would help build a good stock. The cooks saved everything during the prep and service and put it in the pot with water to simmer overnight until the first cooks came in the next morning. The vision of that pot simmering ended most of my nights and reminded me of the importance of good stock as a building block of flavor. And it was a chef from a different restaurant that gave me the tip that made it possible for me to make this kind of stock at home. He suggested collecting all those scraps at home in a freezer bag and freezing them until I was ready to make stock. I began doing this right away and now I always have stock on hand for everything from risotto to sauces to soup. I freeze my stock in 2-quart containers and defrost as needed, using the microwave for this if I forget to plan ahead. I admit, it’s not the stock Julia Child might have made, but as long as I add some uncooked chicken backs and other chicken parts, I find it better than any of the stock I’ve bought in the store with a lot less fuss.
Here’s what I do:
Get 2-3 large freezer bags and start saving and storing in the freezer:
-onion ends and skins
-carrots tops and ends
-shallot ends and skins
-chicken carcasses from roasted chicken
-chicken parts from cutting up a whole chicken, the skin, the back, the neck
anything else you think of that could make a good stock
When ready to make stock, put all of the above in a large stock pot and add:
(varying amounts depending on how big your stock pot is)
At this point, I also make adjustments depending on what ended up in my freezer bag and will add some whole carrots or celery stalks if I was short on those. After you have everything in the pot, fill with water.
Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Then adjust to a simmer and cook covered for 2-4 hours, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat and let cool.(I often do this in the evening. I get it started while I’m cooking dinner, then turn it off when I go to bed and let it cool overnight).
When cool, strain into freezer containers and freeze what you’re not going to use right away. Take out containers and thaw as needed. I find that it takes overnight to defrost one 2-quart container like the ones pictured here. My large stockpot makes about 4 2-quart containers plus extra that I keep in the fridge to make sauces with.