Home-made stock is one of the "Basics" of good cookery. It is easy and satisfying to make and it can do a great deal to enhance simple everyday cooking, and to give soups and sauces authentic flavour.
What is stock ?Basically, stock is a liquid obtained by summering meat or fish bones and trimmings in water with herbs, vegetables and seasonings. When all the goodness and flavour have been extracted, the liquid is strained and reduced to concentrate flavour. The resulting stock is then used as a base for soups, sauces, casseroles, aspics, stews and gravies.
Why make stock yourself when you can buy stock cubes? The answer is flavour. Without good stocks, many of the world's greatest dishes would not be worth tasting. Making your own stock is, of course, more time-consuming than simply dissolving a stock cube in boiling water but the extra effort involved is not very great, and there is a world of difference in taste and texture. stock cubes contain large amounts of salt and mono sodium glutamate (an artificial flavoring) to give them a longer shelf life. These strong flavors concentrate during cooking and can easily spoil a delicate sauce or soup.
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Types of stockStocks a divided into two types - brown and white. Brown stocks are richly colored because the ingredients are lightly fried before liquid is added, while white stock are more delicate in color and in flavour.
stocks are also divided into categories according to the quality of ingredients used. First stocks are the finest, made from fresh ingredients and usually used for sauces, soups and aspics where a really top-quality stock is essential. Second stocks are made from bones which have already been used once in stock making (with the addition of a few fresh ingredients of bolster flavour). Not so perfectly suitable for stews and casseroles and simple sauces.
TimingContrary to popular opinion, stock is extremely easy to make. Initial preparation of ingredients and skimming will take you about half an hour. After this, the stock can be,left to simmer gently with little or no attention from the cook. Although cooking time can be long (up to five hours for some stocks), it can be stopped and restarted when it suits you. Straining, de-greasing and final flavoring of the stock will take about another 45 minutes or so in all, but once again these jobs can be broken up and done when most convenient. The end product is well worth the effort.
Storing of stockmeat stock can be covered and kept in a refrigerator for up to 10 days but it should be boiled up every 3 - 4 days to keep it sweet. fish stock should be used (or frozen) within 24 hours. Vegetable stock will keep for a maximum of 3 days but must be boiled up daily. All stocks freeze well but they are bulky so it is a good idea to reduce your stock more than usual, concentrating its flavour well before freezing. You can always dilute it again. Pour into ice cube trays, calculating the number of cubes per 150 ml [1/4 pt], and freeze. When frozen, turn into plastic bags and label. Frozen meat stock will keep for two months, frozen fish and vegetable stock for 1 month.
Making thin soupsThe simplest way to use stock is to make thin soups. These are made by cooking ingredients in stock. The liquid is not thickened except where one of the ingredients does this naturally (as when a potato disintegrates into the soup).
A really well-flavored stock is essential to a thin soup because cooking time is usually very short (often only a few minutes), so the added ingredients do not have much chance to impart their flavour to the liquid. Brown, white, chicken and fish stocks are all suitable for making thin soups, and first stocks with their finer flavour are best.
Types of Stock
Tasty chicken and mushroom soup
Hot and Sour soup
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