Stock

Stock

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From
Encyclopedia of Food and Cookery

The importance of stock cannot be overestimated in flavouring sauces, casseroles, soups, gravies and many other savoury dishes. Stock is not difficult to make; it is simply the flavourful liquid obtained from simmering together the bones, trimmings and flesh of meat, chicken or fish with vegetables, seasonings and water. The liquid is then strained through a fine strainer or a colander lined with muslin (cheesecloth) and chilled, so that the fat which rises to the top can be easily removed. Slow cooking and skimming the surface of the stock when it first comes to the boil are important, because they help to give a clear stock.

The success of good stock depends on its distinctive flavour. Whether beef, chicken or fish, it should taste of that food, and only a few vegetables should be cooked with the meat or bones so that their flavour does not intrude. Make sure the butcher gives you beef bones for beef stock – lamb does not give the same richness. Lamb or mutton stock has its place, and excellent Scottish soups are made from them, but beef and lamb together do not combine well.

Veal is used for white stock, and the Chinese make a light stock with pork bones or a combination of pork and chicken. Each type of meat with its bones has a use.

Stock will keep in the refrigerator for 1 week, if protected by the layer of fat that would otherwise be removed, or 6 months in a freezer. Particles of meat or vegetables in the stock will reduce the storage time, so care should be taken when straining. It is a good idea, especially if you make a lot of soup, to make a large pot of stock and refrigerate or freeze it for later use.

Although not all soups are made from stock, carefully made stock is so essential to good cooking that it’s well worth making. The ingredients are cheap and easily obtainable. Consider the pressure cooker and crock-pot (electric slow cooker) as modern aids to stock-making. Basic stocks are referred to in the recipes throughout this book and here is how to make them.

Stock or bouillon cubes, tinned beef or chicken consommé may be used to replace stock in recipes. These tend to have a ‘sameness’ about them, though, that reflects in the dishes in which they are used. They do have their place, however. Some butchers and delicatessans sell good stock. These are packaged in pouches and are considered most acceptable by good home cooks – they are certainly very convenient. Homemade stocks, however, are the first choice for special soups and sauces; commercial stocks are suitable for simple soups.

To clarify stock: Remove fat from cold stock, then place stock in a saucepan with 2 egg whites, lightly beaten, and the 2 egg shells. Bring slowly to the boil, whisking occasionally with an egg whisk. Allow the liquid to rise in the pan as it reaches boiling point, then lower the heat, and simmer very gently for 20 minutes.

You will find that as the egg whites cook they attract and hold any remaining particles of fat and residue that might cloud the stock. Strain through a colander, lined with muslin (cheesecloth), and you have a clear liquid ready to use as the basis of many delicious soups.

Brown Stock: For this you use the same ingredients and method as for Beef Stock but the bones and vegetables are first browned to give a richer colour to the stock. Place the bones in a roasting tin with the carrot and onion, and roast in a hot oven (200°C) until a good, rich, brown colour; place them in a large saucepan.

Rinse out the roasting tin with a little water, scraping any brown sediment from the bottom, add to the bones and proceed with the recipe for Beef Stock.

White Stock: This is made as for Chicken Stock but veal bones (knuckle is ideal) are used in place of the chicken, or half veal and half chicken. If using veal bones, save the bone from a shoulder or ask the butcher for a veal knuckle, sawn in two to fit your saucepan.

See also Yabbies: Shellfish Stock for Yabbies.

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