I know there are a million and one descriptions for making stock on the web and my basic recipe for meat stock will be the same as 10,000 others:
Bones of some sort
Parsley (including the stalks)
Fresh thyme if I have it (including the stalks)
Few black peppercorns
We make a lot of stock at Westwick but just recently we’ve been getting really really efficient at it.
1. Make stock in the slow cooker – it uses far less energy (most stock should be on the heat for 4 hours) and you can have it on overnight or whilst you are out in total safety. We haven’t been able to do this for ages because we are making such large quantities but if I ever have just one chicken then it goes in the slow cooker.
2. Make your stock in a jam Maslin – it is nowhere near as energy efficient as the slow cooker and you have to tend it, but for making a giant bucket of stock nothing is better (by which I mean bigger).
3. Leave the onion skins on – although I do wash and take off any really gritty or dirty bits of onion skin, if you leave the skins in the stockpot it give the stock a beautiful rich colour.
4. Just let it tremble – the best stocks we have made have been those where we have only heated the stock to trembling point. The point where you can just see the occasional bubble break the surface and nothing more. If you do it at too high a temperature at this stage it can taste bitter [Thanks to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall for that one!]
5. Skim, Skim, Skim – it is dull and boring but the stock really is nicer if you take the scum off the surface.
6. Straining the stock – I used to use a sieve and I still do if I am pushed, but if I can find the muslin and it is clean then I’ll use that instead. You get a much finer stock that way.
7. Reduce, Reduce, Reduce – once the stock has completed its 4 hour trembling process and been strained it goes back on the heat for a fast boil. Getting it to reduce is the key to storing it and using it for us. We used to have liters of stock taking up valuable freezer space – by getting 5 liters of liquid reduced to an ice cube tray is a revelation – then we add more water to rehydrate and dilute the cubes when we want to use them.
8. Make it in bulk – Stock isn’t difficult but it can need some looking after so we try and do a huge lot in one go. The way I do this is by chucking my leftover roast (chicken or whatever) bones in a bag in the freezer, then when I have enough I set aside an afternoon to make the stock. [I totally know how lucky I am to have so much freezer space!]
9. No Salt – don’t add salt until the point of use in a recipe, this will give you much greater control over the final taste.
I don’t have a number ten right now… have I missed anything?