I have waxed poetic about homemade chicken stock on this blog before, but I’ll do it again. Homemade stock, whether meaty or not, is one of the pinnacles of frugal cooking. It’s one of the instances where you can truly say that the homemade version is superior to the storebought stuff – and cheaper, too. Extra bonus: makes your house smell divine.
When I started making chicken stock I used a picked-over rotisserie chicken carcass. Then I progressed to freezing these carcasses (since I haven’t always got a need for a whole chicken). Same goes for when I was raising my own backyard broiler/fryers. When pigs came onto the scene I started squirreling away those bones, too. (Wow, that would be one freaky squirrel . . .) Pork stock is fantastic in minestrone. My favorite is Jamie Oliver’s early autumn minestrone.
And then it finally dawned on me: if my bones and meat need not be daisy-fresh and purchased strictly for this purpose then why was I sacrificing pristine garden veggies (and, in the case of celery, store-bought) for stock?
So now I keep a few resealable baggies in the freezer for onion tops, wilted celery, carrot ends, and the like. When it’s time to make stock they go in the pot with the carcass – no trimming required. Don’t kid yourself, these are ugly veggies: they were limp when they went in the freezer and totally boneless when they came out. They’re discolored by being frozen without being blanched first. But, as long as they were actually edible (not in any way rotten) when they went into the freezer then they are perfectly suited to flavoring your stock. They should smell tasty. They should still offer resistance when you cut them. (Thawed, that is. Anything will offer resistance if you cut it when its frozen.)
Further down this road are other, less common stocks and soups. Two soups I haven’t yet made myself but am stocking up for (hah!) are mushroom and tomato. I have a gallon bag of tomato ends that is beginning to bulge. [Note from the future: click here for the recipe for Cream of Leftover Tomato Soup] Ditto for mushrooms: rather than cutting off the ends when I make our daily dinner salads I pull the whole stem out. I’m going to start a baggie in the freezer for them, too. I can’t wait to start the great hunt for recipes to use mushroom stock in. (I plan to use this recipe for the stock, BTW.) Pho comes to mind. Gravy. Risotto. I’ve heard you can use stock in making biscuits, too. Ooh – mushroom stock biscuits on top of a pot pie with homemade chicken stock in it . . .
Excuse me, I have to get a napkin for all this drool.