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Simple, from scratch

Good soup begins with a hearty stock

Good soup begins with a hearty stock

October 12, 2005|by KRISTIN WILSON

On a cold day nothing beats the comfort of a hot cup of soup - filled with an array of vegetables, noodles or legumes.

While transforming a simmering pot of water into chicken noodle, French onion or cream of broccoli soup might sound like magic, with a little forethought in the kitchen, making soup stock "from scratch" is easier than it sounds, says Ronald Berger, a longtime teacher with the culinary program of the Franklin County Career and Technology Center in Chambersburg, Pa.

The trick to crafting a tasty and satisfying soup is making a hearty base, or stock, flavored from meat bones or vegetables.


"You can actually use all your scraps to make good stocks and eventually soups," Berger says. "We try to teach there is no such thing as waste in the kitchen."

Here's a step-by-step guide to making homemade stock that will lead to delicious soups, sauces or stews. This guide focuses on chicken stock, although the process is very similar for just about any stock.

Step 1: Collect ingredients

To make about a gallon of chicken stock, cooks must start with about 6 pounds of chicken bones.

Any kind of bone will work, but they should be raw, Berger says. It is also best if they have some meat on them. "The meat is going to help give you some added flavor," Berger says.

To get 6 pounds of bones, Berger suggests saving and freezing bones as chicken is prepared. For example, when buying chicken cuts with the bone in, debone the chicken, saving the bones. Once 6 pounds of bones are saved up, cooks will have the bulk of the ingredients for stock.

The same goes for making other kinds of stock, including veal, fish, shellfish and vegetable. A broccoli stock, for example, is made from 6 pounds of broccoli stalks. As cooks prepare broccoli, Berger suggests using only the florets and saving the stalks. Keep them in the freezer until enough are saved up, he says.

Step 2: Start simmering

Place the chicken bones in an 8- or 12-quart stockpot and cover with 6 quarts of cold water.

Bring to a simmer but not to a boil.

"It's important not to boil this," Berger says. Boiling the chicken bones will make impurities come out of the bones and will "cloud" the broth.

The stock should simmer for about an hour. While it is simmering, "scum" that rises to the top must be skimmed off, Berger says. If it is not removed throughout the cooking process, it can cloud the stock.

Step 3: Add mirepoix and sachet

Mire-who? Mirepoix is a mixture of diced vegetables, usually carrots, onions and celery, used to flavor stocks and soups. The combination of vegetables is typically 50 percent onions, 25 percent celery and 25 percent carrots.

Clean and peel vegetables and chop them coarsely. Each piece should be about 2 inches long. Add the vegetables to the simmering stock.

Then add a sachet, a packet of multiple herbs and spices, to the pot. Berger suggests a sachet made up of fresh parsley stems, thyme stems, bay leaves, whole cloves, peppercorn and garlic cloves. Wrap the herbs in a piece of cheese cloth so that they are not free floating in the stock.

Let the stock simmer for one to two hours more, continuing to skim scum. The longer the stock is cooked, the more intense the flavor will be, Berger says. If the water level is reducing too much, cold water can be added as needed, he says.

Step 4: Drain

Take out the chicken bones and discard. Pour the stock through a fine strainer or a cheese cloth to remove all the chicken, bone and vegetable pieces. Can the remaining liquid stock and cool. Stock also can be frozen and kept for future recipes.

"We (make stock) a day or two ahead of time so that it can be chilled," Berger says. "If you want to get a more intense flavor, you can defat it, put it back on the stove and allow it to reduce." Berger cautions, however, the stock can quickly reduce to nothing. If cooks are trying this technique, they should watch the stock closely to make sure not too much water evaporates.

Step 5: Customize

Stocks can be customized by adding different varieties and quantities of herbs and spices. For a more garlicky stock, for example, extra garlic cloves could be added to the sachet. Cooks also can experiment with different kinds of herbs. Berger sometimes uses rosemary, for example.

Once the chicken stock is ready, it can be used as the base for chicken minestrone, chicken rice, chicken corn or chicken noodle soups, Berger says. It also could be used to create chicken potpie or chicken stew.

Chicken Stock

6 pounds raw chicken bones with some meat on them

8 ounces rough chopped onions

4 ounces rough chopped celery

4 ounces rough chopped carrots

2 fresh parsley stems

2 fresh thyme stems

2 bay leaves

3 whole cloves

3 whole peppercorns

2 cloves of garlic (optional)

Place chicken bones in an 8- or 12-quart stockpot and cover with about 6 quarts of cold water. Bring water to a simmer and let simmer for about an hour. Skim off "scum" that rises to the top.

Wrap the parsley, thyme, bay leaves, cloves, peppercorns and garlic in a cheesecloth to make a sachet. Place the sachet and onions, celery and carrots into the stockpot. Simmer for another one to two hours. Continue to skim the top of the water.

Watch the simmering stock as it cooks. If the water reduces too much, add some cold water.

Remove bones from the stock and run the liquid through a fine strainer or cheese cloth to remove all ingredient pieces. Can the stock and refrigerate until needed.

Yields 1 gallon of stock.

- Recipe from the Franklin County Career and Technology Center culinary program

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