Waste not and end up with this genius, budget-minded base for soups, stews, and more.

By Stacey Ballis
April 14, 2020
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You can’t swing a soup ladle around the Internet these days and not hit a recipe—or tons of recipes—for stocks. You’ll find recipes for chicken stock in every possible permutation, beef stock, turkey stock, fish stock, and vegetable stock. Ina Garten pulls tub after tub of her homemade chicken stock out of her fridge like Mary Poppins with a culinary carpetbag. And for good reason: It can be enormously useful to make these various stocks, if you have the time, energy, ingredients, and storage space to do so.

Those stocks, if you are making them from ongoing kitchen waste, have rules that make things a little trickier during these trying times. They require, for example, that you store meat bones in your freezer segregated by animal, and use basic aromatics as your vegetables: onion, carrot, celery. Maybe some parsley stems. And while those stocks are clean and simple and are terrific for cooking dishes that require that purity of essence, they're a little hard to manage when our pantries, freezers, and brains are bursting at the seams while we all shelter at home. 

Meet the all-purpose stock of your dreams—and it’s a concentrate!

This is not those stocks. This is a humble, but incredibly nimble cooking stock that I think of as an all-purpose hero. It is a terrific way to use up scraps from your kitchen, and the method generates concentrated amounts that are easier to store. This is the stock you can use when you just want a deeply flavorful liquid to anchor a soup or stew, bolster a sauce, or oomph up your vegetables. Think about rich pho broths, or a pot au feu, where diverse elements join forces to enhance each other—that’s what this stock is all about. The only limits here are what you’ve been stashing away of late.

How to make the world’s best all-purpose stock

1. Gather your bones. Start with any combination of poultry, beef, pork, or lamb bones. The only outlier here is fish bones, which I don’t recommend (and aren’t likely to be filling up your storage, as most of us are buying our fish already filleted). Here’s a great way to organize ahead: Keep a two-gallon zip-top bag in your freezer and keep tossing any of the above bones in until it is full.

2. Gather your veggies. Apply the same two-gallon bag trick here: Stash your vegetable scraps in a two-gallon zip-top bag. Everything counts—peels and ends of onions, leeks, scallions, and shallots. Garlic gone to sprout. Parsley, thyme or rosemary stems. Wilted celery stalks and bendy carrots or parsnips. Peels from cleaned carrots, turnips, parsnips. Stems of mushrooms, tomato peels and cores, lettuce cores or bottoms.

3. When it’s time to make stock. Once I have a full bag of bones, and a half-to-full bag of vegetable scraps, I make stock. Here’s what to do:

1. Put the contents of both bags, as well as any bonus vegetables that might just be starting to go from the fridge, into a 15-quart stockpot, and add about 12 quarts of water (which should come to about two inches from the top of the pot).

2. Add a couple of bay leaves and a teaspoon or so of whole peppercorns.

3. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, then reduce the heat to low and let simmer for 3 hours.

4. Using a large strainer or spider, remove all of the bones and vegetables and discard.

5. Pour the rest of the liquid through a fine mesh strainer into another small stock pot if you have one. (If not, pour into bowls and then clean out the pot you were using if you only have that one. Pour the strained stock back into the pot and take note of about how high up the stock fills the pot.)

6. Bring to a boil over high heat. Keep the heat as high as you can without risking a boil-over and let reduce to about 25% of the original volume. (What you’re doing here is making a double-concentrated stock, allowing it to be stored in half the space—a great move any day of the week, but particularly during this stay-at-home era of super-stocked kitchens.)

7. When the stock has reduced, let cool to room temperature or put on an ice bath to chill quicker.

8. When cool, fill 8-ounce, freezer-safe containers with it, or put 1 cup each into freezer bags and press out air before sealing.

9. Place these containers/bags into the fridge to chill completely before storing in the freezer. You can also put some of it into an ice cube tray and then store in a bag once frozen for even smaller amounts.

If you want to use the stock for soup, stew, or chili, thaw overnight in the fridge and add 3 cups of water to each cup of stock concentrate to make a quart of basic stock. For sauces you can cut 1:1 with water, or just use as is for super rich flavor. Consider yourself now fully stocked!