Making Homemade Stock or Broth

Homemade and canned chicken stock.
This post originally ran in 2010, but I've updated it with more complete canning information.

NOTE (5/23/13): I recently learned that bones used for stock making can be used more than once. I've read of people using them up to 13 times (!), but I have personally used them up to three times. (After that, I ran out of refrigerator space.) The trick is to add a splash of white vinegar to each new batch, to help leach the bones further. The vegetables used in stock can be used twice, but you should add fresh vegetables, too.

If you've never used homemade stock (some people call it broth) for cooking, you're missing out on a real treat. It is so much better (and cheaper) than anything you can buy in a store - and it's not difficult to make. Making stock is also a great way to use up scraps of food - peelings from vegetables, wilting vegetables left in your fridge, or poultry, meat, and seafood carcasses.

If you're not sure how to use stock, try using it as a substitute for water or wine in any savory recipe. You can also use it as a base for soups and stews, or add it instead of water in things like rice. To save a load of calories, you may also use it in place of butter or oil when sauteing.
Use homemade stock within a few days (store it in the refrigerator), or you freeze it for up to up to a year. You can even can it using a pressure canner. (See instructions at the bottom of this post.)

How to Make Chicken (or Rabbit) Stock
Use the carcass (the bones and whatever leftover meat or organs that you don't want to eat) of a whole chicken (or any other type of poultry) and a number of vegetables, either scraps or whole. You don't need an exact recipe for the veggies, but here's one to experiment with: one large onion (quartered; papery skin in tact), three carrots (chopped into pieces small enough to fit into the pot), four stalks of celery (also chopped into large pieces so they fit into the pot), one tablespoon of whole black peppercorns, a couple of bay leaves, a little salt, and perhaps a few garlic cloves.

To make the stock richer, you can roast all the meat, bones, and veggies first in a 450 degree F oven for about 45 minutes. But if you're pressed for time, it's fine to skip this step.

Place all the ingredients in a large pot, cover them with water, and simmer for between two and six hours. If necessary, add water to keep the poultry and vegetables covered. Allow the stock to cool slightly, then carefully strain the liquid into a large bowl. (Toss the plant based scraps in the compost bin; you may wish to reserve the bits of meat that fell off during cooking for a casserole or some similar dish. Chickens also love the scraps leftover from stock making; just remove the bones first.) Refrigerate the stock overnight. The fat will rise to the top of the pot; scoop it away with a spoon.

How to Make Beef, Vegetable, or Fish Stock

For beef stock, use meat bones (beef, lamb, pork, ham, veal, or venison all work). Add vegetables and pepper. You may also wish to add one or two quartered tomatoes. Add enough water to cover everything and proceed as if making chicken stock. UPDATE: For more detailed instructions for making beef stock, please click here.

For vegetable stock, you may use nearly any vegetable - except broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage, which are too potent for a good stock. Tomatoes (which are really fruit) should be kept to a bare minimum; I wouldn't use more than one, quartered. Fresh vegetables work, but peelings and left overs are perfectly fine, too. Some good choices for making vegetable stock include garlic, onions (including green onions), potatoes (including sweet potatoes), carrots, celery, zucchini, squash, mushrooms, corn (including corn cobs), green beans, peas, and beets. Salt, pepper, and bay leaves are good choices, too.
Fill a large pot half full of vegetables and half full of water, then proceed as if making chicken stock. (You will not have to skim fat off the top of the stock.)

Like all other stocks, scraps work just fine for making fish stock. Use about fish, shrimp, crab, or lobsters and their shells. You'll also need about two tablespoons of butter, two large quartered onions, four garlic cloves, one or two celery stalks, parsley, one tablespoon of fresh lemon juice (in a pinch, you can use the bottled stuff), and one teaspoon of whole black peppercorns. You can also include a cup of dry white wine.

In a large pot, melt the butter and sauté the garlic, onion, and celery until soft. Place all the remaining ingredients in the pot, adding about a gallon of water. Proceed as if making chicken stock.

How To Can Stock
Poultry, Meat, or Vegetable stock: Leave 1 inch headspace and process in a pressure canner; pints 20 minutes, quarts 25 minutes*

Seafood Stock: I can find no tested guidelines for canning seafood stock. For safety, freeze it instead.

* NOTE: If you live at a high altitude, read this important information about adjusting canning times.
So, here is a basic recipe for meat stock.
Add your ingredients to your stock pot and simmer, stirring occasionally for about 4 hours. Add more water if necessary to keep the ingredients covered. Strain out the solid ingredients and refrigerate stock for a few hours. The fat layer can easily be skimmed off the chilled stock, making it ready for use or the freezer.
Seafood Stock
Seafood stock comes in handy for many recipes. You can use any inexpensive white fish scraps, bones and trimmings (your seafood market or grocery store probably sells fish packaged for just this purpose). You can also use crab, shrimp and lobster shells for adding flavor to seafood stocks.
Melt butter in bottom of stock pot and sauté onion, garlic and celery for about 5 minutes or until soft. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for about an hour. Periodically skim off foam that will appear at the top of pot. Cool and strain out solid ingredients. Your stock is now ready for use or for the freezer.
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  1. Yum! I'm going to have to save and/or print this one. I love to have broth/stock on hand for those nights where I want to have soup but don't want to bother with the whole process. Too bad I don't have a bigger freezer and don't know how to can! (BTW, have you done a post about canning? Would be a good idea if you haven't--especially for those of us who don't have the pro-type equipment for it.)

  2. I am planning on a post (or maybe a series of posts) about getting started in canning, Liberty. It really isn't hard. I'll probably wait a bit until spring is a little closer, though, since most people can when most produce is fresh.

  3. Good. :) My mom and grandma canned when I was growing up (I think my grandma still does) but I never caught on to it. Now that I'm looking at ways of saving money, it's starting to sound more advantageous.