The basics: Soup stocks

I consider my mother the goddess of all things soup – especially Chinese soups. When I moved out many years ago, this was one of the things I missed the most: her delicious, nutritious homemade soups.

One of the things she has taught me over the years is that every good soup starts out with a good soup base. And by “good”, we mean fresh, homemade, and healthy. It may take a little more time, but in the end, it’s worth it. Your soups will taste better, and your body will thank you for it too. So you don’t need to buy those artificially preserved broths – you can make your own!

As an aside, of course sometimes the reality is that when you have no time, you just have no time. If you’re in a crunch and need a quick soup stock solution, we always recommend the Campbell’s broths in the carton over any of the canned varieties. Most of the canned soups, including Campbell’s, have MSG in them, whereas the cartons are MSG-free.

Ultimately, all soup stocks are the same. They are made by adding ingredients like meat, bone, and/or vegetables to water and simmering them to extract the flavour and nutrients from them.

Below are a few simple recipes for our very basic soup stocks. You’ll notice that we don’t add many other vegetable ingredients to our vegetable stock or aromatics (such as onions, celery, carrots, and garlic) to our meat stocks. This is because we tend to flavour the stocks later, depending on what we’re cooking. In particular, for Chinese soup recipes, the ingredients and flavours are generally very different, so by keeping the stocks basic, it keeps our cooking options open.

Vegetable Stock

  • 2.5 to 3L of water
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 3 to 4 large carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 1 to 2 stalks of celery, coarsely chopped
  • 1 to 2 cloves of garlic, halved (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon of salt, or to taste

Bring the water to a boil on high heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic. Bring the heat down to a simmer on low heat. Simmer the stock for at least an hour with the pot covered (up to 3 hours). If you have a pressure cooker, it should only take about 15-20 minutes.

With the pressure cooker, once the pot starts hissing on high heat, let it sit on high heat for 2-3 minutes. Keep an eye on it to gauge how much pressure it is under. If it is hissing without break, it’s under a lot of pressure, turn the heat down to medium-high. If it is hissing with breaks every 5-15 seconds, you can keep it on high for the time being. After the initial 2-3 minutes, turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer for the remainder of the time.

When it’s done, the stock should be a light brownish-orange colour. Strain out the vegetables. You can either use the stock right away, or you can portion it out into containers and freeze it according to how much you think you will use each time. If you’re freezing the stock, make sure to let it cool to room temperature before you store it.

Chicken Stock

  • 2.5 to 3L of water
  • 3 large chicken drumsticks with thigh or 1 whole chicken, skinned
  • 1 teaspoon of salt, or to taste

Bring the water to a boil on high. While the water is coming to a boil, remove the chicken skin from the chicken and discard. Add salt. When the water is boiling, place the chicken into the water. Boil for 1-2 minutes. Drain the pot of the water and refill. This step should be done for all meat stocks as the initial boil is important for removing any toxins and impurities from the meat. Reboil the water with the chicken in it. When the water reaches boiling point, reduce the heat to a simmer on low heat. Maintain the simmer for at least an hour with the pot covered (up to 4 hours). If you have a pressure cooker, it should only take about 20-30 minutes. (See Vegetable Stock for pressure cooker tips.)

When it’s done, remove the chicken and any stray bones. The stock should be a slightly tinted light brown colour. If you like, you can remove the oil from the surface with a specialized oil strainer with a very fine mesh that captures the oil (these can be found in some specialty Asian appliance and houseware stores), or refrigerate the stock and skim the solidified fat off the surface.

You can either use the stock right away, or you can portion it out into containers and freeze it according to how much you think you will use each time. If you’re freezing the stock, make sure to let it cool to room temperature before you store it.

Beef Stock

  • 2.5 to 3L of water
  • 8 to 10 oz. of beef shank, cut in half
  • 1 teaspoon of salt, or to taste

Bring the water to a boil on high. While the water is coming to a boil, remove any obvious fat deposits from the beef. There shouldn’t be much, but on occasion, there are areas that have chunks of fat embedded in the cut of meat. Discard the fat. Add salt. When the water is boiling, place the pieces of beef shank into the water. Boil for 1-2 minutes. Drain the pot of the water and refill. This step should be done for all meat stocks as the initial boil is important for removing any toxins and impurities from the meat. Reboil the water with the chicken in it. When the water reaches boiling point, reduce the heat to a simmer on low heat. Maintain the simmer for at least an hour with the pot covered (up to 4 hours). If you have a pressure cooker, it should only take about 20-30 minutes. (See Vegetable Stock for pressure cooker tips.)

When it’s done, remove the beef. The stock should be a light brown colour (darker than the chicken stock). If you like, you can remove the fatty oil from the surface with a specialized oil strainer with a very fine mesh that captures the oil (these can be found in some specialty Asian appliance and houseware stores), or refrigerate the stock and skim the solidified fat off the surface.

You can either use the stock right away, or you can portion it out into containers and freeze it according to how much you think you will use each time.

Fish Stock

One of the tricky things about fish stock is having the fish bones or shellfish shells readily available. One of the things you can do is stow away the shells in an airtight Ziploc freezer bag in the freezer throughout the week as you cook so it’s available when you’re ready to make fish stock. Some grocery stores will also sell things like fish heads and bones. If you get fish heads, make sure the gills are removed before you put it into your water to boil, or you may get a bit of a bitter flavour in your stock.

  • 2.5 to 3L of water
  • 2 lbs. of lean fish bones (such as cod or halibut) or shellfish shells (such as lobster, shrimp, or crab)
  • 1 sweet onion, quartered
  • 1 large carrot, coarsely chopped
  • 1 to 2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 a head of fennel, coarsely diced (optional)
  • 1/4 cup of white wine
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of salt, or to taste

Put the tablespoon of olive oil into a large pot and turn the heat to medium. Add the onion, carrot, fennel, and celery stalk(s), stirring occasionally. When the onion and celery are softened, add the white wine. Increase the heat to medium-high. The wine should reduce somewhat, and will also deglaze the pot, loosening all the browned bits from the bottom of the pot and absorbing it in the wine. This way the flavour from the aromatics isn’t lost. Add the water and bring the water to a boil on high. Place the fish bones and/or shellfish shells into the water. The water may stop boiling momentarily. Keep the heat on high until the water boils again, then reduce the heat to a simmer on low heat. Maintain the simmer about an hour with the pot covered (up to 1.5 hours). If you have a pressure cooker, it should only take about 15-20 minutes. (See Vegetable Stock for pressure cooker tips.)

When it’s done, strain the soup from the fish bones and/or shellfish shells. The stock should be a light brown colour (similar to the chicken stock).

You can either use the stock right away, or you can portion it out into containers and freeze it according to how much you think you will use each time. If you’re freezing the stock, make sure to let it cool to room temperature before you store it.

Advertisements

12 thoughts on “The basics: Soup stocks

  1. Pingback: Some like it hot… and sour « Foodiologie

  2. Pingback: Feeling sick? Plain congee to the rescue « Foodiologie

  3. Pingback: Fish maw egg drop soup « Foodiologie

  4. Pingback: A childhood favorite: Alphabet soup « Foodiologie

  5. Pingback: Pulled pork tacos « Foodiologie

  6. Pingback: Winter melon soup « Foodiologie

  7. Pingback: Pineapple potato tacos | Foodiologie

  8. Pingback: Spinach and mushroom risotto | Foodiologie

  9. Pingback: Buttercup squash soup to chase the howling winds away | Foodiologie

  10. Pingback: Pot au feu: A winter retreat | Foodiologie

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s