Soup Stock 101

With the change in temperature, my thoughts have turned to the warm comforting feeling of soup. Went to make some and realized that our stock stash has depleted. What’s a gal to do? Make more I say!

Soup Stock

I always thought making stock was not worth the effort and had dismissed it as something I would never do. Some years ago I ended up making some with a friend. I found that home-cooked broth was not only easy but that it could be rich & flavorful. The bonus is that you control the ingredients, spices and amount of sodium, and omit any other undesirable ingredients that are in store-bought broth or bouillon cubes.

If you’ve never made stock, it’s not difficult at all. Some choose to complicate things, but essentially everything goes in a pot, you let it simmer for a long time, and then take the stuff out of the pot and drain. Homemade stock often tastes richer, with no tinny flavour, as much or little sodium as you want, you can pronounce all the ingredients and there is satisfaction in knowing that the entire dish was made from scratch.

This year I thought, instead of just doing our usual marathon burst of stock making, I thought why not do something different this time and make it social? After all, once things are prepped, there is a great deal of wait time while things simmer. Why not play games and hang out?

We’re going to try out a stock and games afternoon, and if things work well it will launch a series of these events as an excuse to get together, spend time, catch up and play some games. I challenge you to do the same! (Please let us all know how it worked out and give tips for next time.)

As with all things foodie and more specifically comfort food, people are passionate about soups. Everyone seems to have their own take on stock. There are all sorts of books and internet resources that give recipes, but for this one I say don’t overcomplicate things. Just play with it and try it out. I will, however, give you a basic method and some tips and hints.

Suggested basic ingredients include: Onions, carrots, celery, peppercorns, bay leaves and some chicken bones preferably with a bit of meat on them. Normally we save and collect bones (raw or roasted) and place them into plastic bags in the freezer. If you have no time or space to save up, trimmings and bones can often be purchased at the butcher shop.

Some tips and hints:

  • If you cook/roast your bones before adding them into the pot with water you’ll get a stronger flavour.
  • If you sweat your vegetables (low to medium heat) in the pot before adding the water you’ll coax more flavour out of your ingredients. Add a small bit of water first and rub around to deglaze the pan, as the colour at the bottom is flavor you want dispersed. (Note: If you burn the vegetables, start over as you’ll just waste time and effort for a burned flavoured liquid.)
  • Bring the water to a boil and then back down to a simmer. You only want to see see one or two bubbles coming up at a time. Cook under this gentle heat uncovered. The amount of time will vary greatly depending on your ingredients, and personal tastes.
  • Once the vegetables are soft, or after an hour and a half, taste it and if the flavour is not strong enough let it simmer longer for a more concentrated flavour.
  • Skimming off the foam/scum that begins to form will leave you with a much clearer broth but if you skip doing it, it isn’t the end of the world.
  • Avoid using turnips, rutabagas, brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower. Anything from the cabbage family does not do well in stock, nor do most powdered herbs, artichoke trimmings, or too many greens. Use whole peppercorns and bay leaves, as these are easy to strain out.

After simmering, tasting and deciding that you’re done:

  • Place a fine mesh sieve or a colander lined with a cheese cloth over a large bowl or pot. (Note: If using a bowl have a second on hand just in case you find there is more liquid than you originally thought.)
  • Using a spoon or tongs, lift the solids out of the stock and place them in the sieve.
  • Now pour the rest of the stock through the sieve and allow some time for it to drain. Gently press down on them with the back of a ladle or large spoon to release the rich juices from the solids. You may have to do this a few times.
  • Then discard the solids that are in the sieve.
  • Return the liquid to the stove and boil off some of the water to condense it and concentrate the flavour. (If you’re low on freezer space, this is a great way to have less to put away!)
  • Immerse the container that the stock is in, into a sink with very cold water in it. You want to cool the stock down as fast as possible before you put it in the refrigerator. In the winter (when we are in negative double digit weather and there are wind chill warnings and such), I put it out on the balcony with a board under it (so that it doesn’t stick to something that can’t be moved).
  • You can remove the fat after it has chilled. If you’re using it before it has time to cool and solidify, then a gravy strainer can help reduce the fat content.
  • After it’s cooled you can either pour your stock into a large closable container and keep it in the fridge up to five days, or freeze it up to 3 months. When freezing, leave room at the top for expansion.


From Ottawa, Ontario

Jody is one of a household of two swing dancing and DJ'ing foodies. For us culinary and musical adventure is always on the menu!
We always listen to music while cooking and dancing during prep has definitely been known to happen. Our kitchen's soundtrack tends to be Jazz, Blues, R&B, Soul, Motown, and Funk music. We cook from the heart, tend to host many informal dinner parties some of which are fundraisers for The Weekend to End Women's Cancers. "Adventure is out there!" but it can be at home too and we encourage friends to roll up their sleeves and participate.

Our culinary inspiration is drawn from seasonal ingredients found at farmer's markets and gardens, through travel, TV shows, all sorts of life experiences and cookbooks.

As a kid, Jody did a great deal of traveling south of the boarder and it greatly influences the foods she craves and ends up cooking. Her comfort foods tend to be simple and gravitate towards Italian and all sorts of Asian. Since her move to Ottawa she finds that she is cooking more, caring more about where her food comes from and how it is made.

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5 Responses

  1. Matt R. says:

    Making your own stock is so rewarding in so many ways. I really love saving up bones from those hot roasted chickens we all buy from the grocery store (and pretend not to buy!) as they always give such great flavour and colour to the stock. When freezing the zip top bags, lay them flat on a cookie sheet in your freezer, and then when you want to use it thawing takes only a few minutes in a sink full of cold water. Once thawed, make sure you use it all and don’t refreeze any.nnHaving great stock on hand makes short work out of weekday meals. A quick chicken stew, or vegetable noodle soup is only 20 minutes away and perfect for cold, winter days. Soups and stews are a great way to clean out the vegetable drawer in your fridge too, saving you a trip to the grocery store on the way home!

  2. bushidoka says:

    Here is another tip – instead of boiling all day in a pot, boil for just 30 to 45 minutes at 15 psi in a pressure cooker. Works great and coaxes more flavour out too. Check out my videos on it.nn

    • Michelle says:

      I like the idea of using the pressure cooker. Sometimes I prefer cooking it on the stove to help humidify the air when things get especially static-y in the house.

  3. Grace says:

    Also making your own bone broths is SO good for you. I’ve read somewhere that the fat in the soup shouldn’t be skimmed too much because it’s a good immune system booster (not sure how true that is). Also when you cook the bones until they’re brittle and break easily, you’ve gotten all the collagen and other “stuff” into your stock. The broth is high in calcium, and contains glucosamine and chrondroitin which are fabulous for your joints (they sell it as a health food supplement to combat arthritis).

  4. Jody Glanzer says:

    I tried it with the pressure cooker and WOW! Very worth a try.nn n

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