Making stock

There's nothing like a good savory stock (unctuous as Alton Brown might say) to liven up a soup or gravy. This time of year is when I usually make most of my stocks, because of the abundance of roast critter carcasses left over in the kitchen.

Usually there's the Canadian Thanksgiving roast turkey or chicken in October. Freeze the carcass from that to make a stock for the US Thanksgiving practice turkey a few weeks later. Then that turkey carcass gets frozen to make the stock for the real US Thanksgiving turkey. Another one frozen for Christmas stock. Finally, the Christmas turkey (and maybe even a ham bone if I'm fast enough) gets frozen for another batch of stock.

People seem to get intimidated by the thought of making their own stock, but it's really one of the easiest things to make, and takes practically no effort at all. Even less if you use a slow cooker, which is what I make all my stocks in now.

My basic stock recipe is pretty basic, but the great part of it is that it can be spiced up with anything I feel like.

Basic chicken/turkey/beef stock
1 critter carcass (chicken, turkey, whatever you have on hand)
1 large onion coarsely chopped
3 or 4 cloves of garlic (you know what, it's garlic...just use as much as you feel like)
500 g bag of baby carrots
15 mL peppercorns
15 mL allspice berries
15 mL each of dried thyme, parsley, rosemary, oregano
1 or 2 bay leaves
1 or 2 dried chilis (like it spicy? Add a few more!)

If the bones aren't cooked already, roasting them in the oven for a while will add more flavour. Toss everything into a large 6 or 8 qt slow cooker. Fill with water to about 1 cm below the top rim. Make sure the bones are fully submerged. Turn the slow cooker to low and leave alone for the next 12-18 hours. Stir once or twice to break up the bones and meat. When the bones are soft and crumbly, your stock is done. Strain through some cheesecloth into a suitable container and enjoy or freeze! Make it into soup, or use it to cook up some ramen noodles instead of using those overly salty flavouring packets they come with.

If you put too much water into the slow cooker, you'll end up with some spill over, so I usually put a half sheet pan under my slow cooker to catch any spills. Makes cleaning up easier.

Shrimp, crab and lobster shells also make a great stock. Doesn't take nearly as much cooking time though (just simmer for an hour or so) to get a nice tasty seafood stock.