I cannot emphasize this enough. You will never regret the effort you take to make your own homemade stock.
It's easy and fun to make stock; it just simmers unattended on your stove for a few hours, and makes your house smell fantastic. Just throw the ingredients into the pot and go about your business -- clean, read, listen to music, whatever. The simmering does all the work. Sundays are good days to do this, particularly if you're staying in anyway.
Don't let any of the fancy French culinary terminology in the recipes scare you, either. A "bouquet garni" is a bundle of fresh herbs tied together and put into the stockpot for flavor, and a "sachet d'épices" is similar, except herbs and spices are tied into a small square of cheesecloth like a little sack and thrown into the pot. (I use a large tea ball for my sachet; it's easy to retrieve and doesn't require cheesecloth or twine).
Never ever ever use bouillon cubes. They are primarily salt, and powdered fat. If you can avoid it, don't use canned broths either. If you must, avoid the main brands (Swansons and Campbell's, sorry); try to find low-salt brands in the health-food aisle of the market, or in a health food store.
The only product I endorse for stock that you don't make yourself is Demi-Glace Gold, available online from Gateway Gourmet. It's a true restaurant demi-glace, and can be reconstituted with 20:1 water to demi-glace to make stock. They also make chicken and veggie glaces too; they keep in your fridge for a long time, and when I don't have time to make my own stock, I swear by these. I've seen a few brands of frozen stock in fine food shops that look pretty good too, but they're expensive; $3.50 - 4.00 for enough to make just a few cups. If you buy the large tub of Demi-Glace Gold, you'll get 10.5 quarts for about $25, which is a much better deal that the frozen at about half the price.
But it's much less expensive, and more satisfying, to make stock yourself from these recipes:
- Beef stock
- Chicken stock
- Crab stock
- Crawfish stock
- Fish stock, or fumet
- Ham stock
- Shrimp stock
- Turkey stock
- Veal stock
- Vegetable stock
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Chuck Taggart (e-mail chuck)