While there is a huge variety of stock cube options available, you can’t beat making your own for flavour, and it doesn’t have to be costly or time-consuming, especially if you have a slow cooker.
Meat, fish and vegetable stocks can be prepared easily using the ingredients and leftovers you already have, or alternatively for the meat stocks you can buy bones cheaply from your butcher. The BBC suggests that home-made stock is more cost-effective and nourishing and the healthier option.
For meat and fish stocks the main ingredients are bones, leftover trimmings or giblets. Added to this, or used on their own to create vegetable stocks, are celery, carrots, onion and herbs. Parsley or bay leaves are popular, but there are no hard and fast rules here – use what you have or what you prefer. It is generally recommended that salt is not added to a stock, although pepper can be.
Make as big a batch of stock as you can manage, and if you have access to commercial refrigeration provided by companies such as https://www.fridgefreezerdirect.co.uk/, go for the largest pan you can find. This can then be frozen and used over a period of time as required. In terms of quantity, again you can allow yourself to be a little free with measurements. However, as a guide, 1.5kg of bones will produce approximately 1 litre of stock.
Bring your stock to the boil. This will produce a froth across the surface which can be spooned off and discarded. Once this has been done, reduce the heat and simmer the stock. Red meat stocks require a longer cooking time – 4-8 hours is suggested, and the longer you can give it the better, although you may need to keep it topped up with boiling water. Poultry stocks can be ready in 2-4 hours. Fish stocks should not be simmered for longer than 30 minutes, as this can impact adversely on the flavour, and vegetable stocks can be ready in the same time but will not be spoilt by a longer cooking time.
On completion, your stock should be sieved and cooled. You can then remove any solidified fat from the surface. Following this, if you want to intensify the flavour, you can reduce it by reheating and boiling off up to half the liquid.