Making Fish Stock
Seafood soups can be very flavorful and well accepted, both at dinner and as buffet party dishes. They are not made often because of the inconvenience of making the fish stock upon which they are based. This page will show you how to make fish stock well ahead, when convenient, and have it on hand when you want to make a seafood soup.
Fish stock is made from the off-cuts when you prepare whole fish
for recipes. It may also include other seafood, mainly shrimp shells
and/or shrimp heads. Most recipes also include vegetables, herbs and
spices, but I make mine plain because I usually don't know in advance
what I will use the stock for. Those additional flavorings are easily
added when the stock is used.
Pots: Of course you need pots - in various
sizes. Keep in mind that a pot that's a bit too big is a minor annoyance
- a pot that is too small is a disaster. I prefer light weight stainless
pots with a thick multi-ply bottom, like the one in the photo. The thick
bottom isn't needed for stock, but I can use the same pot for soup,
where the thick bottom is often very desirable, especially if there is
barley in the soup.
Cleaver Knife, Mallet & Kitchen Shears:
These items have already been shown on the page
Cleaning & Filleting Round Fish,
but are also used here. mainly for cutting up skeletons and fish heads.
This set includes a razor sharp Chinese Cleaver Knife, a Soft Faced Mallet
and Kitchen Shears. These tools are also very useful for many non-fish
tasks in the kitchen.
Strainer, Skimmer & Ladle: These
are all standard kitchen tools with many non-fish uses. The flat skimmer
is used to skim off scum as it rises, just as the pot comes to
a boil. The strainer is used to separate the solids (discarded) from the
liquid, and the ladle for moving sock from pot to jar (it's hard to
pour directly if the pot is quite full).
Deep Bowl: Again, standard kitchen equipment
unrelated to fish. You need this in the sink under the strainer when you
strain the solids out of the stock (otherwise the stock will just pour
down the drain, duhh!). Let the stock sit for awhile in the bowl so
small solids sink to the bottom and fat rises to the top before pouring
into the separator. Of course, a pot could also be used for this.
Gravy Separator: This is one of the greatest kitchen tools ever invented. Yes, you can use it to degrease gravy, but mine is used far and away more often for defatting soup stock. No, you can't get as clean a stock skimming, only by taking an extra day to refrigerate the stock - unacceptable. Shown is the Oxo 4 cup, which features a rubber plug to help keep fat out of the spout. That blue strainer it comes with is worthless - the holes are too big and it's capacity is too small. You can safely toss it.
The only deficiency of this device is the lack of any tool for cleaning the inside of the spout - and I'm pretty fussy about that sort of thing. I purchased a cheap bulb baster which came with a cleaning brush that works just fine in the spout.
Wet the plug and put it in before filling the separator. Let it sit
for a bit for the fat to rise to the top, then pull the plug and decant
about 2/3 of the contents. Replug and refill. Let sit, then decant again.
For the last batch, pour slowly, watching the spout. Tilt up to stop flow
the moment you see a bubble of fat enter the spout. Store the plug inside
the bowl, not stuck in the spout, or it eventually won't seal well.
Jars: I keep various sizes of jars for storing soup stock, most with the 3 inch opening, but some smaller ones as well. The photo shows a 4 cup, but 3 cup, 2 cup and 5 cup versions are also available for this size lid. I prefer lids with a safety dimple (barely visible in the photo) so I can be certain the seal is good. I wash my jars and lids well with a disinfecting cleanser.
Jars from most commercial canned goods, such as sauerkraut, pickles
and the like are made of heat resistant glass and will not crack when
hot stock is poured in, though I give the stock a couple of minutes
to cool below boiling. The only time I remember a cracked jar was some
years back with an old Clausen's sauerkraut jar (but the stock was
saved - it just cracked, and any glass chips would quickly sink to the
The Storage Problem
Fish stock is highly perishable, and keeps in the refrigerated for only a few days. Many suggest pouring stock into ice cube trays, freezing, then bagging the cubes for future use. Problem: the packing density of cubes is very poor, and your freezer compartment is probably already full.
Solution: Here's what I do now, and it works really well, at least for me.
How long will this stock keep in the refrigerator? I don't know, I discard any that is approaching a year old - haven't encountered a bad jar yet (one sniff would tell you if it was bad). Of course, if you find a jar where the lid isn't sucked down tight and has some spring to it, it should be discarded.
When you use some, you pry up the edge of the lid to break the seal so you can get the lid off easily (I use an antique Lucky Lager church key (most church keys sold today are too thick), but some recommend the pointy end of a spoon. If you have some left it must be used within a few days or reboiled and stored in a smaller jar.gof_stock1 140226 ajg - www.clovegarden.com