Monday, April 03, 2006

I Make My Own Stock?!

And now, for something a little less appetizing...

To give a bit more credibility to my cooking expertise -- yes, baking is 90% of what I do, but I can cook a whole meal -- I've decided to launch into the more macho exercise of demonstrating how to make stock.

Let me rephrase that. This is how I make stock. And I'm still too busy getting over the fact I make stock from scratch to research whether my method is correct. (Comments welcome).

But I'm serious, I've actually stopped using bouillon cubes and now I just grab some from the freezer whenever I need to lengthen a soup or a sauce, or make a risotto. Amazing. To me at least.

This is how I do it.

My recipe for making stock

1. Throw leftovers in the freezer as you go.
I plop them into a ziploc bag marked "for making stock" which resides permanently in the freezer. These leftovers usually include:
- Chicken bones (we eat a lot of roast chickens in this family). I'll even use the chicken skin.
- Carrots
- Broccoli or asparagus stems (not sure these are appropriate for a stock, but I never seem to have the more traditional celery on hand.) (Update May 23rd: I've been told these might be too bitter if stock is reduced a lot. See comments.)
- Herbs that have wilted in the fridge (but I don't actually let them rot, let's get that straight).
Do mark the bag clearly, or you will have an unpleasant surprise the next time you rumage through your freezer for ideas for dinner. ("Ugh, what's this?")

2. Throw these leftovers into a big pot adding:
- An onion or two, roughly chopped without peeling
- A garlic clove
- A bay leaf
- Some pepper corns
- More carrots or carrot peel (is that OK?) or whatever veggie you have on hand

3. Cover with water, and bring to a boil. Update: bringing the stock to a boil should be very slow, as I've been told (see comments).

4. Let simmer for a few hours.
Two hours? Three? Whatever fits my schedule. In this photo it simmered for 2 1/2 hours. I know you're supposed to skim scum off the top as you go. I don't. I'm not sure if it's really necessary as skimming happens at the end anyway. I guess I would get a clearer broth if I did, but clarity is not my priority, only flavor. Every now and then I stir a little, and press down on anything sticking out of the water.

5. Pour the broth through a sieve into a clean bowl.
I have to fish out the big pieces first, or my little sieve overflows. Throw out any solid items.

6. Cool the broth. I let the bowl sit covered on a window sill overnight. I would refrigerate but at this point it's usually late in the evening and the broth is too hot for the fridge. I often put it in the fridge a few hours later if I happen to get up for baby duty. If not, I could always re-boil the broth the next day if I'm concerned about bacteria developing. In theory. (Update: the window sill is OK only if it's a cold winter night. If not, cool in a sink filled with water and ice and refrigerate asap. Thanks Chuck for this advice)

7. The next morning, skim scum and fat off
and discard (yikes, that doesn't make for a pretty photo, I'll shrink it but you can click on it if you're determined to ruin your appetite...)

8. Warm up the broth to make it liquid again. It can be a bit gelatinous at this point.

9. Pour it into silicone muffin molds
-- any shape, in my case stars, hearts or cannelé shapes... yes I'm a baker, and I have a thing for cutesy molds or cookie cutters. The silicone makes it easy to pop out the ice cubes.

10. Place the muffin molds on a cookie sheet and stick in the freezer.

11. Transfer to a plastic bag once they're frozen solid. At this point I really should date and label the bag, but I usually don't.

Et voilà. I now have portions of stock ready for use whenever I need them.

Wow, 11 steps. I still can't get over I bother with all that. I think I get a lot of satisfaction out of using leftovers. And the apartment smells delicious. And yes, I find the taste is better than bouillon cubes.

Which by the way, contain ingredients such as dehydrogenated fat, monosodium glutamate, chicken powder, and antioxidants mix. Source. There's no way my greenish-looking broth can be worse than that!

One last thought: as I make this I always think of the tale of nail soup. Brief excerpt:
"And thank you for teaching me how to make soup with a nail," she said, "because now that I know how, I shall always live in comfort."
"That's all right," said the tramp. "It's easy if you remember to add something good to it."


Kai Carver said...

Very interesting.

FYI, the only photo I clicked on was the tiny gross photo. I immediately regretted it.

I tried your fries recipe. Also I baked some apples, in a vague echo of your Tatin description. Who knows, maybe next I'll bake cookies! But the things I cook, well... They're like, you know, how Sauron made orcs in imitation of elves? A terrible mockery, or something. And still, I eat them. But I don't photograph them. No one must ever know!

Astrid said...

Hey, don't pronounce the S name on my blog, please!

I didn't know you have an oven. Didn't the fries turn out well?

Gustad said...

i do the same thing... make my own stocks

the Abhorred Dread said...

> S name

Jebus! You're a bigger nerd than me, or more superstitious, or something. Now I'm a bit scared. Woe is me, it is the Comment That Cannot Be Undone.

I have a tiny oven. But do not asketh details of the horrors that happeneth in a single person's kitchen.

Let's just put it this way: after all the effort of chopping the potatoes, I seriously considered, and experimented with, eating the potatoes raw, as a way to save time and energy. Hey! I was hungry!

chuck said...

I'd skip the broccoli and asparagus if you plan to reduce the hell out of the stock...likely to get bitter being so sulfuric. Muy importante here: Sloowwwllly bring stock to simmer, don't crank it it gets the scum and unwanteds out the bones and to the top of the stock...which you should should be skimming frequently in the first hour or 2. Oh, and the leaving it overnite to cool is risky business; cool it more quickly in an ice bath a.k.a. the sink with lotsa ice...leaving it sit out only increases likelihood of bacteria growth. Also, try roasting some of the veggies before adding to pot and tossing in a bit of tomato paste in the last 10-20 mins of roasting for deep color and flavor in stock. Or just stick wit what u like if it hasnt been givin you the toots (-;

Astrid said...

Thanks Chuck for the knowledgeable tips! I'll modify my recipe to take your advice into consideration.