Monday, August 25, 2008

Tips - Making Stock

One thing Daniel and I do while keeping an eye on meat sales is buy whole chickens. Even when they are not on sale, they are usually cheaper per pound than the already-cut chicken pieces. Not only this, but if you are trying to watch your portions, the breasts they sell in multi-packs are usually HUGE! The pieces on the whole-fryers are much smaller and portion/diet-friendly. We try to stick to brands that don't pump their chickens full of salt water and antibiotics. Hopefully as the demand for unmessed-with food becomes greater, it will become cheaper.
Back to the cheaper part... buying whole fryers and butchering them at home has proved better for our diets and our budget. Daniel takes great pride in being able to butcher those hens up as well as a butcher in a shop. After some practice we are both very good at getting all the cuts off, and even making them skinless and boneless. It is one thing to quarter a chicken with bones, but Daniel can work off boneless thighs, boneless breasts, wings, drumettes, and drumsticks in record time. We freeze the pieces in twos, or threes, as meal servings. The drumettes and wings we put in their own bag until we have enough to make hot wings for parties, etc... but that usually takes a while and sometimes we end up eating grilled/barbequed wings for dinner :)

If we aren't making stock the next day we'll take the bones (plus the giblets/neck from the inside) and place them in a bag in the freezer. I usually wait until I have two whole chicken carcasses to make stock.
Another thing we do throughout the week is take leftover vegetable parts, such as onion roots and skins, celery leaves, carrot tops, squash-ends, etc. into plastic bags that we keep in the freezer. That way we are using up part of veggies we wouldn't normally use up.
Once you have enough bones and plenty of veggies, place them all in a pot that is large enough to hold it all plus the water to cover it. One thing I try to do (though not always available) is tie the "veggie scraps" inside some cheesecloth, which makes for easier stock-tending later on.
Cover the bones/veggies with cold water. If you aren't using veggie scraps, place in a couple carrots, a few ribs of celery, and a quartered onion for added flavor. Add 5-10 peppercorns, a few cloves of [crushed] garlic, and a bay leaf. If you don't have celery on hand, I've heard (but never tried myself) that a pinch of celery seeds adds the same flavor.
Now, bring to a boil, but watch it, once it boils immediately reduce the heat so that it is only a simmer. If you let it boil too long you'll get cloudy, murky stock that has all the fat mixed into it.
Now, you don't have to sit over this all day, but you will have to check back (about every 15 minutes or so) to skim off the foam/muck. If you don't put in the chicken skin (which I don't) you won't have as much to skim off... honestly I have read and I find myself that it doesn't add any flavor and its just more fat to skim off the next day.
Simmer your stock for 4-8 hours... Add hot/boiling water as needed (per Alton Brown's method) to keep the veggies and bones submerged, but I tend to shy away from this in the last few hours or so of stock-making, as I think its waters it down. At some point in the process you may not have any more muck/scum to skim off the top... from here it is smooth sailing and tending to it becomes a lot easier. This is the point when I stop adding hot water, and the stock usually boils down to about 1/4 - 1/2 way down... Once your timing is correct, and it tastes to your liking, (or you don't have time to tend to it anymore...) strain your stock through a fine mesh strainer... (tip from our Jager Lamb Chops - If you don't have a mesh-strainer, use a cheese cloth [or even a dishcloth in a pinch] in the bottom of your sieve, in a bowl.) and into another pot (one that will fit in your fridge) it goes... Let it cool in the sink, in a cool-water bath (just fill up the sink around the pot of stock, being carefull not to get extra water into the actual stock.) Once it's cool enough, place in the fridge over night.
Meanwhile, you have bones and necks to pick meat off of. Since this meat has been boiled, it is good for chicken-pot pie or chicken enchiladas or the like. More on that later.
The bones and mashy veggies can go in the trash, or if you have a compost pile, compost what you can).
The next day, your stock should be nice and gelatinous. There will be a layer of fat that you can skim off. Elise, of Simply Recipes, likes to leave the fat on to preserve her stock for longer. I prefer to freeze mine anyways, so I take all of it off.
At this point, once the fat is off, and the stock is taking on room temp (and becoming liquid again - you may have to help it out by putting it on low on the stove top), I transfer the stock to containers for freezing. I freeze some of it in one or two cup portions, and the rest goes into ice cube trays.
The ice cubes are great for recipes that call for just a little stock (when store-bought cans have 16 oz of salty chicken-flavored water, bleck) And, you can warm them up in the microwave or on the stove top to get the amount you need... I think my particular ice cube trays hold about 2-3 tablespoons of stock per cube, but I don't measure it out everytime, as I don't have time for that, and I'm an eyeballer for most recipes.
The frozen stock will keep in your freezer for up to three months, Alton Brown suggests bringing it to a boil before using it again.
Even you can enjoy making your own soups and gravies from scratch... and using up veggies and bones that most people would simply throw out.Stumble Upon Toolbar

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1 comment:

Michele said...

This is a great post! Very informative! I love how you use up veggie scraps! I think it's a wonderful way to stretch the buck! Good job!