While doing a little freezer management this weekend, I decided it was time to pull out the bags of bones we got and make some stock. Since we were left a lovely large stockpot by the previous owners of our house, this was a great time to pull it out and use it for what it was intended. I knew we’d be around the house most of the weekend, so having something simmering away on the stove or roasting in the oven was no big problem.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is the definition of SLOW food. Luckily, like making bread, this is a project that requires attention, but not immediate attention all the time, once you get a few details right. Understand in advance that timing is not exact, temperatures are not exact, and the quality of the result is mostly a factor of your patience, persistence, ( stubbornness,) and willingness to Do The Right Thing the Right Way. It’s up to you to decide where on that continuum you are willing to be, whether your audience for the end result is going to know the difference, and how much your stock means to you.
Since this is my first attempt, I did not uphold the CIA standard (being able to read the date on a dime in the bottom of the pot) when it comes to straining, and my veg may have been roasted for less than the optimal level of caramelization. I know that this does not make my stock suitable for the base of a good quality demi-glace, but I know (hope!) the quality of ingredients alone will help make this better than your cheapo canned broth. I am aiming low on the first try.
If nothing else, I know what it takes to do this now, and I’ll do a better job on my second time through.
I should mention that my source for basic rules and proportions is Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook, so we don’t go to the detail that Ruhlman does in The Making of A Chef, or as Madeline Kamman does in her books. But Bourdain is adamant that YOU MUST NOT LET IT BOIL – EVER!, among other points that he won’t compromise on. I really enjoy his writing style in the Les Halles cookbook. He provides detail where necessary, but admits that even a basic stock is better than canned, even if you don’t have the time to go to the lengths of the CIA version, which I’m sure is excellent.
I didn’t use salt or peppercorns in mine, so I won’t have the typical over-seasoning issues you can run into with canned broth, which can be very salty. Feel free to consult some of these or any other sources, and Do What You Think is Right.
And remember, once you have the right simmer temperature on the stove, making stock gives you plenty of opportunity to read a book, nap, or catch up on TV. And no reason for guilt about it either- you’re REALLY COOKING!
- Stock pot
- Roasting pan(s)
- Pot holders
- Spoon for skimming
- Pyrex measuring cups
- ice cube trays and plastic containers for freezing
- bowl similar vessel for skimmed dregs
- cheese cloth
- large pot for holding skimmed results
- Beef bones (for those of us who are near where they raise veal, but can’t buy it or its bones anywhere, or those who don’t like veal, for whatever reason)
- Celery (half as much as you have onions)
- Carrots (half as much as you have onions)
- Roast your bones in a medium low oven, turning them occasionally, until everthing is brown but not black.
- Peel and chop the onions, carrots, and celery into big chunks. Roast them in the oven until they are well caramelized.
- Put bones and roasted veg in stock pot with COLD water.
- Put the pot on the stove at medium low heat, and bring it up to a simmer.
- Do Not Let Your Stock Boil. EVER.
- Keep the stock at a simmer (See #5) for about 8-20 hours.
- Skim off the fat, scum, and icky stuff that rises to the top regularly.
- When your stock is clear of scummy stuff and an appropriately long time has passed, allowing flavor to develop, strain the stock into a large pot through cheese cloth.
- Strain it again. Repeat as many times as you can stand. You can dispose of the bones and other detritus now.
- Cool the stock by placing the pot in an ice bath. This is important to get the temperature down from the safe high temps to a safe low temp (through the icky bacteria zones) as quickly as possible.
- Refrigerate, or freeze, in ice cube trays for small amounts, or in larger containers. (After the ice cube blocks are frozen, transfer to a zipper bag for easier storage)