Saturday, December 11, 2010

How I Make Home-Made Stock

Have you ever made home-made stock, either beef, chicken, or vegetable? It's so much more flavorful than the store-bought kind, but to be honest, I used to think it would be too much trouble to make. Every celebrity chef has their own recipe for chicken stock, but I always find it so wasteful. They often want you to use the whole chicken (or two, or three!)  and then just throw it away once you have strained the liquid. This offends my sensibilities. Waste a whole chicken???? What are they thinking? Likewise with the vegetables. Veggies are relatively inexpensive (only compared to meat and dairy, though), but I still find it bothersome to have to buy vegetables just to make stock.

At last I found a kindred in The Unplugged Kitchen, by Viana La Place. She suggests saving all your kitchen scraps: onion and garlic peels, vegetable peelings, tops, and stems, cheese rinds, and even bread crusts and making soup every week. Then, one of my friends wrote on her blog about saving vegetables scraps in the freezer and making vegetable stock with them. So I decided to try it. Voila! Luscious, dark, flavorful broth, made for free, out of the stuff you usually throw away. And it's super easy to do.

All week long, I save my vegetable scraps, and I mean, everything. Tops, peelings, and root ends of carrots, turnips, eggplants, sweet peppers (though not the seeds or core), celery, okra, potatoes, sweet potatoes, stems of herbs, the tiny little garlic cloves that are too small to use, you name it, I save it. Because I'm using the scraps instead of throwing them out, I make sure to do an extra-thorough wash and rinse of everything before I use it. I put trimmings in baggies and store them in the freezer. We eat a lot of veggies in this house, so I end up with a lot of scraps. One day a week, I roast a chicken. Whatever day that falls on is the night I make stock. Before I go to bed, I ceremoniously dump the carcass and all the pan juices into my large crockpot (not sure of the actual capacity, but it's at least 6 quarts), then I dump all the frozen veggie trimmings on top, and cover everything with pure, filtered water. The only thing close to measuring I do is to make sure I don't over-fill the pot. I add the tiniest pinch of salt and two or three black peppercorns, put the lid on, turn the crockpot on low, and forget about it until the next day. Whenever I get around to it the following morning, I pour the liquid through a fine colander and into 3-cup-capacity Tupperware containers. I use a ladle to press and squeeze every last drop of goodness out of the scraps, then throw the scraps away. Then I label each container and put it in the freezer.

If you are only making vegetable stock, you could make your scraps do double duty by then throwing everything in the compost pile once you've strained your broth. If you are making a stock with meat in it, then throw the scraps away, as animal products are not supposed to go into a compost pile.

The flavor of the stock will not be consistent when made this way, as it would if you followed a recipe, but I have yet to make a batch that didn't taste good. And, I make mine almost for free with hardly any trouble, which is more than I can say for the Barefoot Contessa recipe (although I'm sure hers tastes fantastic). Oh, I do have to confess that I do not include beet scraps. The thought of red or pink stock is just not appealing to me.

And finally, I'll leave you with a link so you can read up on why broth and stock are so very good for for the body. Everyone's grandmother says that if you are sick, you need home-made chicken soup. Well, it turns out there is some actual science behind that old wive's tale. You can read about how good broth is for you here.

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