March 12, 2009

stocking up on stock

The rumors are true: homemade stock is better than store-bought! So listen up, home cooks. Get out your pencils and take notes. This has become one of my favorite home kitchen tricks.

After reading what felt like a million articles about making stock at home, and tiring of forking over $3/quart for the organic stuff, I took Bittman's advice and opted to start making my own.

The first batch was veggie stock, and while I wouldn't call it devoid of flavor, it lacked something. Batch number two involved the leftover bones and bits from a store-bought rotisserie chicken. All the veggies in the fridge that we on their way out (celery and peppers), as well as some carrot peels, onion skins and roots, garlic cloves, and a big handful of parsley from the garden made their way into the stock pot with the chicken carcass.

I let this simmer for a couple of hours, adding water as necessary. Part of the beauty of homemade stock is that the completely uninvolved cooking process makes your whole home smell like chicken soup. Once it was done simmering, I strained it (made easy by the pasta cooker insert that came with my stock pot). If you don't have a pasta insert, you can use cheesecloth (wrap your scraps in it, and toss it in the stock pot like a giant tea bag) or simply strain your stock through a colander at the end. Some folks like to skim out the fat; I don't cook with a lot of fat, so I just left it in. Maybe the next batch I'll try that, though.

Since the point of making stock is to have it on hand for recipes, I had decided to test several ways to freeze it. Once it cooled to room temp, I carefully ladled some into plastic baggies (1-quart as well as gallon sized). Then I ladled some into plasticware containers of different sizes; even though I tried to swear them off, they're just too useful for storage! BPA-free is the best I can do. Finally, I poured some into ice cube trays and popped them back in the freezer.

Personally I liked the ease of the ice cube-shaped stock; they thawed very quickly, and at two ounces a pop were easy to measure. But since we only have four ice trays and generally need them all for actual ice cubes, that idea didn't gain much steam. I purchased about 6 new BPA-free plastic containers, in sizes from 4-cup to 6-cup, and filled each of those. With a little bit of thawing time, the stock pops right ought and can be heated really quickly on the stovetop. Plastic bags did not work at all--they took the most time (and running water) to thaw, and if the stock froze the wrong way, it trapped folds of plastic in between it, making for a very difficult de-thawing process.

That's the long of it. The short of it? Simmer scraps for two hours in the biggest pot you got, cool to room temp, and store in BPA-free plastic containers in your freezer until the next soup night!


Suzanne Bradford said...

Hi Amber! I used to have a chef friend that used the homemade popsicle makers to freeze stock. He'd purchase popsicle sticks then poor the stock into the containers. When he pulled it out to use he would stir the stock-popsicle into the soup by the stick. I think they were 4 oz.'s each. Just a thought...Love the blog as always!