Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Making stock

Sometimes I'm glad I have a deep freeze.

Today would be just such a day.

You see, every once in a while, we roast a bird in our house. Usually a chicken, but sometimes the occasional turkey too. Once everything is carved out and parcelled into whatever dishes we're making, the bones are saved and put into dated freezer bags and tucked into the deep freeze, in anticipation of a backlog building up. Once I have enough (usually 4 chicken carcasses, or two chicken carcasses + 1 turkey carcass or 2 turkey carcasses, you get the idea!) I pull out the bones, arrange them on a baking sheet, and let them get toasty on 400 degrees for an hour, usually alongside a carrot and maybe half an onion. I take those out, cram them into my stock pot (sometimes violently, if it has trouble fitting) and pour about 12 cups of water in. My mom also got me a big mesh ball thing for putting herbs and aromatics into to flavor stocks, so I finally put that to use today as well. The stock I made will be used in pho, a Vietnamese noodle dish vaguely similar to ramen, so I flavored it with ginger, bay leaf, and green onions. When it's ready for showtime, it'll also get a little fish sauce and sugar, but that's for later.

I put my stock pot on a low simmer for a good two hours, all the while trying to press down the mass of bones a little farther down the pot, so everything is as submerged as possible. I kept the heat just under a boiling threshold, and after it was done, I carefully removed the small graveyard's worth of spent bones into a quadruple-bagged disposal, so I can keep it separate from our punk cats that just love to tear into neglected trash. The stock was then strained, skimmed repeatedly, and returned to the pot to reduce by a bit, until the flavor and seasoning were just right. After that, I poured the stock into a few storage tubs, and tucked them into the fridge for use later. The last thing I'll have to do before using them is to check tomorrow for the fat that will rise to the top and harden. After I remove that, I'll have a good ten cups of the best stock on earth, ready to do my bidding.

It's a bit of a ramble I guess, but if there's a moral to the story, you should probably be a miser with whatever kind of bones, shells, and stuff like that whenever possible. It's something that now comes natural to me and my wife, and when the payoff comes, it's always worth it.


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