29 December 2008

A good stock

A good stock can make any meal taste gourmet. Sometimes I prefer the stock over the actual meat. I know that it is one of the most nourishing foods in my pantry, full of goodness and appetizing flavor and aroma. I pull out a bottle of stock whenever we feel a bit of a winter cold coming on, or when our digestion simply slows down due to the cold temperatures. But I also love to add stock to cooking grains like dry beans, chickpeas or barley. And of course, stock makes a delicious gravy.

There's more to stock than boiled bones. I like to add plenty of herbs, spices and vegetables to the mix. But I never salt it for fear that I will forget, and salt the dish again while cooking.

When making chicken stock I like to add 3 large carrots, a few parsnips, an onion, a bulb of garlic, and a fist full of fresh summery herbs: sage, thyme, oregano, marjoram, parsley, cilantro. I also toss in a few peppercorns.

When making beef stock, I add 3 large onions, a bulb of garlic, and some of the savory spices: a spoonful each of caraway seed, dill seed, coriander seed, a small spoon of cumin seed and peppercorns, and a few dried hot peppers (seeds included). As well as a bit of rosemary and sage.

Put your bones in a large pot and add water just to cover. I let all of the ingredients simmer for a few days on the wood stove, after all the meat and joints fall apart. Simmer long enough to cook the bones thoroughly, because you want all of the marrow and gelatin. I refresh the water level to the original amount when enough of it boils off. Some may not, but I always get a rich broth with a gelatin structure.

When using the bones of large animals you will be able to see when the marrow has been cooked out.

When my stock is ready, I skim off a majority of the fat, reserving it for other uses depending on the animal, fish out the larger bones with kitchen tongs, and filter the broth through a sieve. I pour the stock into canning jars and process them in a pressure canner. The booklet provided with my pressure canner gives the processing time as 25 minutes at 10 lbs pressure, below 10,000 ft altitude. But follow the instructions given with your own pressure canner.

After processing, when the stock is cooled to room temperature, it should be firm and gelatinous. Provided that the animal was mature and healthy. I have found that young broiler chickens do not have much gelatin or marrow in their bones, in fact, they grow so fast that their bones are easy to snap while butchering. Mature hens and older animals will make wonderful stock.


farm mom said...

A good, homemade stock makes all the difference in the world, doesn't it? I find it makes the most satisfying risotto I've ever had!

Cynthia R. said...

hooray for a stock post! I have photos I took while making mine the last time but still have yet to pull he whole post together. Where has the year gone?

Cynthia R. said...

oh! question! I usually let my beef stock simmer on low for 2 days, but I found out (the hard way) that letting chicken stock simmer that long ended up in VERY dark stock with an almost burned taste :( that ever happen to you?

Freija and Beringian Fritillary said...

farmmom, yummm...risotto

Cynthia, Hi! Hope you are happy in your new home.

Hmm, I guess the difference is that mine is on a wood stove for 2 days, which means that the heat varies. To translate it to a gas/electric stove it would be more like turning the heat on low for an hour and then off for an hour or so. Just as long as it is steaming hot, it will draw out the marrow and minerals from the bones. I can imagine that chicken stock would burn more easily. I use a thin bottomed stock-pot, and it never burns on the bottom. Perhaps a slow cooker would give you the same results, a gas/electric stove doesnt have a low enough setting.