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Sunday, January 2, 2011

How to make stock – the right way.

My fiancée and I decided to have our turkey dinner on New Years Day this year. After all the holiday parties and dinners we went to, we realized we had not once had a proper turkey dinner. GTR flashed me his sad “It’s not Christmas without turkey” eyes and I knew I’d be spending the first day of 2011 in the kitchen. Let me say first – I brined the turkey for the first time. It added about 45 minutes work to the final product, but I am officially a brining convert. It was the most tender, juicy bird ever. No un-brined bird shall ever grace my table again. (For great information on brining, check out this site which references Cook’s Illustrated – the God of cooking mags so far as I’m concerned.)

Anyhow - back to the issue at hand. After having an amazing dinner last night (the words “I have never had turkey this good” were uttered by us both – several times!), I’m left with a turkey carcass in my fridge. My number one healthful cooking tip is to always have homemade stock on hand. It freezes beautifully, makes a range of foods taste better and measures up to only 25 calories and 0.5 grams of fat per cup. Add to that the fact that it can make you feel human again when you’re sick and you’ll wonder how you ever did without it. Store bought stock is just not the same. (We had to buy a mini-freezer earlier this year to deal with my stock addiction!)

 

First – some clarification – as I have been annoyed in the past by the lack of understanding about the variants of “stock”.

Stock: is a clear, un-thickened liquid flavored by soluble substances extracted from meat, poultry, fish and their bones, and from vegetables and seasonings.

Broth: is a flavorful liquid obtained from the simmering of meats and/or vegetables (no bones).

Consommé: is a rich, flavorful, seasoned stock or broth that has been clarified to make it perfectly clear or transparent.

These three are NOT the same thing.

 

Okay – so you want to make some stock… There is some technique involved – but don’t worry – it’s not at all difficult. It just takes a bit more care than your mom’s “throw it all in a pot” method.

 

The ingredients:

Bones:

Chicken or turkey stock is – obviously – made from chicken or turkey bones.

White stock is made from beef or veal bones (or a combination of the two) which have not been roasted.

Brown stock is made from beef or veal bones, and some times pork bones (or a combination) which have been roasted or browned in an oven.

Fish stock is made from fish bones and trimmings left after filleting . Bones from lean white fish give the best stock.

Vegetable stock is made from vegetables and vegetable trimmings. Starchy vegetables such as potatoes and squash make a stock cloudy – add these only if clarity is not important.

Meat:

Because of the cost – meat is rarely used in stock making anymore. What remains on the bones will add more than enough flavor without having to sacrifice Tuesday’s dinner to the stock pot.

Mirepoix:

A combination of onions, carrots and celery. The ratio of your mirepoix should be 50% onions, 25% carrots and 25% celery by weight. You can estimate this at home if you don’t have a kitchen scale. If you want a white or clear stock, you can omit the carrots to make a white mirepoix – mushroom trimmings are sometimes added in this case.

Acid Products:

Acids help dissolve connective tissues. They are a great addition to stocks. Tomato and tomato products contribute flavor and colour to brown stocks and white wine can be used in lighter coloured stocks.

Seasonings and Spices:

Salt is not to be added when making a stock. Add salt to the dish you cook with the stock – not to the stock itself so as to control the flavor and sodium content of your foods. A bouquet garni is often added to a stock pot to boost flavor. Either wrapped in cheese cloth or tied in a bundle, a bouquet garni allows you to add the flavor of herbs and spices, but still be able to remove it if you feel the flavors are becoming too pronounced. In a bouquet garni you can add: fresh thyme, fresh or dried bay leaves, peppercorns, parsley stems, whole cloves and garlic.

 

Ingredient proportions:

Remembering a basic ratio of ingredient proportions will help achieve a great tasting, balanced stock. You can estimate this based on the size of your pot and it will work every time!

Bones – 50%

Mirepoix – 10%

Water – 100%

 

Procedure:

1.     Cut the bones (if possible) into pieces 3 to 4 inches long.

2.     Place the bones in a stockpot and add cold water to cover.

3.     Bring water to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Skim off the scum that comes to the surface, using a skimmer or a perforated spoon. (This is a very important step – if not skimmed, the scum will work its way back into your stock, making it bitter and cloudy.)

4.     Add the chopped mirepoix (all vege chopped into 2 to 3 inch pieces) as well as the bouquet garni and any additional ingredients (wine, tomatoes etc.).

5.     Keep at a low simmer.

6.     Skim the surface as often as necessary during cooking as some bones give off more impurities than others.

7.     Keep the water level above the bones. Add more water if the stock reduces below this level.

8.     Simmer for recommended length of time:

a.     Beef and veal – 6 to 8 hours

b.     Chicken – 3 to 4 hours

c.     Fish – 30 to 45 minutes

9.     Skim the surface and strain the stock through a large colander and then a fine sieve or china cap layered with cheesecloth.

10.  Cool the stock quickly by separating it into smaller, freezer and microwave safe containers and storing, uncovered in the fridge.

11.  Once cooled, stock can be stored covered, in the fridge for up to two weeks or in the freezer for up to 6 months. Use it in rice dishes, mashed potatoes or as the base for stews and braised dishes as is. Reduce or thicken it to make gravy. Or, just add some diced vegetables and some pasta, season it up with salt and pepper to your taste and enjoy a bowl of healthy, homemade soup.

 

With the smell of turkey stock currently wafting though my home I feel utterly relaxed. There is still more than half a bird worth of YUMMY meat in my fridge so I know dinner tonight will be wonderful. By putting stock in the freezer this afternoon I know I’ll have many more great meals ahead and I’ll even be able to look back and remember how nice the first few days of 2011 were for GTR and I.

 

Who knew turkey stock could be so profound?




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