Stock, stock and more stock
I have a tendency to get excited about projects and not think the whole thing through. Example: the other day I cooked my first whole chicken and decided to make a HUGE pot of stock from the remains, especially since I have a new stock pot that needed a test run. What I did NOT think about was where I was going to put 6 quarts of stock, since both my tiny freezer and tiny fridge are full to bursting.
I used a rough version of Julia Child’s stock recipe from her book The French Chef. This book contains all of the recipes from her television program of the same name. I like it because it has a lot of the same, basic recipes from her classics Mastering the Art of French Cooking I and II, but is less huge and tome-like; I don’t have to clear off an entire counter for it to rest open.
I forgot to save the chicken innards, so I just threw in the carcass, some extra meat, leftover leek trimming, carrots, celery and onions, and a little cloves, parsley, thyme and a bay leaf. What’s great about stock is that you can throw in pretty much anything: vegetable trimmings, leftover meat, whatever. Even peels and stuff you couldn’t normally eat will give it some flavor. I initially made the stock in this pot:
(That’s me in the mirror finish. Hi!) This stock pot holds twelve quarts, and while far from the largest available, it’s the biggest one I currently have. I covered the meat and vegetables with water, then simmered them (without boiling!) for a few hours. When I got tired of messing with it, I took a messy path to straining it out. I got out my SECOND biggest stock pot (8 quarts)
with the pasta insert inside
and poured the whole thing in there. I think I had about 6 quarts at the end. A pasta insert is basically a big colander that fits inside a large pot. You put the water in the pot, then the pasta (or whatever you’re cooking) inside the insert. When it’s done, you just lift the insert out
Ta da!!! and drain the pasta while leaving all the liquid in the pot. You can do multiple batches, you could cook the pasta then blanch some veggies, the possibilities are endless. Or, you can use it as a giant strainer with something to catch all your stock in! The insert brought up all the large pieces of bone, meat and vegetable, leaving a more-manageable pot of mostly liquid with some smaller pieces. I strained it again through a mesh sieve, then let it sit in a huge bowl in the fridge over night.
This morning I realized that I needed to do SOMETHING to get the huge bowl out of the fridge, so I poured the whole mess into my 6 and 3/4-quart Dutch oven and cooked it on the stove for several hours.
I started out with between 5 and 6 quarts, and ended up with this:
You can see the line higher up where the level originally was. I cooked it and cooked it until it had reduced to 6 or 7 cups, which is a much more reasonable amount for freezing. I was also able to take off a lot more fat and scum than I could yesterday. I’m letting it cool, then I’ll measure it into jars and freeze it for future use, being sure to dilute it with fresh water when I use it. It’s homemade stock concentrate!
For whatever reason, the stock didn’t congeal at all this time. The first time I made stock, it turned into a huge bowl of gel in the fridge and I freaked out, not realizing that that was desirable. Maybe I had a substandard chicken. I also went WAY overboard with the alliums; I think that I had enough leeks I could have left out the onion completely. Oh, well.
Then I had to clean up all the pots. 🙂 Truthfully, though, if I hadn’t had all those gadgets, I would have had to ladle out all the chunks by hand, and it would have taken forever. Julia Child said something about using all the pots you need (skimping ultimately wastes time), but be sure to clean up as you go, and I’m sure that she knew what she was talking about.