Monday, January 7, 2013

Making brock...or stoth...

Like I said, making stock is different from making broth.  Broth is based more on the meat while stock is based more on the bones of an animal.  For all practical purposes, most of y'all are going to have some combination of both.  Take Thanksgiving, for example.  I had a turkey carcass (two, actually, but that's a story for November).  One I used for the dinner itself that I stripped down pretty well.  The other was, well, backup, and I ended up using that for leftovers.  Hence, I left a fair amount of meat on the bone on purpose, because I knew I'd be using it for stock/broth.

What do you need?  Here's some items, with commentary:

  • Meat and bones - if you're making chicken based liquid, I'd get a whole chicken, cut up (can usually be found in the meat section of the grocer).  For beef, I'd go with a tough cut of meat because a) it's less expensive, and b) you'll cook it long enough for it to be tender, and c) it's tough because it has more connective tissue, which, well, dissolves into gelatinous goodness.  How much?  Depends on how much you want to make.  Generally speaking, get your largest pot, put the meat it in, and fill it 1/2 to 3/4 full of water.  If it looks like you have more meat than water, you've got too much.
  • Water - Seriously, I'm sure someone is on record saying that distilled or spring is better than tap or well.  What water should you use?  The stuff out of your faucet.
  • Vegetables - whatever you have lying around.  While I guarantee that fresh vegetables make a better brock, you're going to use the stuff that's a little old to throw on a salad but not so old that it makes compost.  The key ones are going to be carrots, onions, and celery, and celery is going to, in my opinion, provide the most flavor.  
  • Herbs/spices - again, whatever you have lying around...within reason.  One thing you should get is a jar of bay leaves.  Throw in one or two.  I tend to lean toward Italian-y herbs (i.e., oregano, basil, etc.), and even some Italian seasoning would work (because dried herbs lose their flavor over time, and you probably bought the huge bottle of it during the Clinton administration, so use it up here).  Pepper, maybe some dried or fresh parsley, and that's about it.  I'd hold back on the salt for now, for several reasons.  First, it depends on the purpose: if you're making soup, you can throw it in at the end.  If you're making it to have on hand for another recipe, you don't know if that recipe calls for salt and, if so, how much.  If you don't salt now, you don't have any guesswork to do.
  • Bonus items - again, these are a few things I might throw in because I'm feeling a little 'randy':  Tomato paste (a teaspoon or a good squirt from a tube), garlic (those little cloves at the base of the head...heck, I often skip taking off the parchment), and crushed red pepper.
That's it.  Throw it all into a pot, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and then wait.  How long?  How much time do you have?  Minimum: at least an hour.  Better:  2-3 hours.  Best:  6+.  

When you're finished, use it immediately, or cool it down, store in containers (at least 2 cups in size), and freeze.  You should probably pick out all of the solids (especially the bay leaves), and you might want to consider straining it.

The rest of this post is some random, stream-of-consciousness thoughts that come to mind that may or may not help you or answer questions that you may have.  Again, once you have the basics down as a rough structure, the rest of it is play.

How to chop the veggies?  If you're making stock to save, keep 'em big and chunky.  That way, they'll be easier to pick out.  If you're making soup, it depends.  On one hand, if you chop them and cook them for hours, they'll be pretty soft.  If you use big chunks, then pick them out, and then chop up some fresh ones for the soup (e.g., chicken noodle), then they'll have a bit of crunch left in them.

Do I make stock?  Rarely.  Here's why.  You need bones, and lots of them.  I very rarely eat meat at home, so the time it would take me to collect enough bones to make stock would be measured in years. In the meantime, I'd have to store all of that in the freezer.  Not worth it for me.  However, if you eat meat frequently in your home, don't...cut back a little you should be able to pull it off in a reasonable amount of time (i.e., months).  Pretty much the same process as above, but you're definitely looking at 6+ hours of cook time.  In some of my research it was suggested to roast the bones in the oven first.  Not sure if it's worth it.

What about veggie stock?  Your site is supposed to be about being a vegetarian?  Not really.  In fact, this is one point where I really don't care about whether or not I'm eating an animal.  First, stocks and broths are a great example of recycling, so if I get two or more spins out of a carcass, I could care less.  This is also where I find bouillon to be quite useful, as well as store bought stock.  However, it's the same idea minus the meat.  Save all of your roots, stems, peelings from your veggie scraps, throw them in the freezer until you're sick and tired of looking at it, and throw it in a pot.  You probably want to throw in some of the whole vegetables I mentioned earlier, definitely add garlic, up the spices, and definitely add some tomato paste.  This is too much work for me, because you have to consider that many of the veggies you're peeling would need to be scrubbed well...before you peel them.  Plus, I compost all my scraps and don't throw them away, so no guilt there.

Fish stock?  Again, bones, scales, and the gray, ugly part of a salmon filet?  Not worth it for me.  Buy some or use fish sauce (a little goes a long way with that stuff).

What to do with the meat?  Chicken:  put it in chicken soup (duh); put it in the food processor and pulse to desired consistency, or chop it by hand.  Also good for chicken salad, chicken tacos, chicken enchiladas, chicken pot get the picture.  Same for cow (although beef salad sounds gross..mayo and cold chopped beef).  Regardless, it'll be tender, moist, and ready to go!

Making it healthier.  I paused before writing that, because while everyone poo-poohs animal fat, we need fat in our diet and obesity rates in this country are eerily correlated with the introduction and production of low-fat foods.  However, if you want to cut out some of the calories, refrigerate the liquid for a day.  The fat will coagulate at the top.  Skim it off, and then freeze.

Finally, it does kinda boil down (pun intended) to freezer space.  If you've got the space to store scraps and the space to store frozen stock/broth, go for it.  Otherwise, make it as needed for soups or buy it.  As I said in my last post, buying it is OK, particularly if it's not the star of the soup (e.g., tomato soup, etc.).

Alright, next week, we'll actually talk about soups.

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