Thursday, November 20, 2008

Chicken Stock - Locally

I had no idea that the most valuable lesson I would learn about cooking would also be one of the simplest. Stock is the base for so many soups, sauces, braises and other dishes and from what I've read of Rulhman's experience at CIA, it's the first thing you learn at culinary school. You probably know how much you rely on it because of the number of containers of stock you go through, but do you know how easy it is to make at home? I had heard countless times from cookbooks and TV Chefs how important it is to make your own stock and what a difference it makes in flavor, but had never really taken them seriously. That's not to say I didn't believe them, just that I didn't think it was realistic for someone with a full-time job to make their own stock. How wrong I was.

It turns out that with a little bit of prep work, you can have stock made in an afternoon with most of that time being spent on unmonitored simmering. Even better, that one afternoon can provide you with enough stock to stick in the freezer to last a few months (as long as you're not making vast amounts of soup). If the idea of butchering a chicken at home is off-putting or if you're interested in making beef stock, talk to your local butcher about buying bones for stock. In most cases, they'll be happy to oblige.

Please keep in mind that this recipe is simply a guide. The water will vary according to how many bones you have and the aromatics should be adjusted to your personal taste. Since this is another piece to my short rib recipe with all local ingredients, I made sure that all of my vegetables were California grown by going to my farmers' market. I also took the time to search out fresh California bay leaves, as well as cage-free, locally raised chickens, etc. Don't feel like you have to go to those lengths if you're not as excited about cooking locally as I am!

Chicken Stock

Bones from two chickens

3 litres of water

2 onions, quartered

3 carrots, cut into 2-3 sections

3 celery stalks with leaves attached if you've got them, cut into 2-3 sections

3 thyme sprigs

2 bay leaves

4 peppercorns

The chicken bones should be relatively clean. Place them in the bottom of a large stock pot and cover with water. Add the onions, carrots and celery. I leave the leaves on my celery to act as a distiller. I have no idea if it actually works, but I get the sense that they help to soak up impurities that would otherwise need to be skimmed off as the stock simmers. Bring the mixture just to a boil and reduce the heat to simmer. Cook for 4 - 5 hours, checking the pot every 30 - 60 minutes to make sure it has not come up to a boil. All you want is a gentle simmer. Wrap the bay leaves, thyme and peppercorns in cheesecloth and add them to the stock for the last 30 minutes. 

After 4 - 5 hours of simmering, drain the stock and discard the vegetables and bones. At this point you can either painstakingly skim the surface to remove fat, or you can pour cooled stock into storage containers and place them in the fridge. After a few hours the fat will have risen to the top and solidified and you can simply scoop it out. Freeze whatever stock you aren't going to use within a few days. After defrosting, I always bring my stock up to a boil before using. Enjoy!

17 comments:

Erica said...

Thank you for this. I had no idea how to make my own stock.

Hopie said...

I started making my own stock a couple months ago:

http://hopieskitchen.blogspot.com/2008/03/taking-uh-i-mean-making-stock.html

I thought it would be super complicated too and not at all! Plus you can use leftovers so you don't waste, which I like.

Parker said...

How right you are, this is simplier than I'd imagine and such a great staple to have around.

Michele said...

I love making stock. My problem now is that it isn't economical for me at the moment. I just have a small apartment fridge/freezer and there is no room for storing stock. I have to use it as soon as I make it. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a small chest freezer for Christmas. Then I'd be all set. Homemade stock is so worth the time and effort.

Maria said...

Another great go to recipe!! Homemade is always the best!

Cathy said...

Good post. I buy Costco chickens from time to time and always make stock from the bones and leftovers. How's that for good value!

Meg said...

Thanks for the great stock creating guide!

Mary Ann said...

I love trying to make things with local ingredients. I feel it is so healthy and also a great way to sustain the areas that we live in. Homemade stock is wonderful, so flavorful, and I love knowing just exactly what is going into my dinners.

Maryann said...

It makes the house smell delicious when youre cooking it too! So warm and welcoming :)

Laurie said...

I love making homemade stock! It really is better and your recipe is excellent.

I'm so jealous you are still shopping at farmers' markets. Your tomato paste is awesome.

jesse said...

Homemade stock makes all the difference I think. =) Thank you for posting this recipe, it's different from the one I currently use (which is more Asian) and definitely something to try soon!

rachel said...

You are hardcore and totally spot on. I am way too lazy to make my own stock- but it makes me happy to know that there are cooks like you inhabiting my world

croquecamille said...

Taking the time to make your own stock really does make a difference in your cooking. I do it on a fairly regular basis and keep it in the freezer.

You can read about some of the fun I've had trying to make stock here:
http://croquecamille.wordpress.com/2008/04/14/where-am-i/

Lori Lynn said...

Oh how interesting your use of celery leaves. I will have to try that.

Thanks for visiting my blog.
Lori Lynn

RebeccaC said...

Its so so easy to make. I keep meaning to create a stock bag to freeze chicken bones and aging veggies for stock making, but I've not done it yet.

alexandra's kitchen said...

It's so true. There's nothing like homemade stock, and your soups will taste all the better for it. And it's awesome that you made local stock. I still don't have a local source for chickens, but the veggies I certainly can find.

Kristen said...

Hey dear - just your (worst ever) bloggy mom checking in on you. I hope all is well! Hope to hear from you soon.