Today we’re talking stocks. Not the NASDAQ or S & P, though it would be prudent to save up something for the future, so you’re not dependent upon someone else later in life, because I’m guessing Social Security will be insolvent by the time I’m of retirement age in 35 years, at which point I’ll probably be pretty miffed that for all the money I paid into it, I get zero back… But I digress.
Stock from vegetable and/or animal scraps. It’s pretty easy, and doesn’t require much hands-on time. For best results, it should simmer for many, many hours, but you’re not really doing anything during that time. Stock (or broth; not totally sure what the difference is) that you make at home is, as with most anything else, much healthier, much cheaper, and just much better. Here’s a nice recap of the benefits.
One of the nice things is that you make it from stuff that normally just gets thrown away – vegetable peels and scraps, bones, and other assorted body parts. The week of Thanksgiving, we roasted a chicken (I know, not very much forethought – we ate poultry for ten straight days, I think). After a few days of picking at it, I cleaned whatever meat was left off the carcass and threw it in the freezer, leaving us with a chicken skeleton, plus some skin, cartilage, etc. Having never made stock while threatening to many times, I also tossed the bones into the freezer. Another nice thing is that you can save stuff up over a period of time; you don’t need to roast an entire chicken at once – just toss a bit into a freezer bag when you’re making a meal, and when you have enough for stock, do it.
I didn’t use any vegetables for the first round – we’re straight-up chicken. All you really need to do is toss everything into a large pot (hey, I think that’s where the term “stockpot” comes from) and cover with a lot of water. Ideally, you’d also want to add a bit of vinegar to the water and let it soak for a good hour or so – this acidity helps to leach more of the good stuff out of the bones. Bring the water to a low simmer; really, not quite a simmer, just enough that it’s steaming and maybe bubbling every now and again. Leave it alone for 24 hours, only adding water as it gets low. Many people recommend skimming any foamy junk off the top – I didn’t really have anything to skim. You can let it boil down a lot or a little, depending on how concentrated you want it.
Strain the liquid into another container using cheesecloth or a similar filter. Some people let the stock cool to skim the fat off the top – I’m not at a point in my life that I care about fat (and truly, if it’s a good chicken, the fat is good for you). Lots of people put the stock into smaller containers and freeze them – we’re not at a point in our lives that we have space in any of our three freezers, so I canned it instead. It does require pressure canning (25 minutes for quarts, 20 for pints at 10 PSI), so if you don’t have a pressure canner, I guess freezing is your only long-term storage option. It’ll keep for a while in the fridge though.
I liked doing this so much, I made turkey stock the next week. I ended up with about 5 quarts of chicken stock, and 13 quarts of turkey stock, though I dropped one of the jars in a silly instance of forgetting how levers and gravity interact.
So really, that’s all there is to it. Seems like it might not be worth the trouble when you can buy bouillon in any store, but I’ll surely be doing again.