‘Making my own stock’ was always something that rated up there with ‘skin diving to harvest my own rock lobsters’ on the Kitchen Fussiness scale. Sure, it seemed cool, but is it really worth the time and effort for what I would get out of it? I mean, they sell big ol’ cartons of stock for crazy cheap at Aldi. Ain’t that the same stuff I would be getting from homemade?
Well, no. Yet again, I discovered that homemade is a way different and much awesome-er beast than store bought.
First, there’s the health issue. Stock made at home from simmered bones has collagen and gelatin, AKA protein, out the wazoo. It will solidify like jello when you put it in the fridge. It’s also got a lot of trace minerals and vitamins that filter out of the bones. Stock from the store, on the other hand, is really not much more than flavored water. It has hardly any gelatin or collagen, and pretty much none of the trace minerals and vitamins that come from bones.
Second, homemade stock REALLY DOES tastes a hell of a lot better! I was all, whatever, it can’t be that different, but SERIOUSLY GUYS it’s a flavor dire wolf vs. the store-bought purse chihuahua. It also works better in cooking; the protein content helps to bind pan sauces into smooth emulsions, and gives soups a hefty mouthfeel so that you feel like you’re having a meal and not eating a drink.
Time, though, always time is a factor. There’s storing the bones, saving the vegetable trimmings, simmering the stock pot for days, filtering out the bones from gallons of hot liquid, storing said hot liquid and using it before it goes bad… But as it turns out, with some simple habits and workflow simplification, none of this is an issue.
QUICK STOCK-MAKING TO-DO LIST
- Keep a gallon freezer bag in the freezer. Whenever you cut celery, carrots, or onions, put whatever you were going to throw away in the bag. When you roast a chicken or make ribs or end up with any meaty bones in any way, throw them in the bag.
- When the bag starts looking full, dump it in the crock pot, add just enough water to cover everything, and set it on Low. 1 If you want to make more stock or don’t have a crock pot, use the biggest pot you have, add water to cover the bones and veggies, put an oven-safe lid on it or cover the top with foil, and set it in the oven at 200°F.
- 24 hours later, dump the pot through a strainer 2 into a big metal pot 3.
- Cover the pot, let it cool an hour or so, and ladle the liquid into gallon and quart freezer bags. If you want to double-bag, put the bags inside each other BEFORE you pour in the stock. 4 I would only put about a half gallon in the gallon bags and two cups in the quart bags, to make sure they have plenty of room to close. 5
- Freeze and use whenever you need it! I pull out the quart bags when I just need a cup or two for a sauce, and the gallon when I’m making soup. Pull it out of the freezer and put it in the fridge to thaw about 24 hours before you need it. If you’re in a hurry, I’ve heard the microwave defrost setting works fine with freezer bags. Just put the bag in a bowl to make sure there aren’t any leaks.
This might sound like a lot of time investment, but really it’s maybe an hour hands-on time over the course of a couple of days. And then I get to reap the benefits for weeks.
Homemade stock strikes a blow at the Convenience-Foods/Restaurantization Axis that wants people to believe that cooking real food is too hard for real people with real jobs. Blow struck! Stock is cheap, easy, and fast! It’s delicious and incredibly healthy! I don’t need the The Food Man to tell me what I can and can’t do, because I’m living my own life! Feral Boy out.
-Josh is listening to The Sex Pistols
- Don’t fill the crock pot above 3/4 full. Don’t worry if you haven’t used all of the contents of your freezer bag, they’ll keep in the freezer and you’ll use them next time. ↩
- Some people use cheesecloth, I don’t think it’s worth the time. ↩
- Not a glass or ceramic bowl! Pouring hot liquid into a cold bowl could shatter it. ↩
- VERY IMPORTANT. Once you start filling a bag, fitting it into another bag is nigh-impossible. ↩
- If you find freezer bags to be too much trouble, start saving sour cream and yogurt tubs, this is a great use for them. ↩