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My first try at Stock

This post is about cooking, not about the stock market, so if you’re not here for “stock” in the cooking sense, then I don’t mind if you stop reading now! Otherwise, read on

Last Saturday, I decided to try making stock seriously for my first time. What do I mean by “seriously”? I’ve made stocks before, but never with any kind of understanding about what a fine stock should be. My prior stocks have been mostly turkey stock at Thanksgiving with ad hoc ingredients and no recipe, which I’ve immediately used as the liquid in a stuffing, and for gravy. I’ve never before tried to make a stock for subsequent use in sauces.

Before you read on, a lot of things I’m about to say will be based on listening to Free Culinary School, Episode 2. So if you are confused about my assumptions, I suggest you check it out!

Starting bright and early, I started calling to try to find veal bones. No luck. No luck at ALL. I ended up going with beef bones from a local store with a very small butcher in back.  This was mistake number 1 – using beef instead of veal bones. One hopeful future outcome of this is that the butcher took my name and number, along with my commitment to buy 5 lbs of veal bones should he order them. He can only get them 20 lbs at a time, and that’s WAY more than I can use, but he holds out hope that he can combine my order with others.

Back home, I roasted the bones while I prepped the mirepoix.  This may have been mistake number 2 – Not trying to cut the bones into some smaller pieces. The ones I had were HUGE, and the FCS episode (and website) didn’t address the size of the bones. OK, ok, they very strongly urged veal bones (see mistake number 1 above) and since I expect veal bones are a lot smaller than the bones I had, it probably wasn’t worth mentioning!

Bones now roasted, removed from pan, mirepoix added and roasting. Test fit bones in stock pot and…you guessed it…mistake number 3. I used a 5 qt dutch oven rather than my 12 quart stock pot. I can’t for the life of me remember WHY I made this choice, but I did. This was a mistake because I wasn’t able to add enough water to more than just barely cover the contents, but I didn’t know this was a problem for another couple of hours when after I’d tried to skim the fat and scum twice (once at the end of each hour). Skimming was impossible.

Dutifully I continued on, trying to skim hourly, and having to add microwaved (to 205 degree) water every couple of hours to bring the water level back UP to barely covering the contents.

Now we arrive at 11:30 PM. I’ve been simmering for 10 hours and almost completely unsuccessful in skimming the stock. I strain the stock into another large bowl and now see a large amount of fat that is riding on top of the stock. I want to get rid of that fat NOW, so I find a large storage container and laboriously transfer the stock using a Turkey Baster which allowed me to get under the fat and extract the rest of the liquid. I cool THIS container in an ice bath for about 20 minutes, then refrigerate overnight.

Sunday morning arrives – actually Sunday afternoon because I’ve been very lazy in the morning – and I take the refrigerated stock out. It has gelled, with a tiny amount of fat on top. While still gelled, and with a spool that I heat with hop tap water, I carefully skim off the fat. Now, I don’t have an immediate use for the stock, nor a contemplated in the next few days use, so I decide to reduce it to a demi-glace and freeze in ice cube trays for future easy use. Mistake number — what are we at now, 4? — I brought it to a simmer, then set a timer and went off to surf the web. I set it for too long, and when it goes off, the texture is syrupy with solids collecting at the bottom of 1 edge of my saute pan. Side note: for the first time in a long time I’m glad I haven’t leveled my range! Because it wasn’t level, the solids collected together at the lowest edge rather than spread themselves over the bottom.

Another quick nuke of some tap water and I add to the syrup, trying for something that I can freeze. Apparent success and I’ve now got 14 cubes of VERY concentrated beef stock — wait, that’s not the right word — essence in my freezer just waiting for a good use.  I suspect that I won’t like the results much because of the mistakes I’ve mentioned above (and other, smaller mistakes I haven’t mentioned!), but I’m still going to try it. I spent a LOT of time and I’m not going to let that time go to waste without testing the final result!

Towards testing it out: I’m looking for a recipe for anything that calls for meat stock as part of sauce making. There is 1 very big restriction: It needs to be easily divided to yield a 1-2 serving recipe! Less important is that it not have too many ingredients – I don’t want to make a big production of something that I suspect won’t be at it’s best (to say the least) due to substandard stock! So if you have a recipe I can use, please leave it – or a link to it – in the comments.

As I compose this, I’m beginning my SECOND try at stock. Poultry (chicken) stock this time. I had 3 lbs of chicken remains frozen and decided to go for it. Details to follow when available!

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