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Sunday, February 19, 2012

An inside stock tip: Make it from scratch

One of the staple ingredients in the Sparks household is chicken stock.  We make it roughly every two weeks from our scraps, and it fuels things like rice, adds a base to soups and flavors simple recipes.  When a recipe here calls for stock, this is what we use... 

Chicken stock in 8 and 16oz jars ready to jazz up simple meals
Home made stock is so much better than the factory made stuff and it takes all of fifteen minutes of attention to make (While it does simmer for 2-3 hrs, you can be doing other things, so I don't count that time).   We can keep the sodium at nearly 0, and the flavor at 11.  Yes the flavor goes to 11. Seriously, from scraps to stock in about fifteen minutes of work.

Time: 15 min (2-3 hrs to simmer, but no attention really needed)
Cost: FREE!!!! It's made from scraps
Difficulty: 1 - They should change the phrase to 'Easy as Stock"

I have two bags in the freezer; one for veggie ends, and the other for raw chicken parts (backs, bones after deboning, sometimes wings, etc... but pull as much skin off as possible, it only adds fat)  When the bags are full enough that they will fill my stock pot about 3/4 in their frozen state, it's time to make stock.

You vegetarians out there can do the same thing, just omit the chicken!  Vegetable stock is just as delicious!!! Simply put everything in a pot, cover with water and add a teaspoon or so of good salt.

Bring to a boil (this can take a while as there is a good volume of water, and two giant frozen chunks fighting the heat.) Once at a boil, reduce heat and simmer.

After simmering for 2-3 hrs.  Strain into another large pot (or giant pickle jars, like we do most times) and refrigerate over night.

All that oil on top will harden in the fridge so we can get rid of it.
In the morning, there will be a layer of hardened fat on top, and a layer of sediment on the bottom.  You want the middle part. (the liquid stock)

Scrape the top with a slotted spoon (or clean hand, like me), discard.  Pour stock into some type of container.  I often use another giant pickle jar, but am switching to 8 and 16 oz mason jars so I can measure as I go for this project.

There is a finesse to not getting the sediment when you pour into containers.  I have learned to pour smoothly, and pour the last pint into a container other that that in which it will be stored.  Let the sediment settle and transfer to its storage place by pouring the top off gently.

Alternately, you could always use a sieve, cheesecloth or coffee maker.  Cone style coffee makers are often underrated as straining devices.  Get one of the cheaper stainless reusable filters and a simple plastic cone coffee maker, and it's perfect for these kinds of things...

Another storage option is the 'stock cube'.  Measure the volume of a dedicated ice cube tray (normally about an eighth cup) fill with stock, freeze.  When cubes are frozen, store in a thick freezer bag.  Now, when a recipe calls for two cups of stock, just grab the number of cubes needed and thaw in a pan.  Done and done.  It also stays good for about a year this way... If your stock is lasting you a year, I'm glad you found us.  We'll help you use it up right quick.

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