February 25, 2003

Stock 101

On Saturday it was stock making time. I was almost out of all of my frozen stock, and Carol wanted to learn how to make stock -- so, off to the store we went for supplies and several hours of simmering.

Stock is such an important part of French cooking that I'm not sure what I'd do without it. Homemade stock is always preferable to canned (which has far too much salt in it), although you can get by with canned stock for lots of applications. There is one exception -- brown beef stock can basically only be made at home.

We made brown beef stock (2 gallons), light chicken stock (1 gallon), and brown pork stock (1 quart). Here's my general purpose stock making guidelines:

For 1 gallon of stock:
- 6-8 lbs of main product (ie, beef bones, chicken bones, mushrooms, etc). 1 gallon of water weighs 8 pounds, and the general rule is equal weight flavoring and water
- 1-2 lbs of vegetables. The standard is onions, carrots, celery in a ratio of 2:1:1 (A)
- spices/herbs in a package. The standard is 8 peppercorns, 1 tsp thyme, 1 bay leaf, 5 parsley stems. If you don't have parsley stems, don't use the leaves, which put off too much green coloring (B) (C)
- 2 T tomato paste (for brown stocks) or 1/4 C white wine or dash of vinegar. (D)

The procedure:
1) For Brown stock, brown the main ingredient well in a 400 degree oven (about an hour). For Light stock, blanch in boiling water, drain, rinse.
2) add main ingredient to water
3) For Brown stock, brown the vegetables in the same pan you used for the meat. At the end of browning, add tomato paste, brown that as well.
4) Add vegetables, wine/vinegar, vegetables, spices/herbs to pot
5) Simmer for desired time. Skim to remove surface scum and grease. (E) (F)
6) Strain. Cool. Remove solidified grease from top. Freeze in ice cube trays.

Here are some notes:
A - you can use other vegetables. For white stock, sometimes people use parsnips instead of carrots.

B - Generally speaking, you don't want to get carried away with flavorings because you never know what you'll use the stock for. Some would argue that even including thyme/bay leaf counts as flavoring. So, you can leave these out if you wish.

C - Normal recipes call for wrapping in cheesecloth. I use a coffee filter, which is much cheaper and easier to come by in most kitchens.

D - Acid helps clairification. If you have some sort of produce with acid in it, the stock tends to self-clairify a bit.

E - Don't boil too strongly. A slow simmer is best.

F - 1-2 hours for vegetable and fish stocks. 3-4 for smallish bones like poultry. 5-6 medium bones like veal or oxtails. 10-12 for thick knuckle bones.

We used oxtails for our beef stock, which are very flavorful and heavy with gelatin. As a result, we didn't need to use a full 1:1 weight ratio. For our chicken stock, we used chicken wings which also make a very heavy stock. We used standard vegetables and flavorings, as I wanted to show Carol the basics.

After the oxtail stock was done and strained, I ran a 2nd stock from the same ingredients. This is known as remouage or "re-wetting" in French. The resulting stock is weaker. However, I take this second stock and reduce it down to about 2 cups. This results in a very heavy beef glace which can be used for enriching sauces. It is incredibly thick and rich and sticky -- and you can't buy it anyplace. Plus, you just got two produces for the price of one!

Our pork stock was browned in a pot (because we had such a small amount of meat we were using). Also, I went ahead and flavored the stock with garlic and rosemary. This is because this tiny amount of stock had one purpose only -- a BBQ sauce the next day. This non-traditional stock was a nice change from the more "boring" other ones we were making.

All in all, it was very successful!

Posted by dowdy at February 25, 2003 10:15 AM