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The How and Why of Making a Good Stock

The How and Why of Making a Good Stock

Homemade stock is not hard to make -- all you need is time.

By FamilyTime

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By now most American households have a turkey carcass in the refrigerator. Before you toss it, consider making turkey stock. If there is some skin and sinews still clinging to the bones, all the better.

How to Begin
Pull excess meat from the bones and refrigerate it for another use. If possible, leave a little meat on the bones – the more meat, the richer the stock.

Pull apart the turkey carcass, tearing off as many bones as you can. Chop the bones into small chunks with a heavy cleaver. If you don’t have a cleaver, do the best you can with smaller implements, but be careful you don’t damage the blade of your good knives.

Put the bones, skin, and any meat in a large, deep pot. Stockpots are deep so that the simmering liquid does not evaporate too quickly.

Toss coarsely chopped onions, carrots, celery ribs, parsley stems and any other fresh herbs on top of the bones. Add three or four whole peppercorns.

Don’t salt the stock. The process of making stock is that of evaporation and concentration of flavors. The salt will only taste saltier as water evaporates. Season the stock once it is cooked.

Cooking the Stock
Pour enough cold water into the pot to cover the bones by two inches. Turn the heat to high and wait for the water to almost boil.

Just before it comes to full boil, reduce the heat. Using a large spoon or skimmer, skim and discard the bubbling foam that rises to the surface.

(If poultry or meat stock boils, it turns cloudy. It tastes just as good, so don’t worry if it boils, but lower the heat as soon as you can.)

Adjust the heat so that the stock simmers gently—barely breaking a bubble on the surface but bubbling nonetheless. It might take a few tries to get the heat right; a flame tamer is useful here. Once the stock is simmering slowly, you can pretty much leave it alone for a few hours.

Position the pot’s lid so that it partially covers the pot. Do not cover it completely; liquid must be able to evaporate. If you leave the cover off the pot, the water will evaporate too quickly. Check on the stock every so often, adjusting the heat if necessary.

When you check the simmering stock, skim off any fat that rises to the surface.

Finishing the Stock
Cook the stock for two to three hours. The longer you cook it, the more concentrated its flavors and the less volume you will have in the end. There’s no magic test for doneness except taste.

Strain the stock through a colander into a large bowl or second pot. Discard the solids in the colander.

Some cooks suggest putting the hot stock in a larger bowl or sink filled with ice and cold water so that it cools quickly. This is a great idea – you don’t want to put the steaming hot liquid in the ‘fridge.

If you prefer, let it cool to warm room temperature on the countertop or in a cool room or enclosed porch. But be careful: do not let poultry stock sit at room temperature for any length of time. The “danger zone” for developing harmful bacteria is between 40 and 120 degrees F.

The stock will keep in the refrigerator for three days. If you plan to use it later, freeze it for up to three months.

Before refrigerating it, skim any fat off the surface. As the stock cools, the fat will become more visible. Blot it with a wadded paper towel or skim it. You can also spoon the visible fat off the stock after it chills.

Using the Stock
As good as your stock may taste, you will want to adjust the seasoning before using it in a recipe. Heat it until very hot and then taste. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper and perhaps herbs, garlic, or spices.

At this point, you can combine the stock with meat, seafood, vegetables, fresh herbs, wine, juice, cream, rice, noodles, potatoes, root vegetables, or anything else necessary for a certain recipe.

If you feel you don’t have quite enough stock for a recipe, augment it with good canned broth.


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