Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Making Chicken (or Turkey) Stock

Times being what they are, with the economy kicking us in the wallet, we need to take stock of our finances. Why not save some money by turning the bones of all those roasted turkeys, chickens, hams and whatever other animals my you're planning on devouring this holiday season, into stock? It beats buying stock it at the grocery store, and it tastes better too.

I've been doing a lot of reading on making stock, recently. Of course, that means something that used to be a simple procedure for me has suddenly become more complex. According to Jacques P├ępin, the French create several kinds of stocks and glazes through reduction. Brown stock, white stock, demi-glace (half-glaze), glace de viande, jus, broth ... it's enough to make your head spin.

I've been experimenting with these things and to be honest, it still confuses me. The best I've been able to figure out so far is that if you reduce a regular stock by about half, you get a demi-glace. Reduce by half again (or more) and you get glace de viande. If you cook fresh bones, you get a white stock. If you roast them in the oven until they turn brown, before you boil them, you get a brown stock.

I'm not going to go into all the variations until I feel more comfortable with them. Instead, I'm going to share a simple way to make a chicken or turkey stock.

Whenever I have a left over chicken or turkey carcass, I save the bones to make stock with. It's okay if there's a bit of meat left on the bones. I don't know if you're really saving money, given the cost or the electricity or gas used to make it, but home made stock has better flavor, and a lot less sodium, than the store bought kind. I've still not gotten the hang of making a perfectly clear stock, but I'm working on it.

A good stock will actually have very little flavor. Stocks serve as a vehicle for other flavors when cooking. Some purists tell methat stock should have no flavor at all. I think they're daft. If you want no flavor at all, why go to the trouble and expense of stock? Just use water.

This is the simple way to make a white stock using chicken or turkey, so there's no cooking the bones beforehand. The fact that they've been cooked a bit in the bird doesn't seem to matter. You'll notice that there's no salt in the stock. That's so if you reduce it, it won't become too salty.

Equipment needed
Stockpot, Dutch Oven, or other large cooking pot
Kirtchen Knife
Skimmer or large spoon

1 left over chicken or turkey carcass
1 medium onion, peeled and halved
1 celery stalk, rough chopped
1 medium carrot, rough chopped
1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 bay leaves

Break the carcass up so it will fit in your largest pot. The last turkey I had was so big, I ended up cooking the bones in two batches. Add the vegetables and herbs. Add cold water to cover the ingredients.

Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Skim off any foam or other scum (albumin) as it forms. Reduce the heat to a very gentle simmer. Simmer, uncovered, for at least three hours. If you cover the pot, or boil it too fast, much of the fat and albumin will be emulsified back into the liquid, making a cloudy stock that is less digestible and nutritious.

After 3 hours, remove the pot from the heat and strain the stock through a fine mesh sieve or colander. A chinois is the best option, but a sieve works fine for home cooking. Refrigerate overnight. Left over fat and albumin will separate from the liquids and solidify, making fat removal easier.

Put the stock in freezer bags or other air-tight containers and freeze.

If you want, you can boil the bones again. The resulting stock won't be as strong, but it's almost like getting a second batch for free.

This last time I made stock this way, I was able to make about 2 gallons of stock, a quart of demi-glace (the stock reduced by half or more), and a half cup of glace de viande (the stock reduced until all or nearly all of the water is gone). All of them tasted delicious. Not too bad for one left over turkey carcass and a few vegetables. I guess I was just stocking up for Christmas.

I've been trying to save the vegetable trimmings when I'm cutting up vegetables, to make vegetable stock with, but I'm not as good at it. I never get enough vegetables together to make stock before they start to go bad. What I ought to do is freeze them. Over time I'm sure I'd have enough to make vegetable stock with.

Photo by Mathieu Bernadat

Yes Virginia. If you click on the equipment links and buy something, I make money. You knew that already, though.

1 comment:

Angenette said...

Excellent. I've jsut started making my own stalk as well, and it's delicious! Thanks for the tips!