Kitchen 101: Taking Stock

kitchen101

It’s the 2nd Tuesday of the month, and that means it’s time for another Kitchen 101. As promised, we’re going to have a little discussion about stock.

I’ve posted the lecture notes from my Concepts and Theories class in the notes section of the Facebook page, in case you’d like a more in depth look at the wonderful world of stocks (and fumet, and court bouillon, and essences…) and all the fancy French terms that come along with the preparation of them. But here are the basics:

There are two basic types of stocks– brown and white. The difference between them is that you roast the bones for brown stocks, and for white stocks you don’t. All stocks are made up of a primary flavoring agent (bones), mirepoix (vegetables), and aromatics (the sachet, which is fresh thyme, parsley stems, a bay leaf, peppercorns, and garlic, all tied up in a little cheesecloth bundle).

There is a basic formula for stocks. If you keep these ratios in mind, you can multiply or reduce as you see fit with some really basic 4th grade math.

For 1 gallon of chicken, beef, veal or game stock, you’ll need 8 pounds of bones + 1 pound of mirepoix + approximately 6 quarts of liquid, or enough to cover the bones completely.

For 1 gallon of fish or shellfish stock you’ll need 11 pounds of bones or shells + 1 pound of mirepoix + approximately 5 quarts of water.

1 pound of mirepoix = 8 ounces onion + 4 ounces carrot + 4 ounces celery, or you can just keep the ratio of 2:1:1 in your head.

Oh my gosh! I did that all from memory. Chef would be so proud! *pats self on head*

I made up a small batch of brown stock to demonstrate the process, as well as show how the math works.

Equipment:
1 large heavy bottomed roasting pan
2 large pots, at least 6 quarts in volume
Large strainer or colander
Tongs
Knife and cutting board
Scale that measures to the ounce
Cheesecloth
Twine (optional, I think. I just tie the corners of the cheesecloth for the sachet together and call it good)
Skimmer or a wooden spoon for skimming

Ingredients (given for a full gallon):
8 pounds beef, chicken, or game bones
1 pound mirepoix (8 ounces onion, 4 ounces carrot, 4 ounces celery, rough chopped)
1 bay leaf
3-4 parsley stems
6-8 peppercorns
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 small can of tomato paste
6 quarts of cold water, or enough to cover the bones
2 C of water or wine, for deglazing

I bought two pounds of bones, which is 1/4 of what I’d need to make one gallon (1/4 of a gallon = 1 quart).

blog_pan

That means I only need 1/4 of a pound of mirepoix, or 4 ounces. Using the 2:1:1 ratio, that means 2 ounces of onion, and 1 ounce each of carrot and celery.

blog_mirepoix

Since I’m making beef stock, the ultimate goal should be to have a really beefy flavored stock.  I wasn’t as exact in putting together my sachet, but this is what I used.  This is kind of a close up, so it probably looks like a little more than what it really is, but you get the general idea. Just remember, your primary flavoring agent should be the (duh) primary flavor when you’re all done, so don’t overload the sachet so much (especially with garlic) that you taste more herbs/garlic than beef/chicken/whatever you’re using.

blog_sachet
You’ll want to lightly oil the bones (in class, we just use cooking spray, so that’s what I did here, too), and roast them in a 375° to 400° F oven, flipping with your tongs at least once to ensure even browning. Once the bones are browned, add tomato paste to caramelize. The process of caramelizing a tomato product is called pincé.

blog_paste
I actually forgot to buy tomato paste *smacks forehead* so I reduced some tomato sauce I made last week down a bit and then added that. It’s not quite the same, but hopefully it works for demonstration purposes.

Once the tomato paste has turned a dark kinda reddish brown color, remove the pan from the oven, pour off the fat, and deglaze the pan. Deglazing basically just means using a liquid and some heat to pick up all the fond, or delicious little bits of browned flavor that are stuck to the bottom of the pan. You don’t want to leave that behind! Put your pan over med-high heat on the stove, add the liquid, and use your wooden spoon to scrape up all those brown bits. Boil until the liquid is reduced by half, or about 5 minutes.

blog_fond

Put your bones, the deglazing liquid, plus enough more COLD water to cover the bones into pot #1. Always use cold liquid to start and bring it up to temperature, or your stock will end up cloudy. Bring the liquid up to a simmer, and skim off the scum from the top until most of it is gone. When you add the mirepoix and the sachet depends on how long you are going to cook the stock. If you’re cooking it less than an hour, you can throw them in right from the beginning. If you are making a full batch of stock and plan on letting it simmer for longer than 2 hours, add them at the beginning of the last hour of cooking.  For such a small batch of stock, I only let it simmer for just over an hour, so I put everything in at the beginning.

Simmer the stock until it has reached the right color (for brown stock, it should be a sort of amber color), flavor, clarity and body. What is the “right” all of those things? If we were in class, I’m sure Chef would probably hold you to a really strict interpretation of what all of that means. For home, though, I’ll say it’s entirely up to you. If it smells good and tastes like the primary flavoring agent (chicken, beef, whatever), then you’re good to go.

blog_done

Strain it into pot #2 through a fine mesh sieve or a colander lined with cheesecloth or… well, just do the best you can with whatever is handy. I used cheesecloth inside the steamer insert of my small pot.

blog_strain
I know that this process might not seem like the most convenient, especially compared to just being able to pick up a carton of decent quality stock at the store. Obviously, you’d be making a much larger batch than what I’ve made here, and if you make a whole gallon of stock and freeze it in one quart containers, it’s going to last you awhile and you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing exactly what went into that stock (and what didn’t). But mostly, I’m going to tell you that it tastes better. If you make a soup with home made stock, it’s going to taste homier, and richer, and more nourishing. Maybe some of that is in  my head, but after making my own stock and using it in a few soups and sauces, I can tell you my taste buds don’t lie, and at the end of the day, what makes this worth the trouble is the taste.

6 comments

  1. This is awesome – I have a copy of The Professional Chef so I followed that when I last made stock and its exactly the same as what you’ve got here. My question is this: is brown stock better than white? Which applications would you use either or? Did I make any sense just now? I hope so. Anyway, let me know! Oh, also, can you use a chicken or turkey carcass for stock? Its already cooked, so is it allowed? Thanks! 🙂

  2. I came across your site from Putney farm. Interesting site you have here! 🙂

    I’m a fellow avid stock taker and I don’t think I’ve “met” another one yet until now. Very glad I’m not alone in this world! haha 🙂

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