Long-cooking stock in your oven

stock-in-jar

I know, I’m a stock-pusher. I’ve made my arguments not once, but twice, about why everyone should make their own, and kiss those cans and boxes of re-hydrated powdered flavorings goodbye.

Bone broth is nothing short of magical. It’s the reason chicken soup got such a good rep — medicinal for just about every ailment. Got a cold or the flu? Warm yourself with broth. Got the stomach bug? My pediatrician just told me that the gut irritation from a bug can be healed completely in 48 hours if your diet is broth-heavy. Break your arm? Just checking to see if you’re paying attention (though I wouldn’t doubt it somehow helps that too).

The healing qualities of bone broth come from — duh — the bones. But you need to cook it for a long time — 12-24 hours — to get the maximum minerals and nutrients out of the bones and into the liquid. This was something I didn’t always know — and once I knew, I didn’t know how to accomplish.

Some people cook their stock in a crockpot, which is totally safe to leave on for 24 hours, and extremely energy-efficient. But my crockpot is only a 4-quart model, which means I’d likely only get 3 quarts of stock. If I’m going to make stock, I want to get at least double that amount, so I use my 8-quart stockpot (though I’m shopping for a 12-quartinsert tween-ish squeal here).

The trick was always how to cook the stock for long enough. I’m fine leaving the pot on the stove all day, but what about at night? My obsessive tendencies would go into overdrive if I tried to sleep with an open flame left burning on my stovetop. The simple answer? My oven.

Stock is best-cooked when it barely simmers — just a tiny bubble or two breaking the surface every now and again. If you bring a pot up to simmer on the stovetop, you can transfer it to a 200° oven, partially-covered, and let it cook overnight. Totally brilliant (and not, mind you, my idea).

stock-oven

Other things to consider while you gather the things in your kitchen necessary for stock-making (since I know you’re going to do it):

  • Feel like you never have the right veggies on-hand when you need them? In my mind, only 3 are necessary: celery, carrot, and onion. Put a ziplock bag in your freezer, and when you have ends and pieces from other recipes, throw them in the bag instead of the trash. Or, buy celery and cut up a few stalks to freeze specifically for stock-making. You can toss them frozen into the pot.
  • You can make stock from just about any type of bones (though I don’t recommend mixing them up). I most frequently use chicken, but have made beef and lamb stock after buying bones from the farmer’s market (usually $2-3 a pound). A good ratio to use is 1-2 quarts water for every pound of bones (the less water, the richer the stock).
  • Once your stock is strained and refrigerated, you can scrape off the top layer of fat and freeze in Tbsp portions (I use ice trays) for future use. Animal fats are good for high-heat cooking, and add flavor and richness to soups.
  • You can freeze your stock in ziplock bags, but I now prefer to use wide-mouth (NOT regular-mouth) quart mason jars. You can read more about freezing stock here.
  • I have yet to try this, but I’ve read recently that you can use bones for more than one batch of stock. I’d be more likely to do this with beef or lamb bones, since chicken bones seem truly spent after simmering 24 hours. Even more bang for your buck!
  • Letting the bones soak for a little while in water with apple cider vinegar helps draw out the calcium & nutrients.
  • If your stock, once cold, is gelatinous, you’ve made a killer batch. Congrats!
  • Stock will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator. Freeze for longer storage.

stock-straining

 

Recipe: Long-cooking stock (bone broth)

: The recipe shows ranges of quantities because it depends on the amount of bones you have — thankfully it’s not an exact science!

Ingredients

  • 3-6 pounds bones (use any of one type: chicken, beef, lamb — if possible use some with meat still attached, and some with joints)
  • 2-4 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (optional)
  • 1-2 ribs celery, with tops, chopped into 2″ lengths
  • 1-2 carrots, unpeeled & scrubbed, chopped into 2″ lengths
  • 1-2 onions, unpeeled & quartered
  • 1-2 bay leaves (optional)
  • a few sprigs fresh parsley (optional)
  • 4-10 quarts filtered water (1-2 quarts per pound of bones)

Instructions

  1. In a large stockpot or dutch oven, combine the bones, vinegar, and water to cover. Let sit 20 minutes.
  2. Add the vegetables & herbs to the pot, and enough water to cover (only fill to within an inch of the rim).
  3. Bring to a simmer on the stovetop. Skim foam as it rises to the top (discard).
  4. Meantime, preheat oven to 200°.
  5. Once stock is simmering, transfer to oven and cook, partially-covered, 18-24 hours (set a baking time if necessary so oven doesn’t auto-shut-off). It’s fine to transfer the pot back to the stovetop at any point in cooking.
  6. Once done, strain the stock into 1-2 large bowls. Cool over an ice bath, and strain again into quart-sized canning jars (if freezing, only fill within 1 inch of the top to allow for liquid expansion).

Copyright © Katy Carter, 2011.

[print_link]

 

Freezing stock in jars

After our vacation in Michigan, book-ended with all the prep that goes into packing for a family of five, and all the laundry/bedtime-adjusting/post-vacay-depression-fighting/reality-facing on return, it had been a couple weeks since I’d made it to the Goodwill Outlet.

What, I’ve not convinced you just how high this is on my priority list? My sister tweeted last weekend that I’m “a yard sale [or trip to Goodwill] shy of an A&E reality show” (hey, if it paid, I’d consider).

Friday afternoon, I saw an opportunity. My husband was taking our older two kids to an event, and as I pondered my options for the evening, it hit me that they bring out new bins at The Outlet at 5pm. I texted my friend Sarah, picked her up 20 minutes later, and was on my way to avoiding a weekend of withdrawal symptoms.

The first thing I picked up to put into my cart was a big box of Poise Undergarments.

Not, of course, filled with its original contents, but rather with 24 quart-sized Ball jars. Glassware costs only 49¢/pound, so the box probably ran about $4.

At home, Tim rolled his eyes and shook his head as I Goo-gone’d, washed, and sanitized the jars. No, I had no specific plans for them, but I knew I needed them. They went right back into the Poise box, and into the basement.*

Only to come out two days later, as I started my first pot of chicken stock, prepping for soup season.

In years past, I’ve frozen my stock in ziplock bags, stacking them flat in the freezer to maximize space. But on many occasions I thawed a bag only to find that, in getting knocked around in the freezer, it had split. Translating into a loss of valuable stock and a royal mess, discovered only after the bag had thawed into a pool that dripped undiscovered, quietly and steadily, to the floor.

But with a deep-freezer in the basement, I can spare a little room for freezing stock in jars. My friend Stefanii cans her stock in a pressure-canner, and I’m hoping to get to that someday. But until then, the freezer will do, with a little care.

A few things are important when freezing liquids in glass jars:

  1. The liquid should be cold. For my stock, I chill it down quickly after cooking by stirring it over an ice bath. Then I ladle the cooled stock into jars and refrigerate them overnight before freezing.
  2. You must leave head room at the top of the liquid — a couple inches, or to be safe don’t fill above the 800ml line (for a quart jar). Liquid expands a lot when frozen, so you need to leave room for that expansion, or the jar can explode under the pressure (a safe-guard is to leave the lids off until the liquid is completely frozen — good to do if you have a level freezing surface).
  3. Don’t freeze liquids in jars larger than a quart. Something about the liquid expansion and the size of the jars makes half-gallon and gallon-sized jars much more likely to break.
  4. (EDITED 9/24) Just read in an Urban Garden magazine that using straight-sided (i.e., wide-mouth) jars is safer than using jars w/ shoulders, as the curved glass is weaker.

Of course, before you freeze stock, you must make it.

Have I mentioned I am a Proselytizer of Homemade Stock? Oh, right. I have. Well, in case some of you weren’t listening, I’ll be covering it again soon.

Assuming I have the time, between trips to The Outlet.

 

* Note: The fact that I am once again showing you photos of my basement can be construed as nothing short of a cry for help. Recently, Emily descended the steps with me into the abyss, and after taking in “The Room” where junk is piled so high it is questionable whether enough oxygen exists for a human to survive, she could only muster the understatement, “You could use some storage shelves.”

…………………………………

I linked this post up to Simple Lives Thursday at GNOWFGLINS.

 

Corn, Chicken, and Sweet Potato Chowder

This soup was born Sunday night, entirely on the premise that if you figure out a good blueprint for soup, you can make one from just about anything in your kitchen. A few items that make the work much easier:

  • homemade broth — you knew that was coming.
  • a mire poix — (onions, carrots, and celery) a.k.a. aromatics of French cooking, the base for countless recipes. All of these items are inexpensive, and keep for relatively long periods, so in winter I always have them on-hand. Keep your onions in a basket or other container that allows air circulation; they should be kept cool and dry, but don’t refrigerate. Keep your carrots in their original bag, in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Keep the celery wrapped tightly in aluminum foil, in the crisper drawer, and it will stay fresh for a few weeks.
  • milk or half-n-half, to quickly add creaminess to soups, or further a small amount of stock.
  • good dried herbs, or even fresh ones. I try to keep at least Italian parsley in the frig — store it with a single paper towel in a gallon-sized ziploc bag. Make sure your dried herbs are fresh — otherwise they’ll impart little flavor to your soups.
  • grains (such as rice or barley) or noodles, to add bulk.

Soups are also a great way to use up items in the frig that are a step away from going bad. Got a half-container of mushrooms leftover from making pizza? There’s a soup for that. That one last slice of beef roast that nobody wants to eat? Throw it in a pot with broth, rice and vegetables. I get a freakish high when I make a meal out of some basics plus the rejected contents of our refrigerator, and often times it’s one of the best meals of the week (go figure).

Sunday night’s soup was a success. It gets a nice dose of sweet from the potatoes; but it’s on the thin side for a chowder, which keeps it from being too rich. When an experiment works, I try to write it down so we can enjoy it again. And by writing it down, of course I mean post it, since these days this blog is as close to a recipe book as I have.

………………………………………

Corn, Chicken, and Sweet Potato Chowder

If you don’t have homemade broth, you can make it in the hour before making the soup:
Place 2 bone-in chicken parts (2 breasts, or 2 leg quarters, or a combination) in a large pot and cover with water. Add a small onion, a carrot, and a stalk of celery, roughly chopped. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer about 25 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken to a plate to cool, but continue simmering the broth. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones (reserve) and place the bones back into the broth. Continue simmering for another half hour. Strain the broth, and use in the soup (freeze any leftover broth for future soups).

  • 2 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 cups chicken stock (homemade preferred, see note)
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • about 1 1/2 – 2 cups cooked chicken, pulled apart into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 cups frozen corn

In a large soup pot or dutch oven, cook the bacon until fat is rendered and starting to crisp. Add the onion and celery, and cook over medium heat until vegetables are tender and just starting to brown (about 8 minutes). Add 1 tsp salt, pepper to taste, and dried thyme.

Add chicken stock and milk to the pot, along with the chopped sweet potato. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until potato is tender, about 10 minutes.

Add cooked chicken and frozen corn to the pot, simmering just until corn is cooked and chicken is heated through. Taste for seasoning, and serve.

[print_link]

………………………………………

This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday at GNOWFGLINS.

Turkey stock. Easy as pie.

Maybe even a little easier than pie. Depending on whether you made your own crust or not. And whether, like me, you realized that foregoing the canned evaporated milk in favor of making your own creme fraiche for the first time (note: it doesn’t really work when your kitchen’s average temperature is 68º) to make the ONE Thanksgiving pie was, maybe, not such a great idea. (In the end, the pie was delicious. But let’s just say the panic that ensued en route did not leave me thinking the old saying had much validity.

I make this stock every year, and more than one time that involved my wrapping up the bones in either Mississippi or Pennsylvania and driving them 8-10 hours in a styrofoam cooler back to Georgia. I talk about that a little more at this post, where you can also find my recipe for Turkey Gumbo, the ultimate goal for this stock each year. But even if you don’t make the gumbo, you should use these bones for stock. You get a ton of bang for your turkey buck — the large size of the bird means you get a LOT of stock. Probably around 6 quarts, depending on the size of your stockpot.

You really have no excuse — other than maybe not having a pot big enough (though I’ll bet you could run out right now and find one on sale). If you made dressing yesterday, you probably already have everything on hand. And if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it an annoying number of times: there is nothing like using homemade stock in soups, sauces, and cooked grains. It makes everything richer, fresher, brighter, and much more nourishing. So, use what’s left of your Black Friday, and get to the stove.

Turkey Stock

  • large stock pot or dutch oven (at least 5-quart capacity, preferably 8 quarts or larger)
  • all the bones from yesterday’s turkey, meat removed and reserved
  • 1 large yellow onion, quartered (no need to peel)
  • 2 medium carrots, well-scrubbed and chopped into 2-inch rough pieces
  • 2 medium stalks celery, well-scrubbed, with leaves if possible, chopped into rough pieces
  • 2 dried bay leaves (optional)
  • a few sprigs fresh parsley (optional)
  • a Tbsp of black peppercorns (optional)

Place turkey bones in stockpot, breaking apart if necessary so they’ll fit. Fill pot with water (filtered if possible), and add the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to a very low simmer. Let cook for about 3 hours, adding water if necessary to keep level close to top of pot.

Strain broth, discarding vegetables and bones. Cool over an ice bath, then refrigerate overnight. Once cool, skim the fat from the surface (freeze for future use or discard). Freeze stock in pre-measured amounts in quart-sized freezer bags. Or use immediately in your favorite soup recipe.

[print_link]

Gingered Carrot Soup

carrotsoup

You’ll notice that I didn’t put green food coloring in it. I know I should have had something weirdly green on yesterday’s menu, but I’ve covered food coloring before, and the fact that my Little Man can’t have it. So instead of making yet another thing he can’t eat, I just put something green on his plate that was really and truly green. And then proceeded to watch him eat everything on his plate but that thing. My girls, on the other hand, love them some broccoli.

I had this soup on the menu a couple weeks ago, but it never actually got made. The past few weeks have been menu-busters: between tummy bugs, logistical issues with getting our beef from a friend’s freezer, and birthdays, my dinner plans have been thwarted time after time. The good thing about when that happens is that I can just forward my planned meals to the next week — translation: I don’t have to think. That’s always a good thing, since thinking tends to strain muscles.

Continue reading “Gingered Carrot Soup”

Tuscan White Bean Stew

tuscanstew

As requested by Rebecca.

This adaptation was born out of one of those nights when you realize, a bit too late, that you don’t have everything you need to make what you thought you were making for dinner. Thankfully, it ended up being one of the rare times when it all turns out ok anyway, and in fact, was pretty much as good as the original.

The original is this recipe from Cook’s Illustrated — one of my favorite winter soups (how many times have I claimed that?). It is rich and flavorful and comforting (again, familiar adjectives when covering the topic of soup), with a little twist of excitement because of the way it’s served (I’ll keep you in suspense, or you can just read the last page of the book by glancing above at the photo).

Continue reading “Tuscan White Bean Stew”

Black bean soup with ham

blackbeansoup

I do occasionally tire of our old standby recipes, and such is the case with my tried-and-true Brazilian Black Beans from The Joy of Cooking. The last time I made them — a few months ago — I knew I had worn out their welcome on my taste buds. The very thing that I loved about them — their citrus-y sweetness from the orange juice — became too much, too heavy-handed. It hit me like that piece of broccoli in my salad, the one I had to spit out, when I had my very first inklings of morning sickness in my first pregnancy; what I was eating was offensive, in a way it had never been before (but in case you’re wondering, I did not spit out the black beans — I figure spitting out food is something that should be reserved for infants and pregnant women).

I do think (or hope) I’ll someday return to my beloved black bean recipe. But for now, we need a break, so I went searching for something else to do with a pound of black turtle beans. I had a meaty ham bone in my freezer, leftover from the in-law’s at Christmas, and it didn’t take long browsing Cook’s Illustrated to find a recipe that would be a good starting point.

Continue reading “Black bean soup with ham”