Taking stock

November 16, 2007 on 8:12 pm | By | In Food Musings | No Comments

Nothing beats a rich homemade stock.  Come fall, I love knowing there are containers of beef and chicken stock stacked in my freezer ready to be made into a hearty soup.

With chicken stock, I typically use the Cook’s Illustrated technique for the pressure cooker, which produces roughly 10 cups of stock.  I often end up with bits and pieces of meat and bones from my cook dates; I simply throw them into a freezer bag and when I have enough (6 pounds) I make the stock.  It’s a relatively simple process.

But for some reason, when it comes to beef stock, I believe more is better.  Although I use the CIA’s recipe for beef stock — which calls for 6 pounds of beef bones — I wait until I have enough to haul out the 24-quart stock pot.  (Note to self: just because you HAVE a 24-quart stock-pot, it doesn’t mean you have to fill it).

Last year, when I placed my order for steaks from Alderspring Ranch, I added about 10 pounds of beef bones.  They languished in my freezer for a year; I just didn’t make the time to do anything with them.  Last month I placed another order for steak (I figured I should end MFaM in style), and added another 10 pounds of bones.  Two weekends ago, I finally made the time for stock.

As with most Sunday mornings, I wasted several hours reading food & running blogs.  I also monitored the New York Marathon — not only to see who won (Paula Radcliffe won the top female spot — 10 months after giving birth!), but also to see how my running blogger friends fared.  By 11 a.m. I was ready to head to the store for my mire poix, but just then the phone rang.  It was my sister, and since we had been trading voice mail messages for days, I answered.  We chatted for more than 25 minutes, but as soon as I hung up I summoned my darling to get a move on; I was ready to go!

We started walking to our neighborhood store, but within minutes we were stopped by our neighbor and good friend.  We spent at least 15 minutes catching up, but I finally cut things off, explaining I had a stock to prepare.  Long story short: by the time time I got around to roasting those beef bones, it was almost 1 p.m.

As I hauled the bags of beef bones out of our freezer I also found the rib bones left over from last year’s Christmas roast, bringing the total amount to 22 pounds.  Looks like I’ll be making a TRIPLE batch!  It took two roasting pans to roast everything, and I also had to haul out another stock pot.  But by 2:30 everything was simmering away nicely.

The CIA text calls for at least a five hour simmer, but given the quantity I knew it would take longer.  Sure enough, it wasn’t until 9 p.m. before I was ready to call it quits.  Problem was, I wasn’t finished yet.  The stock still had to be strained and cooled.

Have you ever tried to strain a 24-quart stock pot stock in a home kitchen?  I’m telling you, it ain’t pretty (or easy, or quick).  I filled one side of the sink with cold water and threw in all the ice I had (we’ve yet to hook up our automatic ice maker; I had to make do with four ice cube trays).  The ice was no match for the heat emanating from the pot, so I had to keep stirring the stock to cool it down.

I first removed all the large bones, placing them into a colander to rinse off (originally this would be for the “remoulage,” but since the stock was so thick I just threw it back into the pot).  I then had to strain all the mire poix and other detritus.  The first strainer was too fine, so my darling grabbed a coarser strainer from his beer-making kit.  In all, it took a good hour and a half before the stock was ready for the fridge.

So, was it worth it?  I can’t say for certain.  Although it looked deep and rich and yummy, I have yet to try the stock.  It certainly wasn’t cheaper or less time consuming.  But at least I’ve learned a lesson: when it comes to beef stock, less is more!

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