Wednesday, March 6, 2013

How to Make Homemade Meat Stock

It's slightly absurd that I haven't posted a recipe for how to make homemade stock yet, since it's easy, thrifty and prevents waste. I'll blame it on my lack of specified measuring. My penchant for eyeballing it. I couldn't very well write: I just throw some of this and some of that into a pot and voila

However, while I've managed to keep track of basic measurements for my go-to meat stock, I haven't done so for my homemade chicken soup yet. I typically use a shortcut method that combines the two processes of making chicken stock and homemade soup. This yields a flavorful soup in two to three hours instead of four to six. 

Someday I'll mange to jot it down. Until then, here's an easy, all natural way for you to make homemade meat stock. 

To maximize the thriftiness of this recipe, I recommend doing the following:

1) Saving vegetable scraps in the freezer. Every time you slice an onion, save the top and bottom (peel and all) and store it in a freezer bag. Do the same for celery and carrots. Occasionally, I throw in the bottom of garlic heads. (Everything's strained at the end and it adds aromatics to the stock.) You can probably throw in all sorts of veggies, but that's what I typically have around. Months later, you'll have a bulging bag of basic mirepoix scraps (French for a combination of onion, celery and carrot commonly diced and sauteed as the base for many dishes) that you can pull from freezer and toss into a large pot of purified water to form a stock. How awesome is that? Using leftovers to form a new product that you'll use in many subsequent dishes. Love it!

2) Saving bones from cooked meat. More often than not, this will happen after you've roasted bone-in meat. You might have leftover bones from slow cooking an inexpensive cut (like pork shoulder) in the crock-pot or poaching leaner pieces such as bone-in chicken breasts. After it's finished cooking and you've removed the meat you want, save the bones, meat scraps, skin, etc. in a freezer bag (separate from the veggie scraps bag) for later. You'll add these to the water when you make stock and simmer them for hours to extract lots of flavor. On the flip side of this, you don't need a whole ton of bones to make stock. It depends on the size of bone you're using, so you don't necessarily need a large freezer bag full before making the dish. For example, I had one large bone leftover after slow cooking pork shoulder last week, so I stored it in the fridge to make homemade stock a few days later. The point is to save and make use of your leftovers whenever possible. 

Of course, it's not mandatory to plan ahead. It's perfectly fine to use fresh vegetables, roast the meat and use the bones to make homemade stock in the same day. To top it off, you can make chicken stock/broth from raw chicken by poaching it in the stock water, removing the cooked meat and placing the skin and bones back into the simmering broth. Pretty nifty, right? 

Basic Homemade Meat Stock
A basic, frugal recipe for making homemade, unsalted meat stock you can use to flavor many dishes. Save money by using leftover roasted meat bones and vegetable scraps. Easily make a big batch and freeze it in portions for your favorite recipes, so you can stop relying on sodium-laden store brand stocks. 
| Recipe & Photograph by The Rising Spoon | © Elaina Newton 2013
Yield: Varies (dependent upon water amount & pot size)

4-5 regular or 1-3 large cooked meat bones (include the skin if you have it)
2 whole onions*
2 large carrots
2 celery stalks 
3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1/2 a palmful of whole peppercorns
2-3 bay leaves
Purified water (I recommend reverse osmosis)
1/4 cup of organic apple cider vinegar (optional)

*If you've saved the assorted veggie scraps in the freezer you can sub 2-4 cups of those instead of the fresh onion, carrots and celery. 

Recommended Equipment
Stainless Steel Stock Pot or Slow-Cooker
Colander/Strainer (this one is collapsable silicone)

Fill a large stock pot 3/4 full of purified water. Drop the bones (and skin if you have it) into the pot. If you're using the frozen veggies scraps, dump those in now. If not, cut and peel the onion, chop roughly add the pieces (including the ends) into the water. Do the same with the carrots and celery, but make sure to wash all dirt off the celery first. Peel and crush the garlic and toss that in, as well as the peppercorns and bay leaves.

Now for the organic apple cider vinegar. This part is optional, but it's what I do every time I make homemade stock now. I learned the technique from this cookbook: From Scratch. Mix the apple cider vinegar into the pot and let everything sit for an hour. Don't turn on the heat. The vinegar will pull the minerals from the bones into the water and since vinegar is excellent for preserving you don't have to worry about letting it sit at room temperature. If this bothers you, just skip this part.  

After letting it sit, turn the heat to medium-high. Let the water heat up until it barely reaches a boil (not a rolling boil), cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for a minimum of three to six hours. The longer you cook it the more flavorful it will become as the bone breaks down and the flavor is leeched from the vegetables. I normally let mine simmer 18-24 hours. When it has simmered for as long as you want, remove from the heat, let it cool a bit, then pour through a strainer to remove all solids. Once it's cooled, store in the refrigerate and consume or freeze within three to four days. 

Notes & Tips
It's important to note that I've purposefully left out salt in this recipe. You can add it in if you like, but I prefer not to. Because I use the stock in a myriad of recipes (and don't consume it alone), it's easier to add the salt to the final dish. 

Some people like to remove excess fat from the dish. To do so, store the stock in the fridge overnight and the next day the fat will have solidified across the top. Simply scrape it off. 

This yields a large batch, so I typically cook with it for two to three days, portion it out by the cupful into bags, then lay them flat to freeze on a cookie sheet. This makes it easier if I need to break off a hunk to add to a dish without having to melt the whole portion.

Real Food Resources

Real Food Survival Guide For Busy Moms

"This e-book is perfect for busy folks who need help maximizing their time in the kitchen so they can fix nutritious, real food snacks and meals to eat at home and on the go. In addition to realistic advice, this book provides recipes for real food staples you can make in bulk ahead of time, which ensures you always have nutrient dense foods at hand. And it’s especially helpful if you’re interested in implementing homemade fermented foods into your diet."

From Scratch: Easy Recipes for Traditionally Prepared Whole-Food Dishes 

"If you're looking for a cookbook that is as entertaining as it is delicious, then look no further. From Scratch is a breath of fresh air when it comes to learning how to traditionally prepare and cook nutritious food. Shaye does not disappoint in her recipes and this cookbook reads like a letter from a close friend. These meals are easily prepared and yes, easily devoured."  

Question for Discussion: What recipe do you use stock in most often? Answer in the comments section below.

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