Taking stock of making stock

Now that it’s a week past Thanksgiving the leftovers should be gone by now if for no other reason than in the interest of your health and safety.  I finished off the turkey leftovers by making green chile turkey enchiladas last Sunday, but yesterday I had one more leftover to contend with.  The turkey’s carcass was in the freezer waiting for me.

Saving the carcass of turkey or chicken is, in my mind, the ultimate in frugal cooking.  When I learned a few years ago that you could take the bones that most everyone throws away and make a rich and delicious homemade stock, it was a true revelation.  Not only could I save money that I would normally spend buying stock, I could completely control what went into it — especially sodium.

Making your own stock couldn’t be simpler.  Take the carcass of your chicken or turkey and put it in a big pot with a rib or two of celery (or better yet a handful of leaves that you probably wouldn’t eat anyhow), a large carrot cut into 3 or 4 big chunks, a medium onion cut into quarters (no need to peel it), half a dozen peppercorns, a bay leaf if you have them, and a few sprigs of parsley.  I add about 16 cups of water– basically enough to cover everything in the pot, pop the lid on and bring it to a boil then knock the heat back to low and let it simmer for a couple of hours with the lid slightly off center to let some steam escape.

 

After a couple of hours, take the pot off the heat, let it cool for a few minutes then pour the liquid in the pot through a strainer into a two liter/quart container.  Get the veggies in the strainer to and press on them with a wooden spoon to extract a little more liquid if you want.  Add whatever salt you want at this point.  I usually add about a teaspoon at a time and taste it as I go.  You can keep the container in the fridge for a couple of days or freeze it for a few months.   Once you put it in the fridge the fat will come to the top and form a solid layer on top of the stock.  Don’t freak out.  Just skim it off and all is well.  Also, if your stock is particularly rich and reduced like mine is below, it could get somewhat gelatinous when it cools.  I had never seen this happen before until I made pork stock and I sort of flipped out and thought I’d done something wrong.  I hadn’t– it’s totally normal. The stock liquifies again when you heat it.

You might also want to divide the stock into several 16 oz (500 ml) containers to freeze that way it’s generally the same size as a can of stock.

I wound up with 6 cups of stock this time because I let it simmer and reduce longer. Its going to be really rich and delicious!

I wound up with 6 cups of stock this time because I let it simmer and reduce longer. It's going to be really rich and delicious!

Excuses about not having time don’t wash with me.  It takes all of four minutes to put everything in the pot and you can do laundry, pay bills, watch TV, whatever while the stock cooks.  When all is said and done you have the equivalent of about 4 cans of stock (or 2 large boxes for Australia), which would normally cost you $4-$5.  Not only that, I also like to think of it as responsible and ethical use of the bird since I’ve taken everything from it that I possibly can.

Swanson’s has nothing on me.

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