Taking Stock


Making stock feeds my deep desire to use up food. I think I inherited my grandparents' Depression-era ethos: never throw anything away. (Though they took that to kind of a disgusting extreme, to be honest.)

I love that you can take bones from a roasted chicken or pork chops, add veggie scraps you've been saving the the freezer -- ends of onion, celery and carrots, the outside leaves of lettuce that are less-than-beautiful, parsley stems -- and in a few hours turn them into a steaming pot of deeply flavored stock. (Omit the chicken bones and add some chopped mushrooms for a vegetarian version.)

It's a metaphor.

It's a metaphor for so many things, if you think about it. The bits of dialogue and imagery that end up in a story or a song. The less-than-perfect parts of our personalities that give us empathy for others. The good parts we pull from advice that doesn't completely fit. The vital lessons we learned from an imperfect parent.

It's another lesson too, about snobbery.

I am super judgey every time I go to the soup aisle and see all the bespoke "bone broth." It's broth, okay? Broth is always made from bones. Look at these companies cynically marketing to hipsters. It's so stupid. Plus, you can so easily make your own without paying $8.00 for a quart of it. In case you can't tell, it's a pet peeve.

And yet...I learned a lot of things spending much of my childhood eating the meals of people who lived through the Depression. I had a dad who was able to improvise an amazing meal out of nothing. And I was once 22 years old and figuring out how to cook. I remember the first time I tried to make a whole dinner for my now husband. I was so stressed out trying to make the chicken and the beans and the potatoes finish cooking at the same time.

Plus: Who am I to judge cyber-native people looking for some messy authenticity in their cooking? There was no GrubHub our hello fresh when I was a kid.

I used to not know what I know now. In the future -- maybe quite soon -- I'll look back on my certainty now and cringe.



Keep a ziplock or silicone bag in your freezer. Toss the trimmings and lesser leaves of your veggies in that bag throughout the week. (Strong flavors like beets, asparagus, cabbage, and broccoli don't work as well as carrots, onions, garlic, parsley, lettuce. You don't want to overpower the stock.)

We eat meat one or two times a week. The bones always go in the freezer for when I'm at home and can make stock.

Toss fresh or frozen bones (chicken, pork, fish, shrimp shells, whichever you want, in a stockpot. (You are using that big pot you have for what it was named for!) Substitute a lot of mushroom ends or a few chopped Portabellas for a vegetarian version.

Empty out the bag of frozen veggie parts into the stockpot too.

You can add peppercorns. You can toss in a bay leaf, or a couple leaves of sage, or rosemary. Don't overdo it, but a little is great.

Fill pot with enough water to cover everything by an inch or so.

Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for a few hours.

Cool and strain. NOTE: This is salt-free stock. You add the amount of salt you want later when you use this for a recipe.

Use the stock for soup or as a cooking liquid for sauce, or to flavor cooked grains. If you want to freeze it, return the stock the the rinsed-out stock pot and boil long enough to reduce it by half or more. Fill mason jars, leaving an inch at the top for expansion, and freeze. Or if you're good at canning, go ahead and can them so they are shelf-stable! (If you're not good at canning, it's far easier than you imagine.)(Of course, if you're good at canning, you probably already know how to make stock.)

Don't forget to label your jars! You will NOT remember what's what in a week. And everything looks the same when it's frozen. I just use scotch tape and a sharpie.

Enjoy the metaphor.





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  • Rain Perry
    published this page in Food 2022-01-10 11:17:48 -0800

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