Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Taking Stock

Phil and I recently cleared out and defrosted our deep freezer in anticipation of our annual quarter-cow purchase from a local farmer. In the midst of organizing, using up, or throwing out Parmesan rinds that I saved in 2008 and was sure I would use to flavor soups, five bags of edamame, a large stock of beef from last year's cow, and various other treasures, I made a gruesome discovery. The chicken carcasses I'd been saving for making stock "some day" created a veritable graveyard of Ziploc-enclosed body bags stacked at the back corner of the freezer. This macabre collection needed to be used up or thrown out, and some Depression-era gene couldn't let me just toss what I felt held potential for putting up stock.

Up to this point, I'd made stock once. Using the soup bones that had amassed with our cow delivery, I followed Julia's recipe in The Way to Cook. The recipe took our biggest pot, two years of soup bones, lots of vegetables, and six precious weekend hours. For my effort, I got two quarts of stock. Lovely stock, but the thought of devoting the next eight weekends to chicken stock wore me out.

Then I found the slow cooker recipe on NourishingDays, and I've since become a stock junkie, using up the chicken bones, as well as a turkey carcass from a turkey breast also found in the freezer. The stock is now frozen (in our newly defrosted and recently restocked freezer), lined up in quart canning jars, and waiting for winter soup making. It's crazy-easy, and because it uses kitchen leftovers, virtually free. I'm tickled pink every time I make stock. Tickled. Pink.

I now keep a gallon Ziploc bag in my main freezer in our kitchen, and all the stock-appropriate scraps from vegetables and herbs go in there: onion skins, half a rosemary stalk, carrot peelings, celery that's gone limp.

Here's how to make it:

Easy-Peasy Slow Cooker Stock

Two chicken carcasses, or whatever will fit in your slow cooker
1 to 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
A couple handfuls of frozen vegetable leavin's

Put the chicken carcasses in the slow cooker, and add enough water to cover. Pour in the vinegar, cover, and let it sit, without turning on the slow cooker, for about an hour. This tip from NourishingDays.com lets you extract some of the nutrients from the bones. After an hour, add a couple handfuls of the vegetable droppings you've saved for stock, cover, and turn to low. Leave it alone for 24 hours. After 24 hours, strain through a coffee filter, paper towel, or cheesecloth, and either use the stock in a couple days, or freeze for later.

Used to be I'd buy organic stock at Costco. Six four-cup (e.g.,one quart) boxes are around $10. This recipe in my cooker usually gives me about two quarts. FOR FREE, as I keep reiterating to my long-suffering husband. Just kitchen scraps. And water. I so love this.

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