Thursday, October 22, 2015

Learning to Make Your Own (Gluten-Free!) Stock

After watching the leaves out here on the East Coast go through a wardrobe change that I have never witnessed before (and I cannot believe I am going to be able to witness it year after year), I am officially getting ready to hunker down for winter.  With the flip flops put away, the toasty knee socks pulled up, and the fireplace popping comes the cold weather longings of soups and stews and all things warm and slow.  And that means replenishing the stock stockpile.

No, I just didn't stutter (although I do do that on occasion.  Wait.  No, seriously.  I just didn't do it again to be funny...).  Stock is the incredibly practical and insanely delicious kitchen staple made from—wait for it... SCRAPS.

Mmmmmmm.... Sounds delish, right? Let's take all our nasty peels and bones and pieces of veggie that we just trimmed off because we don't want to eat it and turn it all into food!

Well, that's not quite true.  You do take all your nasty peels and bones and trimmed veggie bits, but you simmer them for a really long time to extract all of their flavors, then discard them when you are finished.

For example, this is what I found in my fridge one morning last week: 
  • half a rotisserie chicken
  • a bag of kale that I hadn't liked the texture of (not trimmed well)
  • 3 old, rubbery carrots with their tops
  • 2 old onion halves with the skin and roots still attached
  • half a lemon
  • some mushrooms that were all leathery but still smelled okay...
I cut the chicken meat off of the bones to use for lunch, then took the carcass and all of those random items and squished them into my Crock-Pot.  I poured water into the pot until it was filled to the brim, then covered it with the lid, turned it on to Low, and let it go aaaaaaaaaaaaaaall day, aaaaaaaaaaaaaaall night, and almost all of the next day.

If I wanted to, I could have let it go much, MUCH longer.  I've let stocks go for days.  Like, almost a week.  I just keep adding water until the stock is almost smelling burnt.  In this case, I needed the stock for a meal I was making that night, so I just strained it through a colander into a big Pyrex measuring cup, and this is what I got: 8 cups of amber brown chicken stock.   

gluten-free stock

None of this pale yellow wussy crap you buy at the store that tastes like—um—NOTHING and costs at least $2.00 a quart.  This stuff? It's basically FREE since you were going to be wasteful and throw that shit out, anyway.  And NOW look what you've made!

gluten-free stock

Just wait until you taste it! Your grandma would be proud.  Really.

For shits and giggles, let's look to see what's left in the colander after I strained all that gorgeousness away:
scraps used to make gluten-free stock

Now THAT you can throw away!

If you don't use all your stock in one recipe, you can freeze it in smaller containers or you can can it (no stuttering).  Just remember (as Chef Reiton had to remind me once), this is a product made from meat, so you want to pressure can it to make sure that any residual bacteria is dead dead dead (although the chances of there being any after 24+ hours of simmering are very slim.  But still.  Better safe than hugging a toilet bowl.).

You can also use any kind of bones you want.  Sometimes I buy those creepy soup bones at the grocery store that you know are cow legs and use those to make beef stock.  I have used leftover rib bones from rib night and made pork stock.  You can use all veggies if you want and no meat.  Again, remember the true rules of a real kitchen: DO WHATEVER THE HELL YOU WANT.  Your food is yours to play with, test out, and sometimes never be able to duplicate again.  You are the boss.

So.  Bring that Crock-Pot up from the basement.  Go dig through the fridge.  Dump whatever you find in there into the pot and add some water.  Then come back tomorrow and comment to me how awesome you and your stock are.

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