When the weather is warm, making soup stock is necessary. Good stock is useful, but the creation of it is utilitarian. For veg stock, throw vegetable scraps in a pot, cover with water, and simmer for an hour and Bob’s your Uncle, you have a great base for gazpacho, or any chilled soup.
In the summer, making chicken stock is almost annoying. It clouds the air with a humid fog of cooked chicken, turning my cute little apartment into an odorous old lady’s abode. I use chicken stock in so many recipes, that making it is essential to my summer menus. Note: For convenience, I freeze most of it in small, one or two cup portions and as ice cubes.
But as soon as the weather shifts to autumn, it’s time to make the keystone of good winter meals, stock. Specifically beef stock. Beef Burgundy, braised short ribs, beef barley soup, beef stew, pot roast .... all demand good stock as a base.
So, when I got a great deal on soup bones ($2/lb) from a meat purveyor at the farmer’s market, I knew it was time to fill my apartment (and, as it turned out, the entire floor) with the deep, hearty, robust and masculine scent of cooking bones.
One of the cooks I work with, Melvin, has asked me to write down basic stock recipes. But, when I realized I had almost eight pounds of bones, I invited him over to make stock with me.
Ingredients: 8 lbs. beef soup bones (veal bones and/or joint bones are best as they hold the most collagen) 1 head celery 4 carrots 5 onions 1/2 cup red wine (anything drinkable) 6 oz tomato paste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Scrub the carrots, wash the celery and peel the onions. Rough chop the vegetables a.k.a. mirepoix. The standard mirepoix mix is 50% onion, 25% carrot, 25% celery.
Lightly coat two jelly roll pans (sheet trays) with oil. Place bones on the sheet trays, bake for 30 minutes (or longer) until lightly browned.
Pull the sheet trays of bones. Divide the mirepoix between the two trays. Smear tomato paste on the bones, and return to the oven for 30 minutes. Add wine to the baking bones and mirepoix. Continue to bake the bones and veg until deep brown and caramelized. At this point, it’s easy to forget about the bones. If they burn, or smell like they may burn, remove immediately. If they are dark on the bottom but not fully caramelized, stir the mix. If the bones and veg do burn, the whole mess must be tossed. I know of no way to turned burned bones into delicious stock.
After the bones have baked, put them into a large stock pot (four quarts or more) and cover with water (or remouillage, made from your last batch of stock)* and cook until rich and heavy. It can take 2 hours or more. Skim occasionally to remove foam stuff on the surface.
Strain and defat the stock (reserving the cooked bones and mirepoix), and freeze or use.
* Remouillage is the French word for ‘rewetting’. What you do is cover the bones in water again and cook the bones a second time. This weak stock can be used as is or reserved as the base liquid for the next batch of stock.
This is Melvin's groovy, new stock pot. Way to go Dude!
Pickle making is not as easy as it seems. Little cukes are wily and unpredictable, as I discovered when I cracked into the first barrel of pickles.
Oh my were they salty. Salty and over-fermented. Although the major flavors came through; garlic and dill; the overwhelming salt took over. On the plus side, they were crunchy and had a wonderful texture.
My notes from the first batch are as follows:
Check after four days. Follow the recipe exactly. When I made the brine I used pickling salt and added 1/8 cup of salt. I tasted the brine before pouring it over the cukes and it tasted weak. Cook that I am, I fixed it. (To my credit, the mix flunked the raw shell egg sank. I test poultry brine by floating a raw egg -- in the shell. If it floats exposing an area of egg between the size of a dime and an nickle, the brine is right.) Live and learn, no?
So, I tried again with four pounds of big pickling cucumbers. I followed the recipe exactly and the results still weren't mind-blowing. The &*%#@# pickles still taste just like cucumbers. They were under fermented.
Damn. So, I left them out to 'cook' for another day. Still taste like cukes AND the brine became cloudy. The stringy white stuff that collects at the top of the barrel (and is scooped out) never separated.
I'll probably drain the old brine and make a new,weak brine solution that'll look more appetizing.
---- later same day ---
Woo Hoo Hooray for me. I have made PICKLES.
The first batch of pickles I made back on 9/7/09 (see the fetal cucumber post) are FABULOUS. Vinegary, garlicky, crunchy (let's see how many more words ending in Y I can add...). If I didn't post that recipe, I'll do so soon.