On the early days of Tertúlias de Forno e Fogão (the Portuguese version of this blog), I posted on Facebook a recipe for vegetable stock – it’s funny to think of the time when this wasn’t even a blog! Veggie stock is a very easy recipe, any makes all the difference when making a soup, a risotto… much better than bouillon cubes!
Although I still make vegetable stock, the truth is I’ve been using meat stock for most of my soups lately. When I started photographing for the Soup Tertulias, Sky asked me if I had already translated the stock recipe − and was shocked to learn that I hadn’t even posted it! “But the stock is the star of your soups”. I took the hint and finally photographed the process. 🙂
There are several ways of making meat stock. I usually follow Chef John’s recipe (with some of the hints by Pat Feldman). It’s not a difficult process, but it takes a while: the stock needs to cook for at least 12 hours! I generally cook it for 24 hours, though. Then, I reduce it significantly, so I can freeze in single-use portions.
You will need:
Approximately 2.5 kg of meaty bones − Pat Feldman and Chef John List the kind of bones you should use, but to be honest I simply ask for meaty bones at the butcher’s and that’s it!
Celery leaves − you can use the stalks if you prefer, but it’d just be a waste of a perfect peanut butter dispenser!
One big onion, cutting into fours
Two carrots, peeled and cut into big chunks − when I was taking the pictures, there were no carrots in the house, so I didn’t use it this time! 😀
Two big (and thick) pots, with lids − mine can hold up to six liters, but if you have a bigger pot, double the recipe and make more stock! 🙂
Containers for freezing the stock − I prefer glass ones, with hermetic lids, as they are way easier to clean, but feel free to use plastic containers.
Stock starts with a step that generally marks the end of a recipe: place all the bones on a baking sheet, and bake them in a preheated oven for 60 minutes, turning them every now and then, so they brown evenly. Be careful not to let them burn!
When the bones are browned, transfer them to a big, thick pot − if there’s anything stuck to the baking sheet, scrape and place it in the pot as well! Cover with COLD water, then add the celery, onion, and carrots. Cover the pan and bring it to a boil over high heat. I prefer to put the vegetables on top, so it’s easy to remove them later!
Once the water has started boiling, remove the foam with a spoon and place the pan over the lowest possible temperature in your stovetop. As the stock will cook all night, it should simmer, not boil, so that it doesn’t evaporate. Here, I put the pan on the smallest burner, at the lowest setting.
One or two hours after the stock has started simmering, I remove the vegetables. Chef John doesn’t do that, but since I use celery leaves rather than stalks, I think it’s better to remove it.
Throughout the entire cooking process, the bones should always be covered by water. If you using the thick pan, covered, and in the lowest possible heat, that shouldn’t be a problem. However, if it is, just add more water!
When the bones are clean (with no meat attached to them, and with the little holes where the marrow has leaked from), which usually takes about 12 to 15 hours of cooking, you can remove them from the pan. If you want to cook for longer, there’s no problem − and the flavor will be more intense! I generally cook for 24 hours.
Remove the bones from the pan − I always let them drain over the sieve, so I don’t waste any stock. After removing all the bones, strain the stock into the second pan – you want to make sure that there are no mini-chunks of meat, or anything other than pure stock! 🙂
Take the second pan back to the stove, to reduce the stock over high heat − “reduce” sounds like a fancy process, but it just means “make the water evaporate” 😛 I generally have about 3.5 L of stock at this point, which I reduced to 1.5 L − the more concentrated the stock, the less room it will take in my freezer! 😀
Let the stock cool in the pan. Then, transfer them to the containers. I usually divide into five containers of 300 mL each, which is the base for five big soups, as this is really concentrated!
When it’s fully cooled, you’ll notice a layer of grease over the surface of the stock. I usually freeze with this layer on, and I only remove it when it’s time to cook – it’s much easier that way!
The stock will last in the freezer for up to six months. For soups, I simply thaw it a little bit, remove the grease layer, and dump it in the pot, adding more water as necessary. For risottos, you need to dilute the stock first, as it needs to be heated first. A 300-mL container will yield about 2 L of stock!