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Friday, June 25, 2010

Stock making, part 2

I continued my little stock making adventure today, with taking the pot of stock out of the refrigerator.

I scooped off the fat that had collected on top, strained* the stock back into the cast iron pot with a strainer and cheesecloth**, and began simmering uncovered again.

*After it comes out of the fridge, the stock itself should be gelled. So it needs to be gently warmed up to become liquid again, before straining.

**For the 2nd strain, I was going to use a coffee filter, but was advised that would not work. So I used cheesecloth. Ideally you should use a "china cap," but I didn't have one.

As you simmer a second time, skim off whatever fat accumulates on top. I decided it needed more seasoning, so I added some; I don't know if you're supposed to or not, but figured I was going to be straining it again anyway.

After a couple of hours, the liquid level was lower. This is called "reducing" the stock.

I then strained it a third and final time, with the strainer and cheesecloth, into a smaller cast iron pot. Began simmering the 3rd and final time, and will continue to simmer until it's reduced to a thick liquid that I can put in ice cube trays to freeze for future use.

So a brief rundown of the steps: Get beef bones, celery, carrots, onions, and if you want, leeks and garlic cloves. Cut up the veggies. Drizzle the bones and veggies with olive oil, season with black pepper, and roast in the oven for an hour (bones at 400, veggies at 300).

After they're roasted, put in a pot, deglaze the roasting pans and add to the pot, add seasonings, and then add COLD water. Simmer #1, for hours, then remove veggies, strain #1, refrigerate.

Remove from fridge, take off the fat, strain #2, simmer #2, skimming while you simmer. Strain #3, simmer #3 ("reducing the stock").

This method was obtained out of the book "Cast Iron Cuisine: From Breakfast to Dessert."

The website has some good instructional videos; Some videos on that site require a paid subscription, but the basic stock making videos are free, and they helped me to actually SEE it being done.


  1. Channeling Matt, who for some reason can't post into this blog.

    "After the first straining and after you brought the stock out of the refrigerator, when you removed the fat cap, the stock should have been of a jelly-like consistency. If at this stage it was still in liquid form, I would suspect that you did not use enough bones--or meaty enough bones--to provide enough gelatin for a really good stock.

    If that be the case, for best results I would save what you have and start over again using meaty bones (especially of the hock and shank variety)."

  2. Still channeling Matt:

    "When boiling the bones and vegetables, add the reserve stock (what you set aside from this first endeavor). This will only improve the final product.

    Continue as before. When the stock comes out of the refrigerator for the first time, it should be a solid, gelatinous mass.

    Stock making is almost an art form, and can be frustrating and difficult at times. It took me years before I made a really good stock. But stay with it as long as you're having fun: the results will be worth it."

  3. Aha. In that case, I'll need to visit a local meat market to get some bigger bones.

    And it sounds like the bones should have some meat on them... The grocery store did sell a "soup bone" but it was a tiny bone and mostly meat. Is that what you're talking about?

    That's probably why there was nothing to deglaze from the pan when I roasted them... it was almost all bone, very little if any meat at all.

  4. Oh this is definitely not a waste, I learn by doing. I can read a recipe 100 times and never remember it; I have to do it. At least now I've got the method down.

  5. But wait, how do you strain the stock if it's in gel form? It won't go through the tiny holes?

  6. Channeling Matt:

    "I can't remember whether or not I mentioned meaty bones in the recipe and I don't have the book handy. If I didn't mention it, I should have. The more meat you have, the better your stock will be. And that is exactly why you didn't have anything left to deglaze. But remember, those efforts are not wasted, because they can be folded into your next stock.

    "You are right, the gel won't go through the holes. You must gently reheat it until it has liquefied. Also, you might take the time at this point to reduce it by ten to twenty percent."

  7. Matt:

    "A good source of bones for stock is your local slaughterhouse. I bought 50 pounds of "dog bones" from a local abattoir and only paid $10.00. That made a LOT of stock. Of course, I didn't use all 50 pounds at a time; I think I made it in three batches and froze the bones between stock-making sessions."

  8. By the way, up here at the ranch we take cast iron cooking to a new level, because we have an outdoor kitchen that features an old-fashioned wood stove with a cast iron top. :-)

  9. An outdoor kitchen sure would be handy here in South Louisiana. In fact, many locals cook on their outdoor burner on a regular basis since it's too hot to cook inside... I think it's too hot to cook outside!

    You would think there would be a slaughterhouse in this area but I don't know of one. I do know of a meat market though, maybe they can tell me...