A lot of recipes call for the use of “stock,” “broth,” or “bouillon” (dehydrated stock) for flavor – and not just when making soups. Sure, you can always go buy packaged stock at the store (even we do) – but you don’t have any control over what exactly is in it when you do that. Even the best organic stock contains things like cane juice (sugar), higher (than I prefer at least) salt, and ingredients labeled merely as “flavor” (what exactly is “organic chicken flavor” ???). And if you get your hands on a “quality” gluten-free bouillon, you’re still going to see things like soybean powder, yeast extract, and “natural” corn syrup crystals.
If you made the pot roast this past weekend, or did a traditional oven-roasted turkey for Thanksgiving, you know that when you had carved all of the meat and removed all of the veggies from the roasting pan or crock, you were left with a bunch of water, juices, fat, and little bits of herbs and veggies, along with an assortment of bones with little bits of meat still attached (or lots of marrow inside of the roast bones). The more resourceful of you may have taken some of the liquid and added a bit of arrowroot powder to make a nice primal gravy, but most people end up dumping the majority of it down the drain and out in the trash…
The better thing to do, however, is to make your own stock with it. Save it in the freezer, and you’ll be solving a couple of problems at one time – how to control exactly what is in the stock you use for your cooking, and what to do with the leftover juices and bones from cooking a roast or a bird.
Start out with the “leftovers” from preparing something like a roast or a bird – either in a slow cooker or in the oven. We’re using the remains of the pot roast recipe from Friday, but have also recently done this with a chicken we made in the crock pot as well. Dump all of the juices and smaller bits of veggies, etc, from the crock into a large sauce pan on the stove. When you’ve finished carving up the meat, put all of the bones and other trimmings in there as well. Chop up some additional veggies as desired to add to the flavor of the stock – perhaps a stalk or two celery, a carrot or two, and a half of an onion. Throw in a 1/2 tsp or so each of some additional herbs like oregano, thyme, and rosemary. Or you can stick to just the leftovers from cooking for a simpler flavor focused on just the meat itself. Add enough water to cover the bones.
Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 2~3 hours. Add water as needed to keep the bones just covered. When things have simmered long enough for everything to break down and all of the flavors to infuse the liquid, strain through a colander or strainer into a large heat-proof bowl or container.
At this point, while still warm, I transfer the liquid to canning jars to make it easier to skim off the excess fat (which will rise to the top, as in the photo above) and get a more accurate measure of how much stock I have. Let the fat rise, skim off as much as desired (I leave about 1/4″ in the top of a quart jar) and top off with either additional stock or warm water to reach the final measured quantity you want. For the pot roast from Friday, or for a whole chicken done in the crock pot, the yield is about one quart of stock. For a full-sized turkey, you’re looking at between two and three quarts of stock.
At this point, you have a few options for storage. If you plan on using it within a week or so, you can simply throw a lid on it and store it in the fridge in the jar. For more long-term storage, you could go through the efforts of canning it – with the water bath and everything – or simply freeze it (in something other than the glass jar, of course!). Options for freezing include pouring into a zippered freezer bag once fully cooled (or several smaller ones), or some sort of plastic freezer container. Another idea is to freeze into an ice cube tray using measured amounts for each cube, and then collect the cubes into a freezer bag once they are frozen. The advantage of this last method is that if you have a recipe that only calls for a little bit of stock, it is easy to only use as much as you need without defrosting a whole container – simply pull out the desired number of cubes and toss them into the pot!