Tuesday, October 04, 2011
I have been making my own chicken stock for a long time – it's so easy and it tastes a million times better than anything you can buy off the grocery store shelves. And with an inexpensive pressure cooker, it takes about half an hour to make it from the minute you pull out the ingredients until the timer beeps telling you your wonderfully fragrant chicken stock is ready. This article by Camy Tang was my inspiration for buying my pressure cooker and now I can't imagine my kitchen without it. I'll include my recipe at the end, since this post is about storing it, not making it.
After making my stock, I put it in the refrigerator covered in plastic wrap overnight, and then skim the fat off the top the next day. Then it has to be strained before packaging it up into usable portions for storage, since even after straining it in a colander there are usually a lot of small bits that need to be strained off.
In the past I've always poured it from one big bowl into another big bowl and tried to somehow cover it with a giant piece of cheesecloth, which inevitably falls off because there is never a rubber band big enough to hold it in place and the Geek isn't always around to hold it there for me, and even if he is sometimes it just doesn't cooperate and the cheesecloth ends up falling into the stock and ... well it's a mess.
So today I had an epiphany, and for all I know everyone reading this may already have figured this out, but I am nearly giddy with my new discovery. Instead of my old, messy, wasteful process, here is what I did today.
First, I pre-labeled my bags. I used quart-sized freezer bags and used a sharpy to write "ck stock - 2 c." on each one since I like to freeze my stock in 2 cup portions.
Then I cut a piece of cheesecloth (double thickness) just big enough to cover the top of a 4-cup measuring cup. Unlike a bowl big enough to hold my entire batch of stock, it was easy to find a rubber band the right size for this cup. I stretched the rubber band around the top and under the handle to hold the cheesecloth in place, as you see here.
Then I proceeded to pour 4 cups of stock through the cheesecloth into the 4-cup measuring cup, using my 1/2-cup ladle. Once it was 4 cups full, I poured 2 cups into each of 2 pre-labeled zip bags. I did not take off the cheesecloth or attempt to clean it yet. At this point, there was a lot of gunk clogging up the cheesecloth, but as I had poured it in through the center top, and I was pouring it back out through the spout, it worked fine, and by pouring out through the cheesecloth it double filtered the stock.
Then, without removing the cheesecloth from the measuring cup, I rinsed the cheesecloth under running water to get off all the excess stuff clogging it up, and made sure to pour out all the water before repeating the above process until I had bagged up all the chicken stock.
This may sound like a lot of steps, but trust me, it was so much easier, cleaner (I did use a towel to soak up the small amount of drippage that came off of the cup as I poured), and efficient than my old method. I hope this helps anyone out there who likes to make their own chicken stock (or veggie stock) and if you don't make your own, please consider it. You will not believe how much better it tastes and it is not nearly as difficult as you might think.
Now, here is how I make my stock:
After cutting apart a chicken, I toss in whatever bits I have: the back bone, wings, any bones I've cut the meat off of, and sometimes the drumsticks. I add half an onion (no need to slice or peel it – just chop it in half), 1 or 2 sticks of celery, 2 carrots, some whole pepper corns, a sprig of whatever fresh or dried herbs I have on hand (marjoram, thyme, and oregano are all good choices), and a generous pinch of salt. Then I add water up to the line indicated on the pressure cooker, pop on the top, turn on the heat, and after 15 minutes of cooking I have a glorious chicken stock.
I let it cool, then pour it through a colander into a large bowl, and toss the stuff in the colander into the trash.