From harvest to table ~ what's cooking now?

This blog shows where all those garden goodies I grow end up. I call this little eating area next to the stove my "chef's table" because at all the best restaurants it's a privilege to be invited to dine in the kitchen where the chef reigns supreme. So here I am "reigning" and you are all invited. :-D

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Stock options

Sunday, November 13th dawned warm, but with howling winds, presaging the coming (massive) frontal system.  So I hunkered down inside and decided to clean out my little chest freezer.  It's only 5 cu/ft and it was packed full.

In the bottom I found 3 whole chickens, 1 pkg of ham hocks, 1 large pork roast and a small rack of babyback pork ribs.  Good grief!!  The dates were almost a year old.  Time to do something with them.  Two of the chickens had been cut up, but one was whole so did that one up Sunday.  I don't bother to defrost stock stuff.  I just put it in the pot, cover with hot water, add savory vegs like onion, celery, garlic and black peppercorns and turn up the heat.  In less than an hour the chicken was tender enough to break apart with a spoon.  I took out the chicken, shredded off the meat (yep, 180F), then returned the bones, etc. to the stock and let it simmer for a couple more hours.  When sieved I put the stock into the 'fridge for overnight cooling and let the fat rise to the top for skimming.

The next morning was another windy - howling even - day with pouring down rain.  A good day to stay right in the kitchen! I skimmed the fat off the stock, but saw that the broth was very thin, no gelatin at all.  Hmmm.  When measured I found I had 5 quarts of stock.  Oh good heavens! I don't get 5 quarts of stock even when I cook a whole turkey carcass!  What to do?  Cook it down for hours?  Think. Think.  Aha!

Since I planned on simmering up the other 2 chickens, what's to keep me from simmering them up in STOCK instead of water?  So the 2nd frozen chicken went into the pot and when it was fully cooked and tender, I pulled it out, shredded the meat and returned the bones, etc. to the stock.

You probably know what I did next.

Yep, the 3rd chicken went right into the pot.  (I have to tell you, by now the house smelled wonderful!)

The shredded chicken meat was so tender, almost creamy that it melted in my mouth.  Yum!
Meanwhile, on another burner, I'd decided to go for broke and simmered up the 2 small ham hocks with bay leaves and peppercorns (can you tell I use them a lot?).
It took a lot longer than the chickens for the ham hocks to start falling apart.  I've noticed with both, though, that when the meat starts to rise to the surface, it's usually done.

Now these particular hocks were almost all meat with just some slices of bones (none of them marrow bones).  Still, the stock tasted good.

So late that afternoon all the stock went into the fridge for overnight cooling.  My - just look at all that chicken fat rising to the top!
I must admit the chicken stock did not gel that night either, but it was thickened - like syrup.  Still, it was truly tasty with lots of flavor.  So was the ham stock.

I ended up with 2 3C bags of ham stock and 5.5 quart bags of chicken stock.  The shredded meat was also portioned out - 2 bags of ham and 6 bags of chicken.  Now, when I want to make chicken and dumplings, chicken soup, chicken pots pies, etc.  I can just grab one of meat and stock and have at it.  Same with the ham (ham, kale & limas; ham & bean soup, etc.).  Talk about easy peasy.

Aaaaaaaand.  After 2+ days in the kitchen I freed up some space in the freezer, but, truthfully, not all that much.

With the continued successes in the veg garden and my growing penchant for batch cooking, I'm going to have to bite the bullet and buy another small chest freezer.  I'd like to have one for gardens vegs and baked goods (like when I buy (don't wince, Glenda) bread and rolls on sale) and the other one for meats and prepared foods (like stock, soups, portioned casseroles, etc.)  Ah well, you gotta spend some dough to save some, right? *heh*

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  1. Oh yeah, you do need another freezer.
    We keep one just for meat. It makes life so much easier.

    I can almost smell the kitchen with all that stock simmering. I know it must taste delicious. I think the canned or boxed stuff is tasteless!

    Have you tried cooking rice in broth instead of water....very tasty.

  2. Glenda - I asked Mom how old the little freezer was (she'd given it to me years ago) and she had to think hard and figured it (a J.C.Penney model) was at least 25 years old! Gee, and it still runs fine!

    Yes, I've cooked rice, noodles, farina dumplings and even potatoes in broth. You're right, very tasty.