Saturday, December 6, 2008

Taking Stock

When I woke up today, I didn't think I'd spend the better part of the morning cleaning out our two freezers, although they desperately needed organizing (a fact that hadn't escaped me or anyone else who's had the misfortune of opening a freezer door.) There was lots of good stuff buried in those freezers and I need some more room for early Christmas baking (I need to fit a cheesecake in this weekend), so after eating my granola I found myself jumping right in.

Fast forward a few hours, and I have one freezer dedicated to ingredients - everything from grated citrus zests and cups of mashed bananas to a healthy supply of bacon and chicken breasts - and the other freezer has prepared food - quarts of soup, pans of lasagna and mac n' cheese, tamales, and chocolate pound cakes. My plan is to eat from the freezer and pantry during the busy holiday season. I've also set aside a shelf for scraps of cooked meat for the doggies, so everyone in the house will benefit!

One thing that I try to have on hand is a supply of homemade chicken or turkey stock. I keep a large zipper bag in the freezer for poultry bones, and when it gets filled, I put a pot on to make stock. The day after Thanksgiving I usually make a huge batch of turkey stock. For years I'd use that stock as a base for a lovely turkey soup that we could enjoy on Christmas Eve after the children's pageant and before we hung stockings and waited for Santa.

This year's turkey yielded 12 cups of stock. A.L.E. used some to make a delicious risotto over Thanksgiving weekend; the remaining stock is in the freezer. Here's the turkey stock recipe that I use, based on the one in Jane Brody's Good Food Book:

Turkey Carcass Stock

turkey carcass bones, and whatever meat scraps, drippings, giblets (except liver), even leftover gravy, you want to throw in
12-14 c water (enough to almost cover bones)
2 large celery ribs cut in pieces, plus all the celery leaves from the heart
2 large carrots, cut in pieces, around 1 1/2 cups
1 1/2 large onions, cut in eighths, studded with 6 cloves
2 cloves of garlic, smashed and quartered
1-2 bay leaves, broken in pieces
1 tsp salt
several sprigs fresh Italian parsley (or 2 tsp dried parsley flakes)
1-2 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp dried)
several sage leaves, torn in pieces (or 1/2 tsp dried)
12 peppercorns

Simmer on stovetop, partially covered for a minimum of two hours. It will get richer the longer it cooks.

Remove from heat, strain through cheesecloth, or in a fine mesh strainer, pressing lightly on solids.

cook's notes:

- I usually put in water to just below the level of the tops of the bones. The carcass will come apart and compact as it cooks.

- If you leave the pan less covered as it cooks, the stock will be more concentrated and flavorful, but you will end up with a smaller quantity.

- I freeze this in pints and in cups. You can also freeze in ice cube trays for those time when you just need a bit of stock, but I rarely bother.


Jessica said...

You're so good to make stock. I always want and mean to when I make a chicken but then I get sort of overwhelmed and I sheepishly throw away the bones. It's so much better than store-bought stock and you've inspired me to make it the next time I cook chicken.

Debbie said...

I usually just get overwhelmed too, but this year, I put the turkey bones in the freezer, so I am hoping to make some stock this week. And inspired me too.

Cathy said...

Ugh, you've reminded me of my freezer situation! I guess I need to take the bull by the horns and tackle it. Right now both of my freezers are a mess and I have no idea what it in them. I love the idea of having an "ingredient freezer" and a "prepared food freezer." (I kind of need a "Scooby Push Pop" freezer as well, but I guess they can go with "prepared food" -- I'll just define that term loosely). Cleaning out the freezers does take on an urgency this time of year when you know that you need to make room for all of the make-ahead stuff. Your turkey stock looks great! It would be a wonderful base for so many soups!

Audrey said...

I'm jealous of your two freezers and what's in them! It's nice for me to be temporarily in possession of a VERY well organized (well, really very empty! freezer), but on the other hand it's hard to make a dinner worth eating out of a package of frozen tortellini, one last package of ratatouille, a bag of frozen broccoli, 8 sticks of butter and a loaf of bread. (sigh). But looking forward, I've never tackled stock either, but have always wanted to (esp. since I eat so much chicken, and sigh everytime I throw those bones away). A good new year's resolution!

Amanda said...

I never thought to make stock from a turkey carcass! Smart! Hope to see you join the Cooking with Alicia & Annie blog event this month. Sorry I haven't been around much, picked up some extra hours and have been neglecting my blog friends :(