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Monday, April 7, 2008

The Flavor Saver: Solving the Homemade Stock Problem

No, it's not a moustache.

Many recipes, like my Pho soup, call for broth or stock. And in almost every cookbook you are likely to see a little note reminding you that home-made broth or stock is always superior to purchased broths or bullion. So I won't beat you over the head with that one again. I myself like to make it at home so I can control the flavors and make my own perfect balance of broth and stock, a great combination of taste and mouth-feel. However, I am sympathetic: Lots of people are appalled at the idea of making stock at home, because it seems like an old fashioned and labor-intensive process. Who has time for making stock before launching into all the other prep for a recipe? When you rush home from work, I know the last thing you want to think about is tying up some bouquet garni and browning some beef bones. So what's a food lover to do?

When broth or stock is the main component of a dish, such as the Pho soup, you have to be sure to use a beef broth you love, because it will strongly impact the quality of the final dish. Some people will always reach for commercially prepared broths, but if you have an inkling to try your hand at making some at home, there's an easy way to make it work for you.

What's the solution? I like to do a big pot once in a while in my slow-cooker. The prep takes no more than 15 minutes of rapidly hunking up some available vegetables, tossing in bony bits of meat (with lots of delicious marrow and whatnot). Then when I come home I have a giant pot full of warm and delicious stock or broth. I use what I want that night, if I have something planned.

But my favorite trick is to freeze the stock in a silicone cup-cake pan. Once frozen, I easily pop the perfect 1/2 cup servings out and keep them in a freezer bag. That way they are easily at hand whenever I want flavorful homemade stock. They keep well for up to 2 months.

You can do the same thing whenever you "happen" to have some tasty stock leftover, for example, pour the leftover juices after roasting a chicken into the cupcake molds and save. Couldn't be easier!


Philip said...

Now that sounds like a great use for silicone cupcake pans. :)

I like to let the stock cool and then ladle one cup portions into small ziplock sandwhich bags for freezing. They stack really nicely. The downside is that you have to destroy the bag to get the stock out.

Your method sounds like it might be better.

Erin said...

I used to go the baggie route, but I definitely prefer the cupcake pan method.

I am fairly sure the cupcake method would work with a regular metal cupcake pan as well, you would just have to let the pan sit out for bit to loosen them. But with the silicone pans it really couldnt be simpler...and the volume is pre-measured out so you can grab what you need later

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BrainDump said...

A friend of mine suggested this idea to me and we've been doing it ever since. Every time we cut vegetables for dinner, we keep the peelings, ends or less than perfect bits in a ziploc in the freezer. Then when we need stock, we throw all of these bits and pieces (sometimes with additional vegetables or dried mushrooms) into a huge stock pot and freeze about 3 or 4 large yogurt containers full of broth.

Laura said...

What a great idea (the silicone cupcake pan). I freeze my stock in tupperware containers--which means I usually reach for commercial stock if I need 1 cup or less. Now I need to acquire a silicone supcake mold--either that or freeze the stock in dinosaur shapes! :)

Erin said...

Laura-I used to use larger tupperware containers and always wound up with a "brick" of stock that wasnt very practical, which I'm sure was part of the inspiration for using the cupcake size instead. Glad you like the idea

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