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I would like to discuss stock.

So I try to make my own stock from scratch as often as I can, but I think I may be doing a few things wrong. I have read a million recipes about this but none of them seem to be able to answer the question of how you know when when stock is actually DONE. Is it too thick? is it too thin? There seems to be no solid test along the lines of "the sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon."

any help?

For the record i just followed the "les halles" "recipe" (guidelines?) for veal stock.

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  1. this is also my first post.

    hey folks.

    1. I never really thought about it, sometimes it's broth and sometimes it's gelatin, either way is fine with me. I don't know how important it actually is, unless you're working in a 4 star restaurant. As long as it tastes good is my motto!

      1 Reply
      1. re: coll

        I agree. You will get violent opinions here on the "right" length of time, from 2 hours to 20 hours. IMHO, whatever you do is going to taste so much better than anything you buy, that worrying about it too much is unnecessary, unless, as above, you are working in a fancy restaurant. Personally I cook it for "several" hours, whatever is convenient for me; typically about 4 hours. For my purposes, I'm usually looking at it as a base for soup or sauces, so I don't want something TOO thick and reduced.

      2. So why do you think you're doing something wrong? Does it taste bad?
        Ease up and relax a bit -- stocks are actually flexible. Stock doesn't "coat the back of a spoon", sauces or demi glace do.

        Two rules for making stock: (1) don't boil and (2) skim like crazy as the water heats up and at the beginning of the simmer, and then occasionally as scum forms on top.

        For veal stock since it's mostly bones, you'll need to cook for a good 4-6 hours. Browning the bones first in the oven adds flavor depth. I add any vegetables (onion, parsley, etc. at the last hour so they don't overcook and turn bitter.

        If you want demi glace, the next day, put strained liquid back in pot and reduce by half; put into a smaller pot and reduce again until thick-ish. Cool and freeze into ice cubes, bag, and live contentedly knowing you have liquid gold in the freezer.

        For chicken stock, I throw a whole bird in the stock pot, cover with cold water by 2 inches or so, bring to a simmer (skimming the scum) and cook at a lazy simmer for a couple hours, adding a few stalks of parsley, 10 peppercorns, a clove or two of garlic, and cut up onion, celery and carrots. You can remove the chicken after an hour and pull off the breasts or other meat you may want to add back to the soup or to eat in some other fashion, but I rarely do.
        Taste and see if it has flavor, then your stock is done.

        4 Replies
        1. re: NYchowcook

          One tip that I learned from JC is to do a lot of skimming before adding the items suggested by NYchowcook - that way you don't have to pick them out with the scum.

          1. re: MMRuth

            I was just thinking about this problem MMR, when I read your post. I had the idea of putting a colander on top of the soup and pushing it below the surface so that the scum/froth could rise through it. I really hate picking out the stuff that comes out with the scum/froth.

            My problem is that I usually forget to skim until I've put the thyme and onions into the stock...duh. Thus the weird colander idea.

            1. re: oakjoan

              If you have a conical sieve, this might work even better. In professional kitchens, where a stockpot is always on the go, cooks will stick a conical sieve in the middle, and ladle out stock from the centre of it as needed. The sieve keeps all the 'bits' out of the stock. Sort of like reverse-straining it.

              1. re: oakjoan

                Why pick things out? I dump the entire pot through a collander into another pot, then set up 1 and 2 qt Ball jars with the wide mouth funnel and the nylon mesh bag and fill up the jars which get vacuum sealed and go into the fridge. It lasts for months.

                This is clear enough for 90% of uses. If I'm making a clear broth that needs special clarity, I use the egg white technique - in fact, I don't care how much you skim - if you want it really clear, you have to use the egg whites or multiple layers of cheesecloth or both.

          2. I cook my veal stock down to a thick gelatin, gently flavored with thyme, garlic, red wine, and some mild ham. When it's cold, I cut it into cubes which get stored in a zip-lock bag in the freezer. I can use a block for a quick pan sauce for sautéed or roasted meats, but I can also reconstitute a block with water for a full-flavored broth.

            2 Replies
            1. re: GG Mora

              That sounds really good. Can you do this with other things like beef or whatever? When is the wine added?

              1. re: WCchopper

                I do mine this way all the time. except instead of cutting into cubes, I use zipper snack bags.( I put about 3/4 cup in each,and press out the air) there's less oxidation that way. they reconstitute fine for stock or do great in sauces

            2. It ain't done wrong if it tastes good.

              I simmer my stock for 2-3 hours. That seems to be enough to get a nice gelatinous texture when it cools. It isn't "thick", just a bit jello-ey.

              Love the name...."it's peeeoooooppppllllleeeee!"