Continuous stock making
I've been using stock more and more regularly when I cook and right now it's a bit of a hassel; have to time out when a batch will be finished, sort it into bags and freeze/melt for each subsequent use, clean extra containers, etc. I was thinking maybe I could make things more efficient skipping those extra steps by just having a crockpot dedicated to continuously making stock. Since the cooking time for stock is pretty wide (12-72 hours from what I've seen) I could just let it run and ladle out whatever I need at each meal, and replace what I've taken out with more water and occasionally switching in a new beef bone or whatever's on hand.
Do you think this would work? Are there any downsides to running my stock continuously like this rather than making discrete batches (like buildup, weird taste over time, etc)?
I only think it would work on a "long weekend" basis, not a continual basis... and only if you were going to do just one type of stock. Even if you were meticulous about replacing the celery, carrot, onion, etc. and adding fresh meat/bones and herbs, I think the stock would eventually take on a questionable color and flavor after a few days. And I think "tending" your stock would end up being about the same amount of work as fussing with the containers and freezing/defrosting. I do a lot of the freezing of stock and fussing with containers, but I save deli containers for this purpose and the stock making is a side-project on weekends.
But who knows? Maybe you'll start a new trend along the lines of ancient fish sauces and bread starters where you share your stock with others who put it in their crock pots and add water + veg + bones + herbs of their own and they'll credit the deep, rich flavor to your "master" stock!
I have made stock in a crockpot many times and like it, but there may be an easier way. I have just begun experimenting with simmering down stock to create a super concentrate. Earlier this week I cooked down 4 quarts of stock into <1 cup. It's a thick solid jelly that I have successfully added to water for polenta, and part of a bowl of pasta w/ goat cheese for a chickeny flavor.
I salted this stock mixture to make it last a hair longer in the fridge. I figure something salted and concentrated like this will hopefully last a couple weeks in the cool portion of the fridge.
I think the glace route is the best solution for the OP. It can be kept in the fridge or better yet, frozen in ice cube trays, then bagged. This will take up very little room. Energy usage for keeping a pot continually going can really mount up. You don't really need to add much if any salt because once the stock is reduced, there will be a good amount of salt from the ingredients.
You can't find LOW sodium chicken/meat base or bouillon in the supermarkets - just "reduced", and it's still plenty salty.
My father in law was an army cook in WW2. He used to keep a pan on low simmer at the back of the stove and wood throw any left over bones, skin, veggie scraps into it and at the end of the week make a soup out of it.
Modern crockpots cook at close to 300 degrees F. If you could get an old one from a garage sale where low is 180 degrees, it might work well.
I assume if you are considering this that you make a lot of chicken/poultry dishes. It would also work well with primarily veggies and what few chicken pieces go in there. That would make a nice stock.
re: Hank Hanover
Cool, I will check to see how hot mine runs. My older one actually ran really hot.
I'm curious, what temperature do you all aim for when you simmer the stock on the stove. It'd be interesting to know if there's an 'ideal' minimum temperature. Especially since it's such a long cooking item, each degree saved could save a good bit of energy. I'm guessing 160 is as low as you'd want to go to keep out bacteria but is that enough to get all the good stuff out?
Restaurants do this all the time.
One of the restaurants our family owned used to do this.
Doing this at home has downsides that don't necessarily show up in a restaurant kitchen. For one, it can get sort of hot in the summer months, it also takes away one part of your stove, and lets not forget the energy costs.
But if you're willing to live with those issues, then by all means, go for it.
And the positives? You always have stock handy, and you'll always have some of the BEST tasting stock handy.
You could can your stock, instead of freezing. That is what I do, pressure canning is not hard. I have done stock in crock pots before also, but I switched to a 12 quart stockpot because it takes less space, I have more temp control and it makes more in one batch. I was running 2 crock pots at once for stock previously.