Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The never-ending stock pot

     I used to think boxed chicken stock was great. Sure I preferred to make my own, but I didn't always have a chicken carcass on hand, and It's an easy way to add a bit of flavor to your meal without too much work, it stacks easy in the pantry, and at $2 a pop at Trader Joes, it doesn't cost much. But now $2 is a quarter of our daily food budget! That means either we give up boxed stock, or we don't eat much else...

   I gather that back in the good old days, when food was important (and women stayed chained to the stove) every household had a stock pot that simmered away at the back of the stove all the time. A busy housewife would toss in all the the scraps and trimmings that a busy home kitchen produced, keep it topped up with water, and have good stock or broth on hand all the time! My solution after the jump.

     With a modern electric stove (and modern ideas about hygene!) I can hardly do the same, so I went looking for some ideas. Jame's Beard, in his appropriately titled How To Eat Well for Less Money, had a solution. Store your stock in the refrigerator and boil it once a week with new scraps and trimmings. I've been doing this for the last few weeks, keeping the stock in a 2-quart mason jar and saving cauliflower stocks, odd bones, and bendy celery to boil up every Sunday. So far I'm pleased with the results, though the taste changes pretty radically from week to week. I suppose I would get better results if I had a more regular, consistent menu every week. Also, I've left it boiling too hard a couple of times, and it seems to be perpetually cloudy. It's not a perfect menu, but it fits our budget just right! Has anyone done something like this before? Any tips on making it better?