Thursday, December 17, 2009
Taking...make that Making Stock
Not that long ago, I was pretty kitchen phobic. Sure, I made breakfast, packed kids' lunches and prepared family dinners, but it wasn't my favorite passtime. In fact, I really kind of hated that daily stuff. My only steller moments had to do with baby food from scratch and blue-ribbon quality strawberry jam (if I do say so myself). But a few years ago, around the time I started being interested in CSAs (read more about these here http://www.localharvest.org/csa/ ), I also started cooking again. In contrast to the way my husband cooks - and he's truly skilled in the kitchen; we eat really well when he's in charge - I don't tend to use recipes. Instead, I peruse the fridge and pantry, check out what's on sale at the grocery store, Google a few recipes with those main ingredients and then whip something up combining ideas from several recipes. Most of the time I've been pretty successful. Often this technique yields soup. And most soups require some kind of stock as the base. Commercial stock (think Swanson's, College Inn, Progresso) is one of those pantry staples most cooks always have on hand. We particularly like the Swanson's organic type that comes in a box with a re-closable plastic spout. The organic part is good, I think. But the packaging isn't very green - it's not recyclable and there's plastic involved. Canned stocks might even have bisphenol (BPA - read more about it here http://www.foodproductiondaily.com/content/view/print/271046 )in the packaging. So I have learned how to make my own stock. It's easy. It's relatively inexpensive. And it's a more environmentally-friendly way to feed your family. Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything and The Joy of Cooking have great recipes that I sort of follow, but I improvise too. For example, I save chicken bones in a zip-lock bag in the freezer to use when I have the equivelant of a whole chicken, rather than buy a chicken just for making stock. The flavor won't be as rich, but it's still pretty good. I'll use more onions, garlic and parsley stems than the recipe might call for in a vegetable stock, just because I have them on hand. And I might leave out the parsnip because I don't have one in the fridge when I feel like making stock. Stock freezes well so I try to make a big pot of it and pour it into quart-size containers and ice cube trays for freezing. After the stock in the ice cube trays is frozen, I store the cubes in a freezer bag to add to rice, mashed potatoes, stir fry or leftovers for moistening. No preservatives or additives. If you've bought your chicken and veggies locally, or even better, grown them yourself, there are very few transportation miles involved. High marks for both frugal and green. And pretty tasty too.