I am a huge fan of stock, I can dozens of jars of salmon and deer stock every year, and I use it all the time. Stock is the ultimate thrifty person’s food, there’s probably as much nutrition in the bones of an animal as in the meat, and different stuff too– like loads of calcium, and gelatin (which comes from the cartilage and is supposed to be real good for you). All I know is, I can’t hardly make soup anymore without cracking a jar of stock. Seems on a par with onions. And, hey, I don’t want to brag, but my soups are good. A friend visiting recently became obsessed with some soup I’d made the day before. It was just a bean, veggie and macaroni “oh-this-ole-thing?” kinda soup, but she said she’d never had anything like it. “It’s not my cooking prowess,” I told her, “it’s the stock.”
If you’ve never made stock before, there’s little easier. Just cover bones with cold water, bring to a simmer, and continue simmering for a few hours (just 30 mins for fish, too long gives it a weird flavor). When you’ve cooked all the goodness out of the bones, they’ll look sort of bleached, all the meat will have fallen off and the cartilage dissolved. Then just fish out the bones and strain the stock. That’s it!
You can reduce it to make a concentrate if you want, just return to the pot and keep a boil on it until it cooks down by half or so. But I never bother, I just can it straight up. You have to have a pressure canner to can stock, follow the manufacturers directions and process at 10 lbs pressure for 20 mins (for pint jars). If you don’t have a pressure canner, you can freeze stock beautifully. Pour into straight-sided pint jars, tupperware, or even zip-locks. Slightly less space efficient, but way more handy is to freeze the stock in ice cube trays or any small plastic containers (like yogurt cups) overnight, then pop them out into a big zip-lock for storage. That way you can just grab however much you need, and throw it straight into your cooking pot.
Here in Cordova it’s easy to get bones, everyone here puts up a home-pack of fish, and many more of deer as well, and I’m one of about three people that uses the bones. (I’ve always felt something of a heretical evangelist when it comes to making stock…) But I suspect, with a little research, you too could track down a good bone source. For one thing, butchers usually give ‘em away for free or near to it. Is there any kind of hunting in your area, maybe contact a hunting association…? Or you could just save up bones from your own kitchen.
I ought to mention a few refinements, not at all necessary. One that I’ve never tried is adding vinegar to your bones, before you cook ‘em. Somewhere in the ballpark of ¼ c. for a big stock-pot. It’s supposed to help draw the minerals out.
Another thing, which I sometimes do and sometimes don’t depending on how pressed for time I am, is cracking the bones. Unless you’re getting cut bones from the butcher, all that marrow goodness needs a way to get out. Be forewarned: raw bones are hard to crack, take ‘em outside to your chopping block and use your maul if yer gonna do it.
Lastly, if your stock looks very fatty, you’ll probably want to let it sit somewhere cold overnight, so you can lift the fat off before you freeze or can the stock. I’m usually a big fan of fat, but since it goes rancid relatively quickly it decreases the shelf life of your stock. It also seems to carry flavors in the stock that are less desirable.
Now that we’ve gone over making stock, what about making bullion?
I recently read an article in Backwoods Home by Selina Rifkin about making bullion and I just had to try it. It was a great article, and might be a great idea for somewhere else, but after trying it here I can unhesitantly say, I can’t fucking believe I just did that.
When you make bullion you pretty much just boil the hell out of your stock– boil it down, she said by three quarters, but that was still nowhere near done. I started with about 3 gallons of stock, and ended up with about 2 cups of bullion. That means I just put 2 and 7/8th gallons of water into the air in my house!!!! Considering our humidity in this coastal rainforest is already almost 100%, I might as well have just taken a bucket and poured 2 and 7/8th gallons of water all over everything! What the hell was I thinking?!
In addition to cultivating more mold and fungus in our house than ever before, making bullion took more of my time, and way more stove energy than just canning the stock. I tried it on the woodstove, but it wasn’t hot enough. It took 6 or 7 hours of medium-high heat to turn that much water into steam and distribute it to the nether reaches of our home. Not even remotely worth it.
If you live somewhere really frickin’ cold, keep your woodstove crankin’ and get chapped lips and static-y hair in winter, then it would probably be awesome. If you do, look up her article in Backwoods Home, Issue 114.
I must admit– the finished little cubes of brown, rubbery bullion are cute as hell. And I haven’t tasted it yet, but it smells like it got a nice carmeley-roast flavor.
And now, I’d better go mop my carpet.