There’s Gold In Them Thar Bones! by stegall
November 30, 2008, 8:57 pm
Filed under: Cooking, Holidays

If you’d been staking out the Liu’s house on Thanksgiving evening, at some point you would have seen me sneak out their front door cradling a roasting pan hurriedly covered with tin foil. If you’d pulled me over for a seemingly minor traffic infraction and asked me to pop the hatch, you would have found the butchered and cooked carcasses of two turkeys hidden in my trunk.

I’ve read for the longest time that one has zero cred as a home-spun foodie if one hasn’t tried making stock, and I can see why. It’s just that everytime I happen to have a decent pile of bones I have no where to store them or I do, and I freeze them, and three months later I wonder why there is a freezer-burned chicken skeleton lurking in the back of the Frigidaire.

So this Thanksgiving I decided to give stock making the old college try. Once Kir and I got settled in Pennsylvania, we started buying birds whole again (you pay a lot less per pound if you do the nasty stuff yourself) and kept the rack of a grass fed chicken frozen. I swiped the remains of the Liu-family thanksgiving fowl (one of which was a quite tasty, local, grass-fed turkey) and that gave me the weight to make stock in significant quantity


First step is to take the cooked birds and strip off any bits of good meat that the carver missed (raw remains can go right in the pot). This process is likely to make your hands a greasy mess, and bits of debris are bound to end up on the floor. Save yourself clean-up time by investing in one of these (literal) puppies.


If you are fastidious (and the person carving your turkeys was in a big hurry), you can recover this much turkey sandwich and turkey salad meat:


Now would be a good time to wash out any rogue stuffing that lodged inside the rack. Then break everything down so that it can be compacted in the pot and not take up more space than necessary. Fill the pot with enough water to cover the scraps and let her boil.

img_3652See that sea-foamy garbage that rises to the top? Bring it down to a slow boil so you can skim that off. Then add a couple of quartered onions, a few split carrots, some celery stalks (if you’re into that sort of thing), and many handfuls of peppercorns. It so happened that I had a whole jar of pink peppercorns salvaged from the Fowlkes family’s Brooklyn apartment, which is good because black peppercorns wouldn’t have looked so delicious on camera.
img_3668And now you simmer, simmer, simmer. If you are in cooking school or just plain anal, your drill-sergeant soup instructor or your neuroses (respectively) will force you to stand by your stock-in-progress for the next 6-8 hours, diligently monitoring and adjusting the temperature to maintain ideal conditions. An “ideal” simmer is one where the water boils one single bubble at a time. Any faster and the boil will rough up your scraps and yield a cloudy stock. Any calmer and the stock will take forever to form (if at all). Oh yeah, you also have to refill the stock every hour or two as water evaporates and return it to a delicate simmer.

I, for one, am not in cooking school, am not (normally) anal retentive, am not planning on making crystal clear consomme with my stock, and am trying to finishing work on the bathroom while all of this is going on. So I try to keep it at a slow simmer, but if it boils a little… no big deal.

img_3656When your little hoover makes this face, you know your floor is clean. Time to put her away!

After many, many hours of simmering you should be able to grab a bone with a pair or tongs and crush it without much ado. You’re done! Take out the scraps and let your stock pot cool on the back porch until morning.

This is a little sample that I poured off and stuck in the fridge. You can see it really isn’t that clear (I’m an amateur after all), and the cold has caused the collagen to jelli-fy (dark cloudy areas), but that’s what makes soups and sauces made with stock so tongue-coating good: collagen.

img_3689In the morning, skim off any remaining scum from the surface and strain the stock through a cheese cloth a couple of times. Then pour it off into containers of your choice (1-cup, 3-cups, ice cube tray, etc.)

img_3670Here you see 27 cups of stocks of about a 40 cup yield (I already used some for soup, it was amazing). Let’s put that in street value: 2 cups of FreshDirect brand stock sell for 2.99 online, based on those numbers I just made almost $60 out of some spent turkey bones, mirepoix, and water. Now I can make great soups and sauces without making myself a slave to Swanson!


3 Comments so far
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i had to make consomme at school and it is the most time-consuming and ultimately disappointing process in the world — sure the resulting broth tastes good, but was it worth the hours of back-breaking standing? hell. no. so well done to you! i just cleaned our chicken carcass of meat today and considered making stock… had i read your post earlier, i probably wouldn’t have thrown it away. well done indeed! i bet it tastes awesome! (i also just read a turkish recipe that makes stock by putting the whole thing in the oven…)


Comment by aarti

I’m so impressed. And here I was just throwing celery tops and onion skins into a pot with the bones, and calling it broth. Should have known you would take a more studied and patient approach!

Comment by Helen Stegall

My, my…how soon a southern boy forgets his roots! You can’t make real stock without bay leaf. At least you can’t in the south.

Comment by Jungle Jim Clemons

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