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Q&A -- Straining, defatting and reducing Unit 3

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Assuming I've followed all the instructions to this point and have reduced down to about 1/3 of the original volume, would I use 2 parts water to 1 part reduced stock to reconstitute for recipes that call for a specific amount of stock? Or would I need more water to compensate for the fact that these are very rich stocks to start with?

Thanks, by the way, for this great resource! It's truly appreciated and I'm looking forward to more.

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Iain, it's totally my pleasure. Putting all this down "on paper" has helped focus my own thinking a lot, and your questions have been at least as educational for me as for you all.

The easy answer to your question is that, if you follow my instructions and create pretty much the same reduction strengths as I get, you'll want to go about 6:1 on water:reduced-stock if you follow a typical American cookbook recipe that calls for stock or you want to approximate the strength of store-bought canned stock.

The harder answer comes in two parts: 1) Stock is a complex and variable substance and you will over time need to learn to judge it by taste, aroma, and appearance. You can do the same procedure twice and get quite different stocks. That's just the way it works out sometimes. 2) As with an ingredient like vanilla in many baking recipes, you'll find that if you have really good stock you all of a sudden want it to be more prominent in your recipes. So you may want to use a stronger reduction ratio than is called for, unless it's going to knock out other important flavors in the recipe.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Very nice, Steve. Though those were some pretty manky mushrooms.


"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Steve, if you make a fish stock or a shell fish stock, can you reduce them like a chicken stock? Do you leave the fish whole or chop them into big pieces? Is there a kind of fish you'd recommend? With shellfish, do you roast them with some oil on top? Since the shells would not have the natural fat contained in most meat. Great job, by the way!


Ya-Roo Yang aka "Bond Girl"

The Adventures of Bond Girl

I don't ask for much, but whatever you do give me, make it of the highest quality.

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Reminder that if you are making stock in the winter, one can put the pot out on the back stoop to cool before defatting, thus saving on fridge electricity (I more often make stock in winter than summer). Just hope and pray that a blizzard doesn't come along before you bring the pot back in. On year, it took us 3 days to find it under 3' of snow, and another day to pry it loose from the ice that was adhering the pot to the stoop.

The lesson: stock freezes well.


Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

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Steve, if you make a fish stock or a shell fish stock, can you reduce them like a chicken stock?  Do you leave the fish whole or chop them into big pieces?  Is there a kind of fish you'd recommend?  With shellfish, do you  roast them with some oil on top? Since the shells would not have the natural fat contained in most meat.  Great job, by the way!

I'll step in on this one briefly, until FG returns. In making fish stock, you want to stay away from fishes that are generally very oily in nature (cod, salmon, mackeral etc). A good fish to use would be sole or flounder. The stocks themselves can be reduced just like any other stock, yes. It is recommended that if using fish bones, gut them well to get rid of any traces of blood as that will make your stock cloudy. Think of light vegetables to get a light stock (James Peterson recommends fennel branches which I think is a brilliant idea). CIA recommends a 'white' mirepoix (turnips, parnips, fennel, or onion -- no carrots, celery is iffy). There are some who haunt the fish-monger for heads as that tends to be an economical way to make a stock without buying a lot of fish. That is an okay idea IF the heads are very fresh. I made a fish stock from not-so-fresh heads and ended up throwing away a huge Tupperware bin as the smell would never leave.

Regarding shellfish, I would not bother with roasting them at all, but saute or wok them a bit until bright red. "Roasting" in a oven would (I believe) burn them to much. You really just want to bring out a 'little' of their flavor versus having an overly-darkened, burnt flavor. Bear in mind, most recipes calling for fish stock needs a stock that is rather light, not necessarily roasted (not that you can't create something entirely new to experiment with!). By sauteing them, the heat draws out the flavors in the shellfish that would then be extracted in the simmering process.

Hope this helps!

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Reminder that if you are making stock in the winter, one can put the pot out on the back stoop to cool before defatting, thus saving on fridge electricity (I more often make stock in winter than summer).  Just hope and pray that a blizzard doesn't come along before you bring the pot back in.  On year, it took us 3 days to find it under 3' of snow, and another day to pry it loose from the ice that was adhering the pot to the stoop. 

The lesson:  stock freezes well.

Ahem... one caveat: This might be obvious, but I never like to assume.

Snowangel's suggestion is an excellent one IF you live somewhere extremely cold with snow. This hint does not bode well for those living in areas that never see snow (like where I live!).

I did hear of someone doing something like this and didn't understand that it wouldn't work because she lived in Arizona... yeah, stupidity still abounds.

I actually knew a woman who, after roasting a Thanksgiving turkey, assumed she could leave it in her cold oven and cut left-overs from the bird directly for up to week. Her husband was hospitalized and almost died because he didn't know that his turkey sandwich he was having for lunch a few days later WASN'T from refrigerated meat! True story, I swear.

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So after about six hours of simmering, I took my chicken stock off the heat. Here's how it looked:

stockstudent2.jpg

Then I tried the "lid" straining method-- it was a near disaster. I started pouring and realized I was about to send more of my stock down the drain than into the strainer. So I retreated to plan B. I didn't clean the sink; I just ladled out the big bits into the strainer, then emptied the strainer into the trash. When I'd got enough out of the big pot, I could pour with no problems.

I ended up with about 6 qts. of stock from my 8 qt. simmering vessel. It has a nice, rich yellow color. I tasted it. It's good-- but I don't know if I can judge it yet. It had too much fat and no salt, both of which will change later. I also tasted more celery than I expected. Here's the post-straining product, with a view of some chicken bits in the strainer behind:

stockstudent3.jpg

I wish I could post some pouring photos, but my wife went to bed three hours ago, muttering something about how one shouldn't lose sleep over chicken stock.

I just put the big pot in the fridge. I hope it doesn't spoil the milk.

P.S. I'm not sure these pics are really posting. I'm trying my best.


Edited by Fat Guy (log)

"I don't mean to brag, I don't mean to boast;

but we like hot butter on our breakfast toast!"

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So after about six hours of simmering, I took my chicken stock off the heat.  Here's how it looked:

Then I tried the "lid" straining method-- it was a near disaster.  I started pouring and realized I was about to send more of my stock down the drain than into the strainer.  So I retreated to plan B.  I didn't clean the sink; I just ladled out the big bits into the strainer, then emptied the strainer into the trash. When I'd got enough out of the big pot, I could pour with no problems.

I ended up with about 6 qts. of stock from my 8 qt. simmering vessel.  It has a nice, rich yellow color.  I tasted it.  It's good-- but I don't know if I can judge it yet.  It had too much fat and no salt, both of which will change later.  I also tasted more celery than I expected.  Here's the post-straining product, with a view of some chicken bits in the strainer behind:

I wish I could post some pouring photos, but my wife went to bed three hours ago, muttering something about how one shouldn't lose sleep over chicken stock.

I just put the big pot in the fridge.  I hope it doesn't spoil the milk.

P.S.  I'm not sure these pics are really posting.  I'm trying my best.

Best of luck -- I gotta admit, the lid technique doesn't work for me either. I think I'm just not strong enough to lift that many pounds of stock and bones and mirepoix and stock-pot. I ladle it out with a 4-cup, handled measuring cup until it is light enough for me to lift to pour the rest.

The other added benefit of ladling is that when you see your cheesecloth (if you use one) get too mucked up with sediment, you can change to a clean one.

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Okay, from the course materials:

The best thing to do is get as much stock out and through the strainer as you can before you lift the pot. In other words, take a big ladle or even just a jar or other vessel, and transfer as much stock as possible to the receiving vessel. This will substantially cut the weight of your stockpot (the liquid is heavier than the solids, which is why the solids float), making it easier to lift and pour.

The idea with the lid method isn't to use it to strain the entire stockpot. The idea is to use it to get the stock out of the pot after you've already removed as much as possible with a ladle or other scoop-worthy utensil.

Thanks again for the photos, Seth (and also gsquared for the photos on the other thread). It's highly gratifying to see that people are actually doing this.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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You will remember that I made two brown stocks - one with meat that had fewer bones than the other. After defatting and reducing, here are the results, with the stock made from the less "boney" meat on the left:

stock2.jpg

The main difference between the two is that the meat with fewer bones produced a less gelatinous stock. As far as the taste is concerned, the first one is perhaps slightly more meaty. My SO, whose palate I respect, maintains that the one with more bones has more body. The mouthfeel of the boney one is distinctly smoother. I mixed the two in equal proportions as suggested by Rachel. The mixture tasted different from the two components, but not markedly so - I preferred its mouthfeel, though.

In any event, I am seriously chuffed with this stock! It is far, far better than anything I have produced up to now, and streets ahead of anything I have tried off-the-shelf. Thanks FG! Bring on the sauces!


Gerhard Groenewald

www.mesamis.co.za

Wilderness

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Fat Guy, thanks for this whole excercise. It's been a lot of fun so far, and it provided an excuse for me to finally get off my butt and make some stock.

What do you think about this?

I'll be reducing my chicken stock tonight-- from about 6 quarts to I guess two or a little less. I'm dying to add a little salt, maybe just half a teaspoon, before it reduces, so I can let the salt cook into it and taste the stock before it goes in the freezer. Bad idea? Some on these stock threads have said a little salt's okay. Should I add even less?


"I don't mean to brag, I don't mean to boast;

but we like hot butter on our breakfast toast!"

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- the first one is perhaps slightly more meaty

- the one with more bones has more body

Those would be the expected results. In general, body comes from the gelatin in the bones, and meaty flavor comes from meat. In a brown stock, there is also meat-like nutty flavor coming from the oven-roasting of the bones, the tomato product, and the simmering reactions over time, so you'll get meatiness in a bone-heavy stock just not as much as if you'd used more meat. It's hard to do an exact comparison without weighing the raw meat and bones separately so as to determine exactly how much of each is going into each stock versus how much water, and monitoring various other comparative elements throughout the process. But it sounds as though you nailed it.

Thanks again for posting those highly instructive images.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I'm dying to add a little salt, maybe just half a teaspoon, before it reduces, so I can let the salt cook into it and taste the stock before it goes in the freezer.  Bad idea?

If you're eventually going to make sauces with the stock, it's probably a bad idea. If you add enough salt to make it taste nice at its standard reduction ratio then you will have something that's overly salty upon further reduction. A teaspoon or whatever probably won't hurt, but probably won't help much either. My suggestion would be that you take one cup and set it aside for taste-test purposes. Add a little salt and do a quick reduction in your smallest saucepan, tasting at the beginning and throughout. That way you'll satisfy your curiosity and be able to make some salt-enhanced tasting notes, but you won't affect the primary inventory of stock.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Can frozen, non-reduced stock be defrosted and then reduced? I've been making my own stock for a while, but it has never occurred to me to do a serious reduction (hey, mom never did it, so I never learned how.) Now I have a couple of gallons of chicken stock in my freezer right now, and it would be nice to get that down to a manageable, concentrated amount. But I don't want to screw up what I already have...

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Can frozen, non-reduced stock be defrosted and then reduced?

Absolutely. Just dump the frozen stock in a pot and go. Start on a low flame so the first bits to melt don't get scalded, then go up to high heat and a medium boil once the pot is actually full of liquid. And if you do it right now you'll be set to participate in the saucemaking exercises for the rest of the week.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I'm dying to add a little salt, maybe just half a teaspoon, before it reduces, so I can let the salt cook into it and taste the stock before it goes in the freezer.  Bad idea?

If you're eventually going to make sauces with the stock, it's probably a bad idea. If you add enough salt to make it taste nice at its standard reduction ratio then you will have something that's overly salty upon further reduction. A teaspoon or whatever probably won't hurt, but probably won't help much either. My suggestion would be that you take one cup and set it aside for taste-test purposes. Add a little salt and do a quick reduction in your smallest saucepan, tasting at the beginning and throughout. That way you'll satisfy your curiosity and be able to make some salt-enhanced tasting notes, but you won't affect the primary inventory of stock.

A discussion on the use of salt in stock can be found here:

Chicken Stock, How do you make yours?

I do not intend to contradict the Teacher; this is merely an attempt to inform the discussion with a little empirical evidence -- and to encourage students to experiment on their own. As FG and Carolyn have been saying, once you've got the basics, you can adjust to suit your own tastes and cooking style.


Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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Okay, from the course materials:
The best thing to do is get as much stock out and through the strainer as you can before you lift the pot. In other words, take a big ladle or even just a jar or other vessel, and transfer as much stock as possible to the receiving vessel. This will substantially cut the weight of your stockpot (the liquid is heavier than the solids, which is why the solids float), making it easier to lift and pour.

The idea with the lid method isn't to use it to strain the entire stockpot. The idea is to use it to get the stock out of the pot after you've already removed as much as possible with a ladle or other scoop-worthy utensil.

Thanks again for the photos, Seth (and also gsquared for the photos on the other thread). It's highly gratifying to see that people are actually doing this.

Ooops... guess I missed that part, too!

mea culpa.

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There are some consumer-level stockpots available that have spouts, but I don't recommend them. Too much can go wrong.

I don't know about that. I'd love to get my hands on one of these babies.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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that baby looks highly desirable.

please sir, can i ask a question about simmering stock or am i too late? can i simmer in the oven (i've never tried it before)?


Edited by enthusiast (log)

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In re to the defatting... I'd like to mention that there is no reason whatsoever not to take the skimmed fat, boil it with a little water to clean it up a bit, separate it from the dirty water using a defatting pitcher and store it in the freezer for future use. Those of us who have made it can tell you that nothing compares to matzo balls made with real chicken fat. The beef fat is probably less useful if tomato was used in the brown stock -- but duck stock, pork stock, turkey stock, etc. all yield very useful fats for cooking. It is also very nice to make the roux for starch-thickened sauces and gravies using the fat of the same animal with which the sauce will be served. Using turkey fat, deglazed turkey pan drippings and turkey stock gives a super-strong turkey flavor to your Thanksgiving gravy.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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Absolutely. Just dump the frozen stock in a pot and go. Start on a low flame so the first bits to melt don't get scalded, then go up to high heat and a medium boil once the pot is actually full of liquid. And if you do it right now you'll be set to participate in the saucemaking exercises for the rest of the week.

Sweet. Then I get to play too!

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that baby looks highly desirable.

please sir, can i ask a question about simmering stock or am i too late? can i simmer in the oven (i've never tried it before)?

Never too late! And it works, but takes a bit longer. I've done 24-hour chicken stock where I bring all the ingredients to a boil and then chuck the thing in the oven for a day at about 250 degrees. The only downside that I can see is economic: Does it cost more to run a full oven all day and night versus a single stove unit?

The other downside is the skimming -- it is a bit harder to get in and skim every now and then. Usually, when I make an oven'd stock, I don't bother to skim at all and just strain better later.

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