Making Veal Stock

Having veal stock in the freezer is the culinary equivalent of money in the bank. One can pull out a cup or two, add it to a pan sauce and voila, an unctuous sauce that does not need thickening and has no chemical tastes or ingredients.

I use the basic proportions from the CIA’s Professional Chef–10 lbs bones, 1 lb aromatics, 6 oz of tomato paste and a sachet of thyme, fresh bay leaf, parsley and peppercorns. Six quarts of water turns into 16-20 cups of stock. Do this twice and you (I) have enough stock for the winter.

I get my veal bones from Chase Hill Farms. They come from organic, torture-free veal. Jeanette lets me know when the bones are ready and I usually get about 20 lbs worth, about a third of her total supply. They stay frozen until I get around to stock making or my wife complains about not having any room in the downstairs freezer.

First step is to roast the bones. This year, since it was 90° outside, I roasted the bones on my gas grill. I set up two bricks, rested the pan on them and adjusted the heat to 450°. Heat the pan first to save some time. I didn’t think to take a photo, but I’m sure you can visualize it. Took about 45 minutes.

Next is to simmer the bones. I have a large, heavy duty stockpot that holds one recipe’s worth of stock. One nice technique is to bring it all to a boil, skim the hell out of it, then put it, uncovered, in a 300° oven overnight. Trouble-free and you come downstairs to ready-made stock, although, veal stock is not the smell I crave in the morning. This time, I set it up around 3 in the afternoon so I did it in my kitchen. Regulate the heat to keep the stock around 200° F (small bubbles popping on the surface; not a full boil). Every time I passed the pot, I skimmed.

After about four hours, I added the aromatics: onions, carrots, celery and leeks, rough chopped and sauteed until they had deep brown edges. Add the tomato paste, stir it in and cook until the tomato smells nice and has darkened slightly, less than five minutes.

After about seven hours, the sauce had a velvet feel to the tongue, meaning there was a lot of gelatin in it. It is never strong enough on its own for my tastes, so I tend to reduce two cups to one while I am cooking whatever needs it. Strain through a chinois (essential) and cool quickly. Leave it in the fridge overnight.

Cooling the stock quickly is key to avoid spoilage and bacteria. I used to follow the recommended putting the pot in a sink full of ice and water, Takes too long and uses too much ice. In winter, I take the pot and nestle it in the snow outside and hope some small animal doesn’t discover it while it is cooling. Lately, I’ve taken to freezing three or four deli containers worth of water while the sauce is simmering. When it comes time to cool, I slide the giant ice cubes into a plastic bag (I use the bags that my newspaper comes in), tie it, and slide that bag into a ziplock. I float the ziplocks in the strained stock and swirl them around until the temp goes below 90° F, fairly quickly actually.

The next morning, I spoon one cup of the jellied stock into a sandwich sized ziplock and lay it flat on a tray. When I am done, I freeze the tray-full. The flat bags stack wonderfully in a larger plastic bag and it is easy to take out the amount I need. I am a home cook, so I tend to need a cup or two of stock per dinner, not a couple of quarts for consumme .

As I said, the stock is rich and well flavored, but not as strong as I’d like so when I am using it, I tend to simmer two cups of stock down to one along with whatever vegetable ends or browned bones/trimmings I have from the dish. No need for a roux thickener–the sauce clings to the food and pools agreeably on the plate.

When I have a freezer full of stock and plum tomatoes, I feel fully stocked for the winter. Well, almost…

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