This is something I’ve mentioned in past posts, and it’s seriously a lifesaver – or at the very least, a wallet-saver and a my-kitchen-garbage-smells-really-bad-saver. What is this magic, you ask? It’s called making your own stock in a pressure cooker.
If you don’t have a pressure cooker, I guess you’re out of luck.
The recipe for this is pretty simple. I think I saw it in a pressure cooker cookbook once, and I’ve kind of edited it since then. Every time you cook with vegetables, save the scraps – root ends of onions, leafy greens that are about to go bad, potato peels, stems of fresh herbs, that kind of stuff. Whatever things you would otherwise throw away (or compost, if you’re awesome). I like to just chuck all these veggie pieces in a freezer bag and stick it in the freezer.
The other thing I do about once a month is buy a rotisserie chicken and shred the daylights out of it, which I think I talked about in the Coquettish Croquettes recipe. If you’re going to do this, shred the chicken while it’s still warm! While the meat is warm, it falls apart much more easily and you can just use your hands – they’ll get all greasy, but it’s much preferred to having little cold chicken bits under your fingernails for days. Save the chicken bones and toss them in the freezer too until you’re ready to make stock. Alternatively, you can buy beef bones at a butcher or save the bones from whatever other meat you’re eating. Alternative to the alternative, you can also make this a veggie stock if you don’t eat meat.
When the veggie bag is full, I usually put it and the bones in the fridge overnight to thaw a bit. I don’t know if it matters, but it makes the veggies a little easier to work with because you can press them down and they’re not in one huge chunk. The next day, when you’re ready to start, you’re gonna roast the bones first. I put the oven at 375 and toss the bones on a baking sheet with some olive oil, bake ’em for 40 minutes or so. Sometimes, if I have some onions, carrots, and/or celery I’m not using, I’ll chop those up roughly and put them in the oven, too. The onions in particular add a lot to the stock, I think.
Once the bones are done, dump everything into the pressure cooker. I like to add a dozen peppercorns and some dried rosemary, basil, maybe thyme, a bay leaf or two, I just kind of roll with whatever I find in the cabinet. It’s up to you what you want your stock to taste like. I also add a handful of salt because I have a tendency to under-salt my recipes, so adding salt to the stock means I might not under-salt later. Be sure you don’t over-fill your pot; keep track of the max fill line. Add water to the line, cover the pressure cooker, and bring it up to pressure. As soon as it gets to pressure, reduce the heat to maintain the pressure and let it cook for 30 minutes.
When the 30 minutes are up, turn off the heat and take the pot off the burner. Let it de-pressurize by itself – I find that it usually takes an hour and a half or so, but we have my in-laws’ old pressure cooker and maybe it’s not going to take as long on a newer one, I don’t know. One thing you don’t want to do is quick-release. I made that mistake once because I was in a rush and I ended up with only half as much stock; I think I lost a lot of it as steam. Be patient and budget the time. Cooking hangry is never a good idea. Just order pho. (Speaking of pho, those tall containers they use to give you the broth when you order pho to go are perfect for freezing stock. But I’ll get to that in a minute.)
Once the pot is de-pressurized, I like to put a colander inside a large bowl and ***carefully*** pour the stock, veggies, and bones into the colander. That way, I can just lift up the colander and have all the soggy stuff come with. I usually have my husband hold the colander while I press on the veggies and bones with a wooden spoon to get out a little more of the stock, but honestly it’s probably not worth it; I don’t think I get more than a quarter-cup out of the veggies doing that. But I like to have my delusions.
Now, once the stock has been strained, you can either refrigerate it overnight or portion it out and put it in the freezer right away. Placing it in the fridge overnight means that all the fat will congeal on the surface, making it easier to skim off. If you don’t do this, it’s not a big deal, but if you put it in the freezer without skimming off the fat, it may still separate in the freezer. Again, not a big deal; it just forms a disc of fat on top of the stock. It’s really up to you. Anyway, here’s where the pho containers come in. I pour 2 cups of stock into each container and freeze them, then pop them out into a freezer bag and take ’em out as needed. I chose to do 2-cup increments because I’ve found that a lot of recipes call for 2 cups of stock. You can do 1-cup increments or 1/2-cup, whatever works.
So there you have it: pressure cooker stock! It takes quite a while from beginning to end, but a lot of it is waiting, and you can easily do other things in the meantime if you don’t mind the constant hiss of a pressure cooker. Now, I know that stock doesn’t cost that much – you can get 4 cups for about $3.00 at a grocery store near me – but when you cook often, especially if you make soups often, it can add up. This is a great way to use up food scraps that you’re going to throw away anyway. I mean, you paid for them in the first place, so you may as well make something out of them. Reduce, reuse, recycle!