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Chicken Stock Concentration


Waitman
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So, you're looking a recipe that calls for" two cups of chicken stock (homemade if possible)." How much homemade stock does that actually translate into? We do occasionally snatch up the store-bought stuff, (because we're not Jake-like (going to see Galactic, Jake?) in our production levels and run out at times) and have a fairly good feel for what two cups of low-salt, organic, free-rage, hand-choked chicken stock tastes like. It's thin. So, given that our benchmark for useful stock (ie, how far we'll reduce it before we get tired of waiting and want to go to bed) is about 2.3 times the concentration (on the standard Poulet-Fonde scale) of the dreck from the store, does this mean that I should .8 cups of stock in instead of 2 cups? Or is the store stuff so thin that you'd actually need to add 4.6 cups to get the right flavor? If you're making soup, it's academic -- taste it and see -- but some recipes are a little harder to adjust a la minute. I hate to ruin the delicate balance achieved by professional recipe writers by using the wrong amount use up all my hard-earned stock if I don't ave to, but I don;t want to serve up flabby viands because I didn't add enough.

Obviously, this is instinct and guesswork, but anyone have an opinion?

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So, you're looking a recipe that calls for" two cups of chicken stock (homemade if possible)." How much homemade stock does that actually translate into? We do occasionally snatch up the store-bought stuff, (because we're not Jake-like (going to see Galactic, Jake?) in our production levels and run out at times) and have a fairly good feel for what two cups of low-salt, organic, free-rage, hand-choked chicken stock tastes like. It's thin. So, given that our benchmark for useful stock (ie, how far we'll reduce it before we get tired of waiting and want to go to bed) is about 2.3 times the concentration (on the standard Poulet-Fonde scale) of the dreck from the store, does this mean that I should .8 cups of stock in instead of 2 cups? Or is the store stuff so thin that you'd actually need to add 4.6 cups to get the right flavor? If you're making soup, it's academic -- taste it and see -- but some recipes are a little harder to adjust a la minute. I hate to ruin the delicate balance achieved by professional recipe writers by using the wrong amount use up all my hard-earned stock if I don't ave to, but I don;t want to serve up flabby viands because I didn't add enough.

Obviously, this is instinct and guesswork, but anyone have an opinion?

Depends on what you are using this for. Cooking rice in chix stock instead of plain water? Or, making a sauce out of it? My own rule of thumb is to use your lovingly-made, condensed stock for where it will really make a difference--particularly with that expensive, locally-procured chicken/meat. Otherwise, the store-bought stuff will suffice.

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So, you're looking a recipe that calls for" two cups of chicken stock (homemade if possible)." How much homemade stock does that actually translate into?

Two cups of homemade stock.

I think you're over-thinking the problem if in fact, there is a problem, but I don't think there is a problem if you have two cups of homemade chicken stock.

I write as someone who simmers stock fixings usually for about 4-5 hours, this week, close to six, when the meat on the backs, necks, legs and feet is not worth shredding for other uses, and all but the fat on top solidifies at least to a jiggly consistency if not to the point where you could turn the container over and pretend it's aspic. (Since I lose 3 out of 15-16 cups of water at a very low simmer, I am not sure I'd classify my stock as a concentrate, either.) Others here take that stock and reduce and reduce and freeze the contents of a 4-qt. stock pot in an ice cube tray. Then you'd have to do some math. Enriched stock, that is, chicken parts cooked in homemade stock that is then strained for the sake of making a more flavorful stock? I'd still use two cups, but agree with Barbara about using it judiciously.

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I'm guessing that the question has to do more with intensity of flavor rather than volume of liquid. When the dish in question includes a lot of aromatics and/or other intense flavor elements, I do not waste my precious homemade stock--I use College Inn or Swanson. In those situations where I would want to use homemade stock because I will definitely be aware of the underlying flavor of the broth, and the freezer won't provide any--I sometimes will take some commercial stock and simmer it with aromatics, especially shallot, thyme, bay leaf, parsley and a splash of dry vermouth, for 15 or 20 minutes. It's also quite handy to have a jar of Better than Bouillon chicken base in the fridge. A teaspoon of that will really boost the flavor of insipid packaged chicken broth.

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I'm not going to the Galactic show, as I'll be in NOLA.

NB: This rubric does not work for "stock" made from chickens you've roasted and eaten. A good bit of the yummy from those chickens is in your belly, not in your "stock."

Assumption: After a 5-6 hour cook, you've extracted pretty much all the yummy you're going to get from your chicken bits.

Ergo, the amount of liquid you have left after you've strained and defatted is inconsequential to the amount of stock-equivalent you have. The amount of stock-equivalent you have is based on the amount of yummy you've extracted from your chicken bits. If you take heed of the "Assumption" above (which reflects basic stock received wisdom, CIA and otherwise), then (KEY POINT) the amount of stock equivalent you have is based on THE WEIGHT OF THE CHICKEN BITS YOU STARTED WITH. That is to say, based on the weight if your starting material, you have a certain number of quarts of what would be recognized as full-stock equivalent by the CIAs/other culinary authorities of the world, and you should add or subtract water to get to that quantity.

Now here's where it gets easier. The received wisdom about stock concentration is this: FOR EVERY OUNCE OF CHICKEN BITS YOU STARTED WITH, THE CORRESPONDING STOCK EQUIVALENT IS ONE FLUID OUNCE. Two pounds makes a quart. Or in my case, using two 20-quart stockpots, 32 pounds makes 4 gallons. Works for other kinds of stock too. I make a "ramen stock" (1/3 smoked pork hocks/necks, 1/3 fresh pork hocks/neck/feet, 1/3 chicken) using the same equivalence factor, and it's super good.

By using this rubric, you can make large quantities of stock and reduce and portion it without fear. To wit:

Make your large quantity of stock, fully strained and defatted. Let's say you start with 32 pounds of chicken bits (I like to use about 60% backs, 20% necks, and 20% feet. Hanaro Food in Centreville is a good source for all of these things at bargain-basement prices.) So you have this big pot of jiggly, chilled stock. Its volume is inconsequential.

Start reducing it. Reduce, reduce, reduce until it gets to a small volume that fits in a piece of tupperware you have. It doesn't matter how much you reduce, but I use a 2qt Gladware container to hold the result. French people call the result "glace." I call it "flubber." Yes, there will be some crusty brown bits on the side of your reduction vessel. We'll call this the "angel's share."

KEY POINT: Weigh your empty container (by the gram--you want some precision here). This is called a "tare weight." Then dump your hot, molten flubber into the container. Chill it. It'll be quite firm.

Now weigh the full container (lid on or lid off--JUST MAKE SURE IT'S THE SAME WAY IT WAS BEFORE). Subtract the tare weight from this weight, and you have the weight of your flubber. For a typical 4-gallon batch I do, this weight is about 1800 grams. But if I make a smaller batch, I could still use the 2-qt Gladware, and still get a weight about 1800 grams. The weight itself is inconsequential--as long as you know what it is!

Now portion the flubber into stock equivalent portions by weight. I portion by quarts, so I take my flubber weight for a 4-gallon batch and divide by 16, and using the scale, spoon/pry/chisel off 16 basically equal amounts (by weight!--about 112 grams per in the above example), one at a time, into small ziploc bags. Load into a large ziploc bag, label, and freeze. Done!

When you want to use your stock, add the full quantity of water to it (i.e., one quart of water to a bit of flubber representing one quart of stock). I sometimes even add a little more. Don't worry too much about the volume of the flubber--evaporation during cooking will make it close enough.

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