Taking and making stock

I spent way too much of yesterday doing stuff around the house. Laundry had built up, and a couple of sets of sheets and the winter coats needed washing, so. Dinner was to be roast chicken, which I have made often enough that I expected simplicity. No, Life said, simple it shall not be.

You see, I had taken the chicken out of the deep freeze on Thursday with the intention of making it Sunday. Then I decided that I would declare Sunday a Writing Only day, which meant I had to make the chicken yesterday. Now the thing was like a ball of marble when I took it out of the deep freeze, and after two days defrosting in the fridge there was still solid ice in the cavity. But I put it under a cold water stream and cleaned it out as it went along. I could move the wings and legs after about an hour and a half, so I stuffed the cavity with lemons, thyme, and garlic, plopped it on a bed of veggies, and stuck it in the oven. After about 2 hours, the temp probe in the thickest part of the thigh read 174F, the drumsticks came off with a twist of the wrist, and all was well. Except…

…except that the way deep inner part of the bird must still have been frozen when I put it in the oven because unclear (read: bloody) juice poured out when I cut into the spot between thigh and body. So I hacked the thing up and stuck it back in the roast pan, roast pan back in the oven. It only added a few extra minutes to the cooking time, but it derailed the carving and meant the platter etc needed to be washed and roasting chicken is so damned basic so why oh why can’t I get it RIGHT?

Next time, I will need to remember to take it out of the freezer earlier to give it time to defrost. Like maybe a week.

Then, since I hate to waste a good carcass, I decided that Saturday evening would be a great time to make stock. I had already cut up the veggies and had them sitting in the 8-qt stock pot atop the stove. So I added the chicken carcass, along with some frozen remains of a previous bird. 12 cups water. Let it simmer for 4 hours, then strained out the solids and cooked down the liquid–yes, I followed a recipe, somewhat. This one–until it had cooked down to about 5 cups of rich brown stuff that jellied in the fridge overnight. I think I added too many veggies and not quite enough chicken, and maybe I should have taken the time to roast the veggies first, but it still looks good and has a nice flavor. And the house still smells like soup, which can’t be all bad on a cold winter day.

In other news, the indoor herb-growing experiment is paying dividends. The basil is leafing and while growth is slow, there is growth nonetheless. I doubt I will end up with enough to make a batch of pesto, but there’s enough to add a small bunch of leaves to a salad or the odd sandwich. The tarragon is hardier than I thought. It did manage to survive last winter in the deck planter, and the root system that I dug out and potted is budding and the meager stems that were in a second small pot are putting forth leaves. The thyme is lagging, but I had been harvesting quite a bit and it never was the most vigorous plant. But it is entering its third year and I”m hoping if I leave it alone for a while that it will come around. It’s possible that it needs repotting in something a little bigger.

But the star has to be the flat-leaf parsley. I almost dumped it at the end of summer because it was down to a mass of cut stems with no new growth to be seen. But I brought it in on a whim and it’s thanked me by taking off. Masses of new growth. Leggy, yes, a bit, as it strains toward the window. But the low 60s indoor temp seems to agree with it.

Up too late and slept too long, so, need to work. And now I need to figure out what to do about Gaby. She whined for attention and so I gave her one of the squeaky tails and now she wants to play fetch. I may have to put her outside in the cold, which just means the opportunity to kill something, a situation to which she is not averse.

3 thoughts on “Taking and making stock”

  1. I’ve been a veggiesaurus for 20+ years and would probably accidentally kill someone if I tried to cook them meat (or at least make them very sick). BUT, my mom and I co-host Thanksgiving dinner. She does the turkey and a few key requested (i.e. demanded) sides, and I do the rest of the cooking because I enjoy it so much.

    She tried doing the bird in a roaster this year for moistness–it worked out (except she had to transfer to the oven to brown…it came out looking a bit like a cooked pencil eraser) and there was a lot of turkey juice left in the bottom of the roaster. She’s not terribly fond of cooking, so doesn’t do stock/soup/etc.. I took the juice home to make homemade dog biscuits with it (usually I do veggie ones, so this was a special event although they do love the PB/banana ones!). The juice was still warm when I put it in the fridge, so the jellification was a bit unexpected and a bit blech when it came time to make the biscuits. They have been enjoying them, though. The cats too.

    I was up late last night too. My Baker Creek Heirloom Seed catalog came in the mail yesterday, so I was up reading and dreaming and circling and planning…

  2. Seeds. Last year at this time, I had already decided what I would plant, but I’m at a crossroads this year. I love the idea of fresh tomatoes, but to be honest the flavor of even some of the supposedly tasty varieties just doesn’t impress me. I’m 53, and I remember opening the paper bag filled with farmers market tomatoes and the smell hitting me in the face. I know I sound like a Getoffmylawn!, but tomatoes just don’t taste like they used to, including the heirloom varieties.

    But Black Crim and Cherokee Purples aren’t bad, so I may give them another try. I’ve heard that Arkansas Travelers are good. Cherry tomatoes are good, although they’re mostly just sweet.

    More basil next year, I think. Thyme. Herbs in general, parsley and tarragon and mint. I have no luck whatsoever with peppers.

  3. I am not a fan of fresh tomatoes (I know! I know!), but I *love* them cooked. Especially roasted. I’m going for a few paste tomatoes (Amish Paste and Principe Borghese), but otherwise am trying some new varieties of pear and cherry tomatoes to roast including red, yellow, and purple types. Could be that you just haven’t found your variety yet, or it may be that your taste buds have changed over time. It happens, which is why people MUCH older than you tend to eat like birds…food just doesn’t taste as good.

    I usually grow a few varieties of peppers — red bell, jalapenos, and pimento. Might do an ancho or other variety as well, but it will depend on if I have room anywhere.

    I grow many varieties of carrots, beets, cucumbers, peas, and eggplants (I’m going to give a yellow variety a try this year — it just seems wrong for eggplants to be yellow but very intriguing). Also do garlic and strawberries. I put in an asparagus patch this year, so it will be a few years before it starts producing. I got a significant amout of raspberries this year from a bush I put in the year before–of course none of them actually made it inside the house, but that’s the case with the strawberries as well and I have a 3×10′ plot of them…just can’t beat sun-warmed berries…

    I put in parsnips this year and they are just about ready to harvest. I want one more hard freeze before I start digging them up to taste. If it goes well, I’ll put in more this year. There are still beets and carrots in the ground too to harvest over the next month.

    I grow many herbs already, including three types of basil — Genovese, lime, and lemon. I like the Genovese best for pesto and throw the other two into salads or use them in baking/sorbets. I’ve got taragon, chives, and peppermint in containers on the porch that reliably come back each year and a monster of an oregano bush that I have to abuse terribly in the summer to prevent it from taking over the garden. If I had known it was in the mint family, I would have taken steps before I planted it 10 years ago! For some reason, I’ve had a bit of trouble growing dill the past two seasons, but I’m keeping at it because it is one of my favorite fresh herbs (it goes lovely with the lemon basil in salads).

    I have grown butternut and sweet dumpling squash in the past and will give it another go this year since they are two of my favorites. I’m not a big fan of summer squashes — luckily they produce so heavily that I can always find a neighborly source to trade with if I need one!

    This year, I think I am going to try growing celeriac and onions, which will be new. Technically, I tried to grow onions this year, but one of the dogs got loose and trampled them all just after I had put the sets in the ground. He also dug up the blueberry bushes, so those were a no go too. The birds got the concord grapes before I could harvest any. 🙁 All will require better fencing, I suppose.

    Anyway, I’ll let it stew for a few more days then check what seeds I had left over/saved from this past year, then place my order. At least one variety I was interested in recommended starting indoors about 12 weeks before last expected frost date which means I’ll need to have the seeds in hand by mid-January at the latest.

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