If you’ve delved very far into the world of stock-making, you know that gelling is one of the signs of a good stock. Gelling means that your stock contains ample amounts of gelatin, a substance that is so valuable for both digestive healing and general well-being. Which brings me to a confession: although I’ve been making chicken stock regularly for more than two years now, my stock doesn’t usually gel.
The exception is if I add chicken feet, which are so rich in gelatin that they impart some gel to just about any stock they’re included in. Whenever I make chicken stock with just raw chickens and/or roasted chicken carcasses, however, my stock remains liquid even after it’s been thoroughly chilled.
I’m pretty sure I’ve figured out what the problem is, though—and like any self-respecting traditional foodie, I am thoroughly excited about it.
My Stock is Too Dilute!
Last weekend I finally decided to cook up the five stewing hens that have been hanging out in my freezer for the last several weeks. My freezer was already pretty full of chicken stock, though, so after straining out the bones from the finished stock I decided that I would reduce the stock by boiling it down for a while. Several hours later, I had reduced the stock by more than half. I let it cool a bit, put it into jars and stuck it in the fridge.
When I looked at the jars of stock the next morning, I was astounded by how gelled they were. It really looked like I’d added powdered gelatin to my stock—but of course the only thing I’d done differently was concentrating the stock after it was finished cooking. Naturally, I concluded that the reason my stock doesn’t usually gel is because it’s always too dilute. That gelatin had been there all the time, but there was so much water present that the gelatin wasn’t making its presence known.
I’d always wondered whether I might just be adding too much water when making my stock, but the trouble is that I only ever add enough water as I need to cover up my chickens and/or chicken carcasses. Because of the size of the chickens, bones and my stock pot, it just so happens that I usually have to fill the pot most of the way to the top if I want everything to be underneath the water. Reducing the amount of water that I add, then, is not really a feasible solution. But, it does seem to work just as well to reduce the amount of water at the end by concentrating the finished stock for several hours, as I did last weekend.
Why I’m Feeling Encouraged
I’m feeling very encouraged by this discovery for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the fact that the gelatin appeared after concentrating makes me pretty convinced that it’s always been there in my stocks, albeit at a concentration low enough that it wasn’t causing the stock to gel. Still, it’s good to know that we’ve still been consuming it all this time.
Secondly, I’m excited about the fact that I can now further boost our gelatin and mineral consumption by concentrating my stocks after they’re finished cooking. Since we’re not always great at drinking as much stock as we should, this also seems like a good way to get in even more stock goodness while drinking the same amount of liquid. (And if you reduce the strained stock in the pot you originally cooked it in, you won’t even be dirtying any more dishes, which is a definite plus in my book. )
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Do you make stock? What tips can you share?
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