Is it Necessary to Make Your Own Stock?

Photo by CN Digital StudioPhoto by CN Digital StudioBy Regina Schrambling,

Way back before I started eating for a living, I remember a big editor at the New York Times telling me he and his wife would never eat at one of the most renowned restaurants in the city, even though it was very near their home, because she once spotted College Inn cans in the garbage. Any kitchen that cut corners on the foundation of so many sauces and soups was not to be trusted.

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Maybe, but going through the long, smelly, sloppy process of making my own stock this turkey season has me wondering if it's worth the bother. I would never resort to cans because that little clot of fat that bobs up when you open the lid is always so unsettling, as is the undeniably industrial taste. But I'm finding I use stock less and less.

And that reality sank in when I started my annual ritual of simmering the turkey carcass with aromatics to make gumbo. I wanted it ready for dinner, and the stock is usually the slow slog, so I dug around in the freezer and turned up two quarts from last year. Somehow we got through 12 months with leftovers.

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We're not big soup eaters, so maybe it's dispensable. For sauces, I'll use milk for bechamel or vinegar for beurre blanc (or cheat and use porcini cubes for mushroom bouillon; Italian convenience foods always seem acceptable). Otherwise, the way I cook these days could be stock-free.

Next year's gumbo is covered, though. I short-cut my usual all-day process and produced about a gallon of fresh stock. Maybe by 2013 I'll be ready to face it again.

Also, too, while making stock is the classic professional way to recycle trimmings, I always have to go out and buy celery fresh because it's among my least favorite vegetables and so is never in the crisper. Luckily, it may be due for its time in the sun. I bought this wild bunch at our neighborhood Greenmarket from a farmer who is among the surprisingly few in the network to grow it, and an Iowa farmer I follow on Twitter mentioned he is going through his seed catalogs and thinking celery. The stuff has been so dulled-down by supermarket growers it has no way to go but green.

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