Monday, July 14, 2008

Pork Stock

When I decided to start cooking my way through The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, I wasn't looking for a project. I certainly have plenty to do. And I'm already a serious home cook. I cook all the time. But I was intrigued by how apparent Carol at French Laundry at Home and Julie of the Julie/Julia Project improved their culinary skills as they moved through the books The French Laundry Cookbook

and Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume One.

What I didn't know when I started, was how quickly it would happen. I'm only at the beginning, and I'm already looking at things in a very different way. I have developed what I call Zuni head. Zuni is with me in the market, it's with at the stove (even when I'm not cooking a Zuni recipe), it's with me on the subway, where you can usually find me holding a copy of the book. Zuni is becoming part of me.

One of the reasons this is happening is because Judy Rodgers doesn't just give you recipes. She has delineated the principles she cooks by, the first of which is

Deciding What to Cook

The process of deciding what to cook should always begin with deciding where to shop and what to buy {or, if you are lucky, what to harvest}. Only then should you settle on the preparation, which should suit the qualities of those ingredients, as well as your experience, time frame, and equipment. I add a premium for choosing a dish that suits the weather. To assess and balance these things well is no mean accomplishment, and a good sense of what to buy and how to use it is not developed overnight. Such skills are, however a pleasure to acquire.

Judy Rodgers, The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, Page 30.
Rich Pork Stock
Stocks & The Sauces They Make Possible, Page 61

What I needed before I could make the next recipe I had my eye on was pork stock, so I had to make that first. At Zuni pork stock is made with a pig's head. However, for homemade pork stock I only needed half a pig's foot split since it has "a comparable combination of skin, cartilage, meat, and bone." Since you won't have the thrill of seeing a pig's head in this post, and I hate for you to feel deprived, go over to Carol's for a minute. Cool, right?

Back to me and my measly piece of a pig's foot. In addition to that I needed either some fresh pork shank or bone-in lean pork shoulder butt. (If you look at a diagram of a pig, you will see that pork shoulder and pork butt are the same. Go figure. Judy Rodgers calls it pork shoulder butt.)

Once again, I headed down to see Jeffrey, my butcher, because I knew he could hook me up with what I needed. He is an engaging fellow and is always so happy to see me that it's one of my favorite things about what I'm doing, especially since he's excited about it too. Jeffrey didn't have fresh pork shank, but he did have pork shoulder butt.

He also had the requisite pig's foot.

Notice the bones in the picture. Jeffrey sawed the bone he removed from the pork shoulder butt into three pieces so there would be more surface area,


I took this all home, and it was time for me to get to work. I removed any visible fat and cut the pork shoulder butt into 3-inch chunks. I had those chunks, the bone cut into three pieces, and a half a pig's foot cut in half again.

I put these chunks with the bones and the pig's foot into a stainless steel braising pan that had been preheated briefly over a low flame so the meat and bones would sear and not stick. You don't want the meat piling on top of itself, but you do want the entire bottom of the pan covered with ingredients because you don't want the meat drippings that accumulate in the pan to burn, which would happen if there were exposed areas.

I put the pan in the oven, which had been preheated to 450 degrees. After 20 minutes I turned the meat and bones over and rotated the pan. After 15 minutes more everything in the pan was a gorgeous color, so it was ready for the next step.

I transferred the contents of the braising pan to a 12-quart stockpot.


I removed all the fat from the braising pan and added a little bit of cold water to the pan, put it over low heat, and stirred to mix the drippings with the water. The instruction was to taste it, and if it was "porky," to add it to the stockpot, but if it was scorched, to discard it. Luckily, mine tasted great, not burned at all, so I was able to use it.

The recipe for pork stock calls for chicken stock instead of water, which makes it a compound stock.

Compound stocks are meat and poultry stocks we make with meaty bones, scraps, and carcasses, browned and then moistened with our chicken stock or chicken stock plus water. Since it is flavorful and slightly gelatinous already, chicken stock gives these second-generation stocks a kick-start. They achieve lovely body in fewer hours, without overcooking the new flavors~beef, pork, lamb, rabbit, duck, squab, or other meats you might make into stock.

Judy Rodgers, The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, Page 55.
I already had chicken stock waiting in the freezer so I thawed it out overnight in the refrigerator, then brought it to a boil, and chilled it again before I used it. I know freezing doesn't kill pathogens and boiling does, and you want to start with cold liquid when you're making stock, so that's why I heated it only to cool it down again. After the porky drippings were added to the stockpot, I added 4 cups of cold chicken stock.




Then I added cold water to cover the pork by an inch. I brought it to a simmer and skimmed the foam, but, honestly, there wasn't much foam, which, I believe, was because the meat and bones had been roasted.



The recipe called for a 12-ounce onion, which you can see for comparison is the same size as a teacup.

I added the onion, halved, 2 stalks of celery without leaves, one bay leaf, and a few whole peppercorns to the stockpot. No carrot is added because the pork itself is rich and sweet.

This simmered for about 5 hours without further skimming and no stirring. It turned the color of maple syrup described in the recipe.

Then I strained it promptly by ladling the stock through a fine mesh strainer followed by putting the meat and vegetables in a colander placed in a bowl to continue dripping.

I poured a little water into the stockpot, swirled it around to "capture the syrupy stock" that was clinging to the pot, and poured this over the meat and vegetables in the colander to snare any syrup that was clinging to their surfaces. I strained this through the fine mesh strainer into the already-strained stock, cleaned the stockpot, and put the stock back into the stockpot.


I put the stockpot in an ice bath to cool the stock.


Next, I put the cooled stock into a Pyrex measuring cup and refrigerated it. When it was cold, I took it out of the refrigerator and removed the fat from the top of the stock. I think (if you look closely) you can see how jellied it is.

Before putting it in Ziplock freezer bags I heated it up, and strained it through a Chemex coffee filter. This stock started out quite clear so I only had to strain it through the coffee filter once.

I ended up with two cups of beautiful, wonderful-tasting pork stock when I was done to use with Mock Porchetta, which is up next.

A Home Cook's Notes

When I was getting the shoulder pork butt ready to cut into 3-inch pieces, I wasn’t kidding about removing the fat, which I did with kitchen shears.


This resulted in my having lots of little pieces of lean pork shoulder butt. I didn’t want to discard them, but I didn’t want to put them into the braising pan that was going into the oven because I thought since they were so much smaller than the other things in the pan, they would char, so I took a skillet, rubbed it lightly with one of the pieces of pork fat, heated it, then browned these smaller pieces on top of the stove until they were golden brown but not hard. I set them aside.




Then when I added the golden ingredients from the braising pan to the stockpot at the beginning of making the stock, I added these pieces too.

Judy Rodgers suggests enjoying the spent pork while it’s still warm either on focaccia topped with a little fresh ricotta and lots of cracked black pepper or dappled with a spoonful of Chimichurri or Salsa Verde. I’m sure that’s delicious. I tasted it when it was done sprinkled with a tiny bit of salt; it was good. I refrigerated the larger pieces and served it sliced the next day as part of a luncheon platter with a little aioli. That was good too.

I found that using a 12-quart stockpot was so much easier than using a 20-quart pot in terms of handling and washing that I think that if I make a double batch of stock again as I did with the chicken stock, I will use two 12-quart pots instead of one 20-quart pot.

Thanks to Sylvano, who held my place in the book for me.

6 comments:

Ai Lu said...

Great posts on stock-making! We recently made a beef and veal stock from "The Silver Spoon," which had such an intense, meaty flavor that it seemed almost a pity to use it for risotto.
In what other ways do you feel that your cooking has changed from reading and using Zuni?

EB said...

Hee hee 'Zuni head'? Officially your new nickname. I love the way you're laying out each and every step. Even if I never make from scratch pork stock, I can feel like I did. I'm really loving this.

I need a Sylvano to help me in the kitchen!

e. nassar said...

I cannot believe I still do not own the Zuni book, a situation I will remedy very soon. You are off to a great start is what will surely be a very enjoyable and informative blog. BTW, from what I could see, you have a very nice kitchen as well, I love the blue in there and the stove. As or shoulder butt, the 'butt' end is the one closer to the neck as opposed to the end closer to the arm. I think I saw Alton Brown explain the name 'butt' like that once.
Blog on.

BrassMan said...

Truly a silk purse piece of writing. Kudos to you for introducing "Zuni Head" into
American consciousness. "Zunivore"
is next. Great photographs. Can I rent your cat?

White On Rice Couple said...

Both cuts, shoulder and butt, are the same, but the shoulder does have more skin on it...does it not? I'm curious now because our butcher has two cuts...shoulder and butt, but the shoulder seems to have more skin. .

We use both interchangeably but for grinding and smoking pulled pork, we will use the pork butt, primarily because the butt cuts that we get tend to have more fat. Fat is good. It would be interesting to try to smoke the shoulder cut and see if we get the same results. Thanks for the valuable information.

Great site so far! It is so fascinating and informative to see your whole process and insight. Can't wait to see what you've got lined up next! We're hooked.

Anonymous said...

I've got 4 lbs of pork neck bones and 32 oz. of turkey broth and I'm going to follow your steps. Wish me luck. Great blog post. Thanks.