tips and tricks

For the best beef stock, use a pressure cooker.

I cook seasonally, and winter cooking means stocks. That can be using bit of chicken stock to deglaze a pan or beef stock to add richness to a stew. Stock is like the most basic soup you’ve ever had. It’s a clear liquid with meaty flavors; a good stock is fine to eat on its own, but it shines when it can augment a dish. It is like the bass in a rock band; it’s not the melody, but you’d notice its absence. The three things that make a great stock are:

  • Richness: A meat stock should taste meaty! It should have a hearty, tasty flavor. If you use vegetables, you get those coming through clearly as well.
  • Body: A good stock should set like Jell-O when it’s cold. This is a feature, not a flaw. That setting is from gelatin, which melts when warm and makes the stock slightly thicker. Yeah, I know that gelled stock sounds gross, but you can really notice a difference; thin stock doesn’t taste as good because it doesn’t coat our mouth like stock with gelatin does.
  • Aroma: Great stocks smell rich, too. This means that you’re getting a full meat aroma and if you use vegetables or aromatic herbs, they are clear and inviting. A good stock simmering makes your whole house smell good.

Commercially-made chicken stock does a decent job of all three things here, but beef stock is all wrong. It’s not worth buying, it’s so bad. To find out why you should skip the commercial version and easily make your own, keep reading for my stock tips. (NOTE: my pictures I took for this sucked so I’m going to re-shoot and add them in later; I didn’t want to miss my Tuesday publishing time, though!)

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Alamanac: the week of January 1

Each Friday, I’m aiming to write a smaller post on a variety of things that I’ve thought about over the week. I’m calling it my “Almanac,” a fitting reference to both Writer’s Almanac and Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac.

  • The cold frame is protecting the puntarelle, raddichio tardivo di treviso and quarantina broccoli that I’m growing… problem is, I think I planted them all too late and they’ve gone dormant before they could produce tasty winter greens. The puntarelle makes bulbous stems to eat, the raddichio makes ivory-colored leaf stems and the broccoli… you know what that is. Luckily, the first two plants are members of the chicory family, which means they’re perennial. They’ll still be alive in the spring and I’m hoping I’ll get to enjoy them as a very early Spring treat.
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Twelve things you can do for your garden this winter.

seed catalogsWinter blankets our gardens, covering our work in frost. The beds are tucked in; garlic and tulip bulbs alike sleep in the soil until spring. A gardener might think they must put their hobby to rest (and might even be grateful to!). When you’re getting restless in the late months, here are twelve great things that you can do to stay busy. The big payoff in gardening is that we get to see our successes; this list has more things with definite results. Keep reading to see what to do… Read the rest of this post…