Veal Demi-Glace: The Stock

If you’ve been following along, this is part of a series of posts on the subject of making demi-glace. Previously, I’ve covered the basics that you need and the process of roasting the veggies and veal bones. There’s also a screed about why you should make veal demi-glace in The Frederick News-Post.

At the end of our last post, we had roasted a bunch of vegetables and veal bones and stuck them in a stockpot. To said pot, add some whole peppercorns, some thyme (dried is ok, or a few sprigs of fresh if you have it) fresh parsley and a few bay leaves. Then add some tomatoes in some form. I’ve added fresh chopped tomatoes, a can of peeled tomatoes, some cherry tomatoes that were rolling around the produce drawer–whatever you have on hand is fine. For my 25lbs of veal bones, I’d use about a tablespoon of peppercorns, a quarter of one of those supermarket tubs of fresh thyme, half a small bunch of parsley, 8-10 bay leaves, and 2 28-oz cans of tomatoes.

Then top off everything with fresh, cold water. You want enough water to cover all the bones and vegetables completely, but you don’t need water in excess of that. Stick the stockpot on your stove and crank the heat to high.

Bring the veal stock to a boil. This takes over an hour for me with my big 5gal stockpot sitting on one of those “power burner” high BTU eyes. As the stock builds in heat, you will start to see foamy stuff rising to the top of the liquid. Use a ladle or a skimmer to remove this. (Here’s a tip for skimming any liquid: stick the bowl of your ladle in the center of the pot. Without pulling the bottom of the ladle out of the water, start drawing circles with the ladle. Make the circles bigger and bigger. This will push the scum out to the outer ring of the pot. From there, it’s easy to grab it off the surface by dunking the edge of the ladle bowl underneath the water level. The foam just jumps in the bowl and you can discard it easily.) Skimming your stock is essential–impurities rise to the top surface and you have a chance to get rid of them before they make your stock cloudy and muddy. It’s always a good idea to skim stocks periodically as they cook. Most of the junky stuff appears early on, especially as the stock approaches the boiling point.

Once the stock is at a full boil, cut the heat down to the lowest setting possible. (If you are using an electric range, you may want to move the stock to a different burner–if you leave it on the same burner as you used to bring it to a boil, it will take a long time for the eye to cool off. If you have a gas range with a “simmer burner,” that’s the best spot for your veal stock.) You don’t want the stock to stay at a hard boil. Boiling agitates the liquid and forces those impurities that rise to the top to get mixed in with the stock. Eventually, they will become emulsified, and it will be impossible to remove them–the stock will be cloudy in flavor and appearance.

The best is for your stock to be at a slow simmer–so slow, bubbles break before they can rise all the way to the surface of the stock. If your range is testy, you can try pushing the stockpot so it’s partly on and partly off the burner. (This technique of keeping the pot off-center is also helpful in that it means impurities will congregate at the surface of the stock farthest from the heat source–so they’re easy to skim off from there.) This slow, gentle heat will extract maximum flavor and gelatinous texture from the veal bones and help you ensure a clear, sparkling stock.

Leave the veal stock at a slow simmer for 12-14 hours. That’s right, 12-14 hours. If you feel confident you won’t set the house afire, feel free to simmer your veal stock overnight. If you don’t feel confident about it, start your stock first thing in the morning and let it work all day. Don’t try to chivvy it along by increasing the heat–it really takes that long to extract all the gelatin from the veal bones that you need to make a full-bodied demi-glace. You should visit periodically to check that it’s still simmering slowly and to skim any errant muck off the surface, but it doesn’t require a lot of babysitting at this point.

If you made it through all that gathering of equipment and ingredients, roasting, chopping, simmering and skimming, you’re on the home stretch. Honestly, you really are! Stay tuned for what to do with your hunka steamin’ veal stock next…

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