Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A Five Gallon Start

I'm not sure how it happened. We put a 5 gallon stock pot in our wedding registry. We have been generously gifted the said stock pot. It has been used once  for primary fermentation of one gallon of plum wine. Once we put the cat in it to see if he fits. But ever since then, it has been sitting on top of the refrigerator looking useful, but unused.

I finally decided to make proper use of it and cooked a full pot of chicken stock in it and I'm not sure how it happened that I never realized how much liquid 5 gallons really is. It turns out that five gallons is a LOT of liquid. A bit distressed,  I used every available jar in the house to store it, and now I could either feed an army with chicken stock or survive for the rest of winter. 

I got a bit more than I bargained for. I am not only the proud owner of 25 various sized jars of beautiful, honey colored broth, but a beautiful jar of golden shmaltz. 

Now... shmaltz. Where I grew up, shmaltz was something white, made out of pork fat, with a layer of apples and little pieces of crispy bacon. It was unforgettable on bread, almost a religious experience, however bad for you. Shmaltz can mean any type of rendered animal fat, and as is the case now, I have chicken fat. It has been a traditional animal fat used by many cultures, including the Ashkenazi Jews in Europe. I have never had much experience in it, but there was so much of it after this five gallon escapade that I kept it and decided to learn some traditional ways to use it. 

5 Gallons of Broth

5 gallons of water
6 chicken legs, with thighs and skin
1 bunch of parsley
2 large yellow onions
10 large carrots
2 large parsnips 
(let's face it - everything needs to be large)
two tablespoons of salt
tbsp whole black pepper
1 tbsp allspice
5 bay leaves
two leeks (washed carefully)

I added two large beef bones too - it helps to round the flavor a little bit)

Wash the chicken legs thoroughly and put all the other ingredients in the pot. The onion doesn't need to be peeled as the skin helps to add color to the broth. Fill the pot with cold water. Turn the heat on medium low and... wait. For a VERY long time. It is very important to not let it boil. The key is very slow simmering over a long period of time. I simmered my pot for 6 hours, then waited overnight and simmered it for two hours more. It is also important to can it when it's still hot. 

Shmaltz - 
At this point, the chicken fat is melted and floats to the top of the hot broth. It's the easiest to see when you put it in jars. It will be that slick, thick, and you'll be able to take it out no problem with a turkey baster. Put it in a separate jar. It will set overnight!

To jar the broth - 
Carefully wash your jars and lids. Take a large funnel, a sieve and let's get going! I use a sieve to prevent any large particles from getting in the jars. After such a long period of cooking, there will be a lot of vegetable particles floating around. The funnel is not necessary but helpful. After putting the lids on, let the jars sit and cool down before putting them in the fridge. You will hear a loud "pop!" as they cool. That's the lids sealing themselves. 

This will sure last for a long time. Total cost - about 13$. 

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