This is one of my favorite sights: Stock cooling on the counter. We make stock from our leftovers and from the packages of soup bones that come with the quarter-cow we buy most years.
The process is so simple. I keep a bag in the freezer to hold all of my vegetable scraps: carrot peels, onion and celery ends, even herb branches when I’ve cut more than I ended up using. I also save bones in other bags: chicken carcasses, Thanksgiving leftovers, soup bones. When I have enough of one kind of bone (usually about two chicken carcasses), I throw them in the slow cooker with the bag of frozen vegetables. And I add whatever I feel like adding: A bay leaf, some peppercorns, a couple of garlic cloves. I fill the slow cooker with water and then add about a teaspoon of vinegar and let the whole thing sit for an hour or so. I’ve read on Nourishing Days that this step leaches nutrients from the bones; I’m not sure whether that’s true, but it’s easy enough and doesn’t hurt, so why not?
After an hour, I turn the slow cooker on low and let it go for 24 to 36 hours. After this slow cooking, the house smells incredible, the dog is going crazy, and I am a straining away from some amazing — and free — stock. After the stock cools, I strain it through a mesh strainer lined with a paper towel or some cheesecloth. I then pour the strained stock into canning jars. Because I freeze rather than can my stock, I leave a little room in the jars for the stock to expand as it freezes; when I haven’t done this, I’ve ended up with cracked jars.
I usually get anywhere from three to four and half quarts out of this super-easy, made-from-scraps system. And every time we pull one from the freezer, Phil has to listen to my raving about the magic of slow cookers, leftover bones, and homemade soup. It’s one of many crosses he has to bear.