If there’s anything Americans are good at, it’s throwing the baby out with the bathwater. An excellent example of this, I think, are the brown bits that collect at the bottom of the pan when you put a good sear on a hunk of meat. I can only assume this came about when we decided we didn’t like the French and British. No one on the other side of the pond seems to have forgotten how to use the brown bits. Sure, some of them are better at it than others, but the complete eschewing of all that flavor appears to be a distinctly American tradition, lost somewhere at the bottom of the harbor with proper tea and a fascination with Pippa Middleton’s backside.
Which brings me to another thing that is decidedly underrated in American kitchens: pork stock.
Traditionally, home cooks used “everything but the oink,” but over the years we’ve gotten lazy. We throw out bones and trimmings, scrunch our noses up at hocks and trotters, scowl over liver and jowls. We dump boxes of store bought broth — almost always chicken or beef — into soups and stews and pots of polenta. Not only wasteful, but a damn shame given how much better homemade stock really is and the relative ease with which it can be made.
Stock takes time, yes, but beyond the first five or ten minutes spent making and capturing the flavor of those brown bits it barely even needs supervision. Just check in on it periodically to make sure it doesn’t come to a boil and otherwise leave it alone.
Notes: Just about any pork bones and trimmings will do. Bones from roasts, pork chops or steaks, even hams (though fresh, rather than cured would be best). For this particular pot I used the trimmings off a big pack of pork chops that I’d cubed up for bacheofe. Vegetable trimmings, likewise, can be a wonderful addition to a good stock depending on what you’ve got planned for it. Carrot tops, celery tops and hearts, even a bundle of herbs in a stockpot can infuse a soup with a lot of flavor before it even gets started. For this pot I had polenta in mind so I kept it simple. You should feel free to mix it up and experiment with what you have on hand. Stock is about using up bits and bobs, and not letting anything go to waste.
Serves: 2½ quarts
- 1 TBSP Pork Lard
- Pork Bones & Trimmings
- 1-3 TBSP Black Peppercorns
- ¼ C White Wine
- 3 quarts Water
- Coarse Sea Salt
- In a medium stockpot or dutch oven, heat lard until nearly smoking hot. Add pork bones and trimmings, and peppercorns. Turn bones and trimmings periodically until each side is browned and a brown glaze begins to form on the bottom of the pot.
- Remove large bones from pot and set aside. Deglaze pot with white wine.
- Add bones back to pot, reduce heat to low, add water and a small handful of salt. Simmer about 4 hours. Strain into mason jars and refrigerate or freeze until needed. If freezing, leave about ¼ of the jar empty at the top for expansion and don't put the lids on until after stock has frozen.