The screw-all-that-boiling, making-stock-in-summer alternative
Nothing says summer like… um… making homemade stock. Because, hey, it’s summer! Yeah, summer. Who doesn’t want to boil liquid over a blazing hot stove for hours on end, wondering how much sweat you’re contributing to the flavor profile?
Oh good, I’m glad I’m not the only one.
But here’s the rub. We just polished off our last pint of frozen homemade slow cooker chicken stock, and stock is a-needed in this household. Luckily, we have an awesomocious slow cooker, and lots of seafood scraps.
More Julia Child than Alton Brown
I’ll tell you right now, I am not a precise person when it comes to stock. All I care about is extracting the goodness from the scraps, to give a good baseline. A stock that’s too thin can be reduced later. If you need more complex flavor, you can cook up some stock with veggies, grains, meat, other scraps or whatever, and make a little thing called soup.
Getting a good baseline ain’t rocket science. No equations, liquid nitrogen or nanogram measurements required. To make good stock, you need liquid, scraps, heat and time. Everything beyond this is frippery.
Making stock is easy.
In the freezer… about 4 pints of seafood scraps
We keep a “stock fixins” bag in the freezer. It’s a plastic grocery bag. Inside that bag are various gallon or quart zippie baggies for chicken bones, seafood scraps, veggie scraps and such-like bits. Once we’ve accumulated enough, it’s time to fire up the slow cooker to make a batch of whichever stock we’ve got bits and pieces for.
In this case, we’re all out of chicken scraps (though I’m about to pull a chicken out of our inventoried freezer, and its bones will lead the way for more slow cooker chicken stock). What we do have, is about 4 pints of crab shells, shrimp shells and various seafood bits and cast-offs. Perfect.
Recipe for slow cooker seafood stock
Here’s what I love about slow cooker stocks: Using the slow cooker means you don’t have to heat up your kitchen, so you get bonus points for being able to make stock year-round. Plus, slow cooker stocks are so easy, my dog could make them. Actually, she’d eat all the scraps. But she would still be able to master the steps involved, if she put her mind to it.
Quick aside: All our stock-making notes come from a workshop on using your slow cooker for making stocks, broths, braised meats, etc. This class was put on by Kraut Pounder, the Eugene/Springfield area chapter of the Weston A. Price Foundation. You can keep an eye out for similar classes from Kraut Pounder via their website and newsletter.
- Various fish and seafood scraps (fish heads, bones, seafood shells, Poseidon’s pitchfork trident thingie, the characters from The Little Mermaid; you know—whatever’s on hand)
- Optional: Vinegar, about 1 tsp. per pint of scraps (helps with mineral extraction, but not required; we use apple cider vinegar, but use whatever the heck vinegar you want)
- Optional: An outside surface (we’ll get to that)
- We use a rough 1:2 ratio of scraps to water for our slow cooker seafood stock, such as 1 pint scraps to 2 pints water. This method has been validated by years of scientific research or, rather, me eyeballing things as I grabbed bags out of the freezer this morning. I did measure the water though, and the ratio thing seems about right.
- Bung all the seafood bits into the slow cooker and add liquid. You want everything covered by a couple of inches or so of water.
- Add the vinegar, if using.
- Cook on low for 6-7 hours (aim for a gentle simmer, not a big rolling boil).
- Let stock cool. We usually spoon the stock through a strainer into a big bowl to help it cool faster. You could also fill a bowl with ice, and set your stock bowl on top of that.
- Spoon stock into jars (if using soon, say within a week), and put in fridge. We freeze a lot of our stock, so we write the date, contents and amount on a freezer bag (usually one pint per bag), bag up the stock, make sure it’s cool, and bung it in the freezer.
Now, about the optional outside surface thing: Some folks don’t care for the smell of seafood stock as it cooks. The fishy aroma is also known for lingering in your kitchen longer than a hippie in an apartment full of free weed. If possible, you can always put your slow cooker outside (ours is on our patio as I write this). Just be smart about things like electricity, weather, critters, small children, and beady-eyed neighbors sneaking over with ladles.
Fishy fishy bang bang
There you go! Now you have awesome, ready-to-go-or-freeze homemade slow cooker seafood stock. You were even able to make it in the height of summer, and not sweat your skin off in the process.
Viva la year-round stock-making!