There’s lots of theories as to why it happened, some sensible and some way, way out there.
Here on the Homestead, we’re pretty sure it didn’t have anything to do with aliens while acknowledging the very plausible argument that NASA had a finger in the pie. Whether it comes down to being too time-hungry, too revolting, or just downright archaic, somewhere along the way the practice of making your own stock/bouillon plummeted into that weird twilight-zone abyss we explored in Homestead Kitchen –Essence. In short, it became one of those unfathomably produced, mined, or concocted ingredients well beyond the abilities of the humble home cook.
Therefore, in “The Olden Days” (as Farm Girl likes to call any time prior to the year 2000) that elusive rich, full, oomph-packed flavouring was purchased in powder form (dehydrated, added salt, added fat, added “flavour”, stabilized, and emulsified) or compressed into little individually foiled cubes. In fact, as it’s usual storage place in the pantries of the senior Homesteader’s youth was alongside the cinnamon, mixed spice, mixed herbs and mustard powder, it took a while for these fledgling home makers to work out that it wasn’t just another exotic spice. This misconception wasn’t helped by the cookbooks available at the time to this wet-behind-the-ears duo; even the soup recipes starting with boiling ham hocks in vats of water for several hours called for the lobbing in of a hearty helping of the magic/Maggi dust. Somehow, while poor old salt was shunned, languishing on the verboten list with eggs and butter, stock powders were able to surf the culinary wave, cleverly changing tack whenever a wipeout threatened.
Straight from the lab! Cutting edge science! A culinary breakthrough! Low fat, low salt stock.
As little Homesteaders began to appear and the labelling of ingredients became law in New Zealand and Australia, we became a shade more aware of just what we and our precious tots (sigh…they were soooo cute) were ingesting buried in our hearty, homemade soups, stews and casseroles. This enlightenment spawned a period of relatively tasteless meals, if we’re being honest. Tomato puree was rather over employed as a reliable, relatively unmitigated taste enhancer and we learnt an invaluable amount about herbs and spices, but at the end of a wet, miserable day when you’re all fighting a bit of a sniffle you can’t beat a bowl of good ol’ chicken soup. Cue: Homestead Hero, Hugh.
Not a whisper of manufactured flavour and the most wonderful soundbite from Tony at 1’58 to snigger at.
So we started stockpiling…ahem…stock. Generally, we stow the leftovers from roast dinners, celery ends, parsnip tops, mushroom stalks and the like in dedicated “stock bags” in the freezer (note: the chocolate muffin bag now no longer resembles the bacon rind one; you only make that mistake once) . Then, when weather conditions dictate the daytime ignition of the woodburner, out comes the mega-pot, selected bags are upended and covered with water and, hubble bubble, the cauldron is left to do its thing. We like to leave it overnight to cool into a gloopy, jellied mess, then reheat it to boiling in the morning. Straining, cooling and then skimming off the excess fat (which obligingly sits in a solidish mass on the cooled surface) wrings every last little bit of goodness out of the core ingredients.
Sometime we go all out and throw some bones into the oven with the express intention of making stock. Okay, we may pour over a garlic, honey, soy sauce, mustard concoction in the final half hour or so of cooking, boil up a pot of floury spuds, steam some greens and smoosh it all together to enjoy before consigning the bones to the respective freezer bag (maybe we shouldn’t have shared that) or we might do as we did this time and genteelly pick the meat from the bones á la the hugely fashionable pulled pork. It just depends how stone age (cheers Tony) we’re feeling.
The species supplying the meaty goodness dictates the final resting place of the boiled remains. They’re either fed to the hugely appreciative chickens or, in the case of the flavouring coming courtesy of one of their brethren, consigned to the depths of the lidded, turbocharged worm farm for disposal.
The resultant liquid lusciousness (we’re talking stock here, not worm farm ooze) is either frozen in old honey containers (approximately 400 ml lots) for future gravy, stews, casseroles, pasta dishes etc or we add prettily cut up vegetables along with the mandatory handful of finely chopped parsley to make the yearned for soup. We always taste before serving and usually end up adding a pinch or two of salt.
Yep, we know: it’s verboten. But at least we know what it is because we put it in and, besides, here on the Homestead we like living life on the edge…of the Stone Age.