It’s 2am on a Saturday morning this February 2nd and I am wide awake. After tossing and turning for what seemed like hours I decided to get up. What to do today? I have never gone to the market at opening time and since I am awake way before the break of dawn, why not bundle up and head on over?
The St. Lawrence Market opens their doors at 5am on Saturdays but the subway only opens their doors at 6am so I had a few hours to burn. January-February typically brings some of the harshest cold weather to Canada but this day promised to be at least bearable for wandering around.
Today will be all about making my own soup stock. It’s winter, it’s cold outside, so why not heat the house up with a big pot bubbling away on the stove. If you don’t have a market close by, or a butcher, you can always buy a whole chicken and make your stock from that. Another option is to use the carcass from your roast chicken, or the bones from your turkey dinner. Don’t think you have enough bones after one meal? You can always put the bones in a ziplock bag and add to the bag until you have enough in your freezer to fill up your soup pot and make your own stock.
It’s now close to 7am. Shopping list in my pocket, bundled up, shopping cart in hand… I head out the door. Are those ice pellets in the air? It didn’t seem like it was going to be this windy but then, it’s still dark so how can you judge what the weather is going to be like until you actually hit the street? Maybe I should have put on those lovely earmuffs my niece bought me for Christmas. Darn, just missed the bus that heads to the subway.
As I wait for the next bus to arrive I decided to check my pocket to make sure I have my metropass. Sure do, but… it’s the one for January. On my way back home to get the correct metropass, I also decide that this time I will definitely put on the earmuffs, warm boots instead of shoes, and a heavier sweater under my coat. On my way out again I think I may have also confused one of the maintenance people in my building. I said good morning to them the first time I left and they looked a bit confused seeing me leave a second time. Well… it is Groundhog Day.
Back at the bus shelter and I see a bus coming over the hill. The wind is picking up and there is now more snow swirling in the air. Are we in for another snow storm? I step onto the bus with a few other riders and we make our way to the subway and onwards to the St Lawrence Market – and it’s still only 7:15am.
At the market I head to St Lawrence Uppercut Meats very close to Anton Kozlic’s Canadian Mustard shop. Truly THE best mustards bar none!! They have a few flavours that I always keep on hand and use in one of my most requested recipes ~ Sweet & Smoky Meatballs. I’ll save that recipe for a future post.
Back to Uppercut Meats… turn away from the mustard shop. My main purpose today was to get some chicken bones to make soup stock. Uppercut Meats have them in abundance and for incredibly low prices. Here you can get a bag of chicken bones for a buck. One dollar will buy you 3 full chicken carcasses (minus legs, neck and wings). More than enough to make a big pot of stock. They also have beef ($2-$3) and veal bones ($3-5), and I’m not quite sure on the prices but the veal bones tend to get snapped up quickly by the neighborhood restaurants and don’t arrive too late in the morning if you want to get the beef bones. I’ve made beef stock on occasion and have roasted the bones first before making a stock with them ~ very tasty. I purchase 2 bags of the chicken bones and wander around the market to see what else may tempt me.
I know, I have my list but… as I make my way to the back of the market the merguez sausage at Di Liso’s Fine Meats (located in stall 15 of the Upper Market) is beckoning.
I can smell the garlicky aroma of these tasty thin coils now and hear the sizzling sound they’ll make when I fry them up. These particular ones are not overly spicy and will go great with my breakfast when I get back home. I also like to cut this sausage into smaller bites and add them to a pasta sauce or tajines. Maybe I’ll make a Moroccan inspired tajine today while the stock it simmering. Hmmm… getting sidetracked again and hungry.
With the bones and meat stashed away in the bottom of my cart, I head to the north side of the St. Lawrence Market where the farmers have their produce and specialty food stalls. This is where I like to get my vegetables, fresh herbs, flowers and the occasional baked goods.
My cart is now fully loaded with everything that I’ll need to accomplish what I set out to do and it’s not even 9:30. Now let’s head back home and get cooking!!
Here is my recipe for Chicken Stock:
2 large carrots (cut into large pieces)
4 celery stalks (cut into large pieces)
2-3 medium onions (remove skins and cut in half)
3 bay leaves
15 ml (1 tblsp) pepper corns
5 ml (1 tsp) salt
1 bag of chicken bones (or 3 chicken carcasses)
1. Remove excess fat from chicken carcass
2. Put everything into a large stock pot
4. Put the pot lid on and bring to a boil
5. Remove the pot lid and reduce the heat until the liquid is just barely simmering
6. Simmer uncovered for 3-4 hrs. You do not have to stir the pot. Just let it simmer away and fill your home with the aroma of chicken.
7. Skim occasionally to remove foam and fat.
8. After 3 hours, remove the bones and place in a sieve to drain and cool. Once cool, you’ll be able to pick the meat away from the bones and will likely have a small soup bowl of meat for sandwiches or some other tasty recipe. Make sure you check thoroughly for tiny bones because the carcasses will literally fall apart.
9. Remove the vegetables and have as a side dish or add to other recipes.
10. Discard the bay leaves.
11. Let the stock cool completely and pour through a fine mesh sieve.
A great trick with stocks is to put them in your fridge, after they have cooled completely, so that overnight all the fat rises to the surface and hardens. The next morning you can easily remove the layer of fat from the surface.
Fortunately for me, it’s winter and the cooling process can be speeded up by putting the pot on the balcony. It was only -15 °C today so my stock wasn’t going to freeze completely. It’s like having a second refrigerator and the hot pot won’t disturb the other food while it’s cooling down (ie. had I put the pot in the fridge).
12. Once you remove the excess fat from the surface of the stock, pour it through another fine mesh with either paper towels or cheesecloth to catch any leftover tiny bits from the bottom of the pot.
What you now have is approximately 2.5 litres (2.5 quarts) of liquid gold. You may have a bit more or less. It just depends on how long you’ve let it simmer. The longer you simmer, the more intense the flavour because more of the stock will have evaporated.
Pour stock into mason jars and keep it in your refrigerator for up to a week, or you can pour it into ziplock bags, freeze them flat, and store in your freezer for a few months. I like to freeze it in 1 litre (1 quart) quantities since I would typically need that much in a recipe that I might decide to whip up. Make sure you label what’s in the bag and when you made it.
Now go get some bones and make some soup stock!!