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I am tinkering with my stock recipes.

For pork stock I have been using 8 cups of water over a roasted trotter, a roasted backbone section with about 4 inches of rib attached, and a 1/4 inch slab of roasted pork belly.

For the beef stock I have been using 8 cups of water over an equivalent amount of roasted beef bones (knuckles and backbone/rib).

This gives a very flavorful stock and, for cost reasons, I want to determine how much I can reduce the concentration (by adding more water) without reaching too watery a taste.

Does anybody have any guidance on this topic?

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2 Answers

I don't think you have a problem here. If you find yourself with a rich stock but your recipe needs something gentler, you can simply dilute it as necessary.

When making stock, I follow Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's methods (from his Meat book):

  1. Use as much bones as you can reasonably fit in the stockpot; break them up with a cleaver if necessary.
  2. Include vegetables: onions, carrots and celery are the classics, but some others also work e.g. switch parsnips for carrots to give a paler stock.
  3. Pack the stockpot with the bones and veg until it's mostly full, then cover with water. Use enough water to cover the ingredients, but not much more than that.
  4. Bring to a boil and simmer.
  5. When simmered, strain the liquid and bin the remaining solids.
  6. With just the stock, boil it hard to reduce it down to a smaller volume of richer stock.

I reduce mine until, from a large stockpot's worth of stock, I have as much liquid as fits in a single icecube tray, freeze the cubes of stock and keep them in the freezer in a plastic bag for when I need them. Then, I just dilute to taste if necessary; for example if I want a light stock for cooking rice then just one or two cubes to a litre of water works well. If I want to enrich a stew, I might throw a few cubes straight in.

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Thank you. I never boil stock hard until I have removed the top layer of fat after a night in the fridge. If I boil it before, the fat emulsifies and cannot be separated out. –  Mikey P Jan 16 at 16:51
    
Ah, I didn't realise that - I'll give your way a go next time and see how I get on. –  vincebowdren Jan 17 at 9:15
    
From a chemistry standpoint, is more going to dissolve from the bones if you use more water since there's a lower concentration? –  JFA Jan 31 at 19:03
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There is no single optimum ratio.

You can make very rich beef stock, and either thin it down to a flavor level you like for a given application, or use it more sparingly; similarly, if you make a less intense stock, you can simply reduce it concentrate the flavors.

I would suggest continuing to make the stock in the manner you are successful with, and then thin it down with plain water to the point where you feel its flavor is just good enough for whatever purpose you are putting it to. This will reduce your cost ratio, since the same bones will be stretched over more stock.

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