It was not that long ago that I would have shrugged my shoulders and said something like "Whatever, I should be so lucky" if someone told me that I'd be slaughtering a calf on one day and making veal stock from it's bones the next. But I don't dare say that now.
Last Friday we slaughtered a lovely Ayrshire bull calf. The next day, I was making stock with his bones. Talk about getting in touch with the source of your food.
Anyway, this is a shout out to all of you cooks who have ever tried to make white veal stock: look at this stock Holmes! You know you cannot get veal stock to gel like this unless you are lucky enough to get extremely fresh bones. Also check out the color of the congealed fat on the surface. In over three decades of cooking, I've never seen veal fat that color -not until last week that is.
Usually, veal fat is white. But the bull calf I used to make this stock was bottle-fed milk and raised on grass which is loaded with fat soluble yellowish carotenoid pigments, thus the fat is yellowish.
And look at that gelatin. This is amazing, especially considering the stock was not reduced more than 5%. All of that gelatin is the natural byproduct of young bones that are full of collagen protein.
The traditional way of making fond blanc de veau calls for cutting the bones into pieces with a bone saw or band saw. Next, to prevent the final product from becoming cloudy, you must blanch the bones to remove insoluble proteins. This is achieved by by putting the bones in a pot, covering them with cold water and heating it all up until the water comes to a simmer and throws up a a gray, proteinaceous foam. Then you dump the foamy water, rinse the bones and cover them with water a second time and cook the new mixture a really long time with mirepoix (celery-carrots-onion) and, in the final 25% of the total cooking time, a sachet d' epices (herbs and spices bundlen ib cheesecloth or anything that can be use to make an infusion) -usually wrapped bundles of herbs (usually thyme, bay leaf, clove, cracked black peppercorn).
Well, Ahem, I work on a farm. And since I am usually the only cook in the kitchen and cannot justify the expenditure of time on a project like haute cuisine white veal stock, I take short cut at this stage and after crack open the joints with my trusty cleaver, then cover the bones with very warm tap water...
I have to pause here to point out that by using warm water I am admitting to committing a heresy. Every cook who pursues a career in La Grande Cuisine is at some point taught that stock is ALWAYS started with COLD water. This is the way my grandfather and my uncles did it. This is how I was taught by Rene Chardin (my first chef) and it is in the curriculum of the CIA. The rationale for starting the stock in cold water is that it is supposed to be the best way to extract the maximum of flavor from the bones.
For years I knew that this was not right, and had stopped doing it unless someone who could hurt me insisted that it be done. In Molecular Gastronomy, by Herve This, indicates that the practice makes no sense (Introduction; p. 11). The only possible advantage afforded by the use of cold water to begin stock is if you want the stock to take a really long time for it to come up to a simmer. Now why would you want that? Perhaps to allow more time to skim the proteins and other particles that are released during the early stages of heating and that would muddy the stock. But really, I don't know.
Frankly, I think the practice is a holdover from the days when one did not have warm running water in the kitchen and so it would have been wildly impractical to start a stock with it. I'll bet I'm right.
Whatever, I use warm water for all my stocks now. They take less time to come up, and since the water in the water heater is usually already warm, it saves energy.
Okay, this post is getting too long. And I have to go to work. Here is the skinny on this stock
There were 40 pounds of bones in 10 gallons (80 pounds) of water. I don't remember exactly how much mirepoix I used. I brought the stock up to a simmer, did the essential depouillage (skimmed the scum off the surface) and let the stock cook for about 14 hours. No blanching, no cold water; and you tell me if you have ever seen better looking veal stock.