Monday, February 13, 2017

Farm Stock: From Ugly Vegetables To Extraordinary Flavor Enhancer

At The Culinary Vegetable Institute at The Chef's Garden, trying to find ways to eliminate food waste is a way of life. Products from the farm that are not quite perfect are transformed and given new life through vinegars, pickles, syrups, misos and countless other products.

One of the most interesting ways that food waste is converted into a new and beautiful product is through a stock that is then added to the dishes served during events at the Culinary Vegetable Institute (CVI). The stock is ever-changing depending upon what is added to it and for the CVI team, its a constant bubbling reminder that food waste does not mean its the end of the line for a vegetable.

Farm Stock Dish

CVI chef Matt Ward explains, "The stock may have started as a chicken stock, or as a vegetable stock or even a beef stock. But, as the initial stock got lower, we still had to find something to do with vegetable scraps. Sometimes, they had animal scraps that needed a home. Instead of creating new stocks for new items, we simply add them to the existing stock."

The stock is never completely thrown out and is instead transformed into something all-together new and wonderful, Matt says, "Unless we run out, it does not get thrown out.  It is similar to solera, a process similar to aging types of wines and beers.  Once we usually get down to two or three quarts of stock, we “begin” again by adding any animal scraps or vegetable scraps that we may have. However, if we taste the stock and it needs more carrots, we add carrots, if it needs garlic, we add garlic. It’s a revolving stock, always being added to."

In order to avoid any food safety concerns, the stock is carefully tended to in order to ensure it's hitting the required temperatures. Matt explains, "We bring the stock up to a low simmer around the edges, or roughly 200 degrees.  We let the stock simmer for quite a while at this temperature, and then we drop it down and usually let it go overnight not letting the stock dip below 185F."

It's hard to say when the first batch of stock began since its like a sourdough mother in that its always changing but never quite disappearing. Its old incarnations of amazing flavor living on in the next batch of stock indefinitely. For Matt, the stock was there when he arrived at the CVI not so long ago. "The first batch may have started as a different singular stock, and then it was built on upon that. The batch we have currently started long before I arrived. There was even a batch of Farm Stock in May of 2016 when I first visited.  I do not know if the current batch was derived from this, however, we like to believe it is."

The stock is used for myriad dishes including for, "flavoring sauces and soups, cooking rice, poaching vegetables to name a few." When asked if the stock has a special name Matt smiles and says, "We call it Farm Stock, and justifiably so."