Yesterday, Mother Nature gave us another gift — the gift of free water falling from the sky in the form of snow. Now, I know it’s after the Spring Equinox and I know that a lot of people are ready for spring, but not me. Any time we have precipitation, I’m happy. Even a modest amount can help stave off fire danger and help replenish our reservoirs.
We’ve still got April to go before things begin turning more spring-like here on the Front Range. While April is often one of our snowiest months, I take nothing for granted. So, when I saw that the forecast was beginning to gel, predicting almost a foot of snow this weekend, I was thrilled, and began making plans for another snowy weekend.
I’d already planned to put a pot roast in the crock pot — not an unusual menu item for a cold-weather Saturday. On Friday, I rummaged around the freezer and found the makings of beef stock — neck bones and stew meat from the butcher. If I had to be home all day, why not make up a big pot of beef stock?
Stock is one of the Blessed Trinity of sauce-making, as far as I’m concerned, along with cream and wine. I make and freeze beef stock and chicken stock, or their faster cousins, court bouillon. I parcel these out in one-cup portions and freeze them in zip-top bags, which makes them easy to use. The result? Sauces and gravies for even the fastest weeknight dinners are quick to make and taste an order of magnitude better than anything made with store-bought stock or broth. It’s well worth my time a few times a year to make stock.
Stock-making is an all-day endeavor for me. I roast the bones and some meat with aromatic vegetables, then transfer all of that to a 20-quart stockpot and deglaze the roasting pan with wine, vermouth, or whatever I have on hand that sounds good. Fill up the pot with water and simmer slowly for eight hours — long enough to induce the bones to give up their collagen and produce gelatin, which gives the stock an unctuousness that can only be obtained by this long-simmering method. Meanwhile, I skim off the insolubles from the surface and replace evaporated water with hot water from the teakettle about every 30 minutes while simmering. When it’s done, I strain it and cool it quickly (stock is an excellent growth medium for microbes), then let it set in the fridge overnight so that any remaining fat congeals on the top and can be removed then next day. Parcel it out into ziplocks, and I’m usually set for about half a year.
While the stock simmered, I pulled out my two cold-weather knitting projects and set to work. I knitted up the thumb on the first Charoite Mitten. I find thumb-knitting to be rather fussy, so it’s best to do it earlier in the day when I have patience and decent lighting. I worked in the ends and tried it on. The verdict: I do prefer the gusseted thumb over the afterthought thumb. It takes a bit more work, but the fit is very nice. So, for the mittens I’m designing, I’m going to have to go back and re-chart some, but the result is going to be worth it.
Next up, I made progress on the first sleeve for my son’s Diamonds and Rings Aran. If I didn’t knit any more on it this season, I’d be pleased. As it is, though, I’ve probably got another four weeks or so of weather that’s cool enough for me to stomach handling the heavy Aran yarn. I’ll be pleasantly surprised if I finish the sleeve in that time, and I’ll keep plugging away on it betwixt now and May.
After all that knitting progress, I took up the stock, dished out the pot roast, and enjoyed some good wine. Snowy weekends, I’m going to miss you.