Simmering ingredients such as protein, vegetables and herbs results in a flavorful liquid that often is cloudy and full of tiny particles and may taste far better than it looks. Clarifying stock means exactly that: making the stock clear. Removing the particulate matter leaves you with a delicately clear liquid ready to be seasoned and served, or reduced to create a sumptuous gravy or sauce.
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Skim the Top
The first step in clarifying stock is to skim it while you are creating it. Simmer the protein, vegetables and herbs. When you see a soft foam appear across the top of the pot, skim it off with a small, fine-mesh sieve. Do this repeatedly as the stock cooks to remove as much particulate matter as possible. You also may let the stock cool and skim the fat off of the top with a sieve or slotted spoon, although this does not get all of the little particles, leaving you with a slightly cloudy stock.
Strain the Stock
Once the stock ingredients have given up all of their flavors, strain the contents of the stock pot through a fine-mesh colander. Do this several times, rinsing out the colander between each straining. This helps remove all of the larger ingredients as well as the smaller ones that tend to sink to the bottom of the pot.
Clarify With Egg Whites
The most important step in clarifying your stock is to make an egg raft after you have strained it thoroughly. Bring the stock to a low boil. Beat two egg whites until they are fluffy and drop them into the bubbling stock. Remove the stock from the heat and let it cool. As the stock cools, the albumen in the egg whites attracts the particulate matter. You also can add raw ground chicken or beef to the egg whites and float them on top of the stock to help clarify it. Scoop the protein raft carefully out of the pot. Line the fine-mesh sieve with a layer or two of tightly-knit cheesecloth and strain the stock a final time to get it perfectly clear.
Tips and Hints
Avoid boiling stock when it is first being created because this can contribute to a cloudy appearance. Simmering it very gently allows the full flavor to develop over time without dislodging as many fragments from the protein, vegetables and herbs being cooked. Drop an ice cube into hot stock after you skimmed it. This solidifies the fat, making it easier to scoop out. Freeze clarified stock in an ice-cube tray, transferring the cubes to plastic zipper bags when they are frozen through. Label the bags; these are homemade starters for soups and sauces. Do not salt or season stock you intend to reduce or the saltiness and other flavors may become too intense.