Pork stock is one of the most unappreciated bone broths. Sure, we’re all ok tossing a ham bone into the split pea soup, but few people think about making a dedicated stock out of the tasty goodness of pig bones. Pork stock has its own unique, rich flavor that works well with all manner of soups and stews. Any soup that includes bacon would be made tastier by using pork stock.
Choosing Pork Bones for Stock
We raise our own pigs here on our homestead, and butchering day means a fresh stock with bones that need to be roasted specifically for stock. On the rare occasion that I’ve bought bones for stock, I do go out of my way to make sure that they’re pastured and ethically raised. Making stock means dissolving and concentrating the nutrients found in the bones and connective tissues. If the animal was fed contaminated feed, it’ll end up in your stock, plain and simple.
So while I could pretend that I go to my local grocery and buy “artisanal pork bones” from pigs that never had a bad dream, that’s far from the truth. Making stock is also an act of respect for the animal. That animal gave its life to feed you, regardless of how it was treated. On the rare occasions we eat out, if I have ribs in a restaurant, I pack home those bones after my meal. Maybe that pig didn’t lead the best life, but I chose to eat it, and I can respect it enough to make use every last bit.
Roasting Pork Bones for Stock
More often than not, when I’m making pork stock, it’s from leftover home cooked dinner bones. We save pork bones after meals, and store them in gallon ziploc bags in the freezer. The bones are already roasted because they were cooked for dinner, and over a few months, we’ll generate enough bones for a fresh batch of stock.
When starting from fresh butchered raw bones, they should be roasted. Roasting brings out more flavor in the bones, but more importantly, it pre-cooks any remaining pieces of meat. Raw meat pieces placed into stock will cloud up the stock as protein in the raw meat juice cooks into tiny droplets. If it’s pre-roasted, it stays in larger globs that can be skimmed off the top or filtered out before the stock is complete. If you want a clear stock, definitely pre-roast.
Pig Feet for Stock
The very best stock is made using feet. Bones themselves don’t have much collagen, and straight bone broth won’t gel. Most of the benefits of pork bone broth comes from connective tissue, and there’s no richer source of connective tissue than the feet. Good second choices are the spine and neck.
When you cook pigs feet, perhaps in a simple braise, the liquid at the bottom nearly turns solid. There’s so much collagen and it actually becomes glue in the pan. Diluted out across a full pot of pork stock, and you’ll have delicious, rich stock that gels readily.
Beyond the collagen and gelling potential of pigs feet, organ meats are also a good addition. Organ meat stock has more umami flavor and makes especially delicious vegetable-based blended soups.
How to Make Pork Stock
Pork bone broth is a simple thing. All it takes is roasted bones, water, heat and time. I often get fancy and add in carrots, onions, garlic and fresh herbs. Those are nice, but not strictly necessary.
Start by roasting pork bones. Arrange the bones on a tray and roast them at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. Bones saved from dinner are already cooked and don’t need to be roasted.
There’s no particular amount of pork bones that are necessary, as stock is a matter of degrees. More ingredients to less water and the result is a more concentrated stock.
I prefer to fill my stock pot about 1/3 with bones, and then add water until it’s 2/3 full. I use a big commercial grade 8-gallon stock pot because we can pork stock in large batches. It’s easy enough to simmer enough for 1 pot of soup in a saucepan on your stove. Choose the right pot for your batch size and adjust accordingly.
Add the roasted bones to the pot, cover with water and simmer for 12 to 24 hours. Be sure to keep it at a gentle simmer and avoid a hard boil for best results. Hard boiling volatilizes off the flavor, and the more violently you boil the stock the more flavor will be lost.
Strain the stock and use immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Or continue on, and use a pressure canner to make your stock shelf stable for later use.
Canning Pork Stock
We used to freeze our stock. It’s easy enough to defrost a quart when you need it for dinner. That was before we moved off grid.
Sure, we still have freezers, but freezer space is now at a premium. Anything that could be made shelf stable would be that much safer if our system went down.
We bought a large all American pressure canner that can put up 14 quarts of stock in a batch. Still, we often make 3 full batches (42 quarts) over the course of a few days.
To can pork stock, follow the same instructions for canning bone broth. Fill jars with hot pork stock, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Load them into a pressure canner with about 2 inches of boiling water at the bottom. Close the lid of the canner, and allow the steam valve to vent for about 10 minutes to ensure that the chamber is full of steam. Add the pressure canner weight and allow the canner to come up to 10 pounds of pressure (under 1000 feet in elevation). Process for 25 minutes and then turn off the heat.
Allow the canner to return to room temperature and 0 pounds pressure before removing the canning weight and opening the lid. Check for seals, and store the canned stock at room temperature in your pantry.
How to Use Pork Stock
Pork stock can be used anywhere you’d use a pork bone in soup. That’s a good place to start, with things like clam chowder or split pea soup. Baked beans are delicious with pork stock, and we make pinto beans for burritos and white beans for soups using pork stock.
Many Asian soup recipes also call for pork stock.