I have just made Chinese braised pork belly. The braising liquid is very flavoursome and I can’t bear to tip it down the sink so I plan on freezing it and reusing it. Is this a safe food practice? And could the same liquid be refrozen again or is that pushing things too far? Julia
I am so happy that you’ve not tipped it down the sink, as that liquor — a highly flavoursome stock, can be used again and again. You may have heard of masterstock, a poaching liquid that Chinese cooks will poach a chicken in again and again. Each time you poach a chook in it, the stock becomes more flavourful, and likewise the chickens increase in flavour as they get cooked in a highly flavoured broth. Both the stock and the chicken eventually flavour each other rather than the flavour going only in one direction. The stock you have produced is a pork version of this, and should be given the respect you are suggesting.
So long as you boil the stock for 5 minutes each time you’re done with it, before cooling and then chilling in the fridge or freezing it, you will have no need to worry about harmful bacteria. Boiling will kill them. However, if the stock is left in the freezer for more than 6 months without being seen to, it might be wise to throw it away, just in case.
One thing to bear in mind is that each time you use the liquor the flavour will concentrate, which is mostly a good thing as I’ve said. But, if you’re salting the pork before cooking it in the stock, you will need to keep an eye on how salty the stock becomes as that salt will keep on being absorbed into the liquid. Something very salty will soon become inedible but you can adjust it.
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You can also use the stock in soups and casseroles. A rich pork stock added to a clear mushroom broth would be delicious served over udon or egg noodles, steamed snow peas and broccoli, diced tofu and a drizzle of chilli oil. You could also add some to a meat stew — but it doesn’t have to be a pork stew — as pork stock is a wonderful addition to a bolognaise style sauce made combining beef and lamb mince. Pork stock is also great in a pea and ham soup, using dried split peas and diced smoked pork belly.
If it’s easier for storage, pour the stock into ice cube trays then pop them into freezer bags once frozen and you’ll be able to use the cubes much more easily.
In our Ask Peter series, executive chef Peter Gordon answers your curly culinary questions. If you're stumped over something food-related, send your question to email@example.com and keep checking in for answers. You can read more on Peter on his website, have a read of his Ask Peter articles or check out his recipes on our site.