How is a good stock like wine and oatmeal? A short story illuminates all...
At our daughter’s wedding reception held at the farm several years ago, my younger brother, Bill (an outstanding internal medicine doctor, living in Boulder for the last 30+ years), was drinking a glass of red wine with obvious relish. My father-in-law, Ralph, (the model of all that is good and right in the Scottish Presbyterian tradition) approached. Bill, “I drink red wine for my heart.” Ralph, “That’s the same reason I eat oatmeal.”
Of course, the truth is Bill drinks red wine because he likes it; Ralph ate oatmeal for the same reason. As for the fact that it was good for them, that was their cover story.
The same is true with a good stock. Added to soups, stews or pot roast (in place of some or all of the water called for in the recipe), the dish is richer and more filling. It is also better for you.
Beef stock can also be used to make a quick (and delicious) soups. Our favorites include a beef vegetable soup, where a small amount of thinly sliced top sirloin or New York strip steak provides the beef, seasonal vegetables provide the vegetables, and homemade beef stock provides the base.
Needless to say, one of the staples in our pantry at Brookshire Farm is beef stock.
Winter is a great time to make stock, the simmering stock adds warmth and aroma to a cold winter day.
Anne is our primary stock maker, but I pitch in to help when needed. She makes beef stock several times a year from Brookshire Farm bones that we store in our freezer for that cold, wet day when you are going want to stay in the house anyway.
We also make stock from the Thanksgiving turkeys, the geese and ducks roasted at Christmas, and from any chickens, ducks, geese, and the like that we roast throughout the year. These are wonderful additions to gumbo!
Anne just finished making three gallons of beef stock from 21 pounds of bones. If you have not made stock before, you can start with 5 or 6 pounds of quality, grass-fed beef bones (life is too short to make beef stock any other way) to make about one gallon of quality beef stock. It takes a little time, but the end result (and the bragging rights) is well worth the effort.
But first, a word about words. Are we making “stock” or “broth” or “bone broth?”
Don’t get caught up in the terminology. Many people use these terms interchangeably, and if they (and you) know what they mean, that’s all that matters.
If you are interested in the differences, generally it depends on if you are primarily using meat or bones to make your stock/broth, and how long you simmer it. Although there is some disagreement on the terms, in general:
Stock is made from bones (with attached meat scraps), and involves longer cooking times (typically at least 3 or 4 hours). It has a richer feel than broth, and is higher in protein (collagen) than broth.
Broth usually is made from primarily from meat (although it could also have bones) and is typically simmered for less than an hour. More recently, broth has come to refer to any flavored liquid, including what we now call vegetable broths. Another difference is that broth is more likely to be seasoned (and so ready to use) than stock.
Bone broth is stock, but it is cooked for a longer period than the 3 to 4 hours that is typical for stock, say from 8 hours to 24 hours (or even more). The goal with bone broth is to extract even more collagen and minerals from the bones.
How We Make Our Stock
To make a gallon of stock, we use 5 to 8 lbs of bones from Brookshire Farm grass fed beef. The richness of the stock (and many of the healthy properties of stock) comes from collagen; the collagen comes from joints. Make sure your bones include a nice array of joints, such as knuckle bones, neck bones, ox tail or similar. Brookshire Farm sells mixed bones in packages of approximately 5 to 6 lbs, which is a good choice for stock. If you want more collagen, we also sell knuckle and oxtail separately that you can add to the mix.
Brown the Bones
First we brown the bones. While stock can be made without browning the bones, it is not as rich, and can be slightly acidic if the bones are not browned.
Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees.
Rinse your bones, and pat them dry. Then place the dried bones in a roasting pan that has been lightly oiled (we use olive oil or pecan oil – melted beef or hog lard also works well). Toss the bones in the oil to lightly coat them. The bones should be in a single layer to facilitate browning.
It takes about an hour to brown the bones. Place the pan of bones in the oven. After about 30 minutes turn the bones so that they will brown on all sides. After the second 30 minutes, the bones should be browned. (Don’t turn you oven off yet, you will want it to lightly brown the vegetables – see below).
Simmer the Stock
Transfer the browned bones to your large stock pot. Add 6 quarts of cold water, and bring to a simmer.
Always start your stock with cold water. Also, try to never let your stock get to a rolling boil; if a stock boils, it may not congeal when refrigerated. You want a gentle simmer.
Add vegetables for to enhance flavor
Let the bones simmer for an hour or more before adding the vegetables.
You will sweat coarsely chopped onions, carrots and celery – what the French call Mirepoix – and then add that to the simmering stock. The recipe, below, suggests that you brown the mirepoix; I suggest that you sweat the mirepoix. The truth is probably in the middle, a little more than sweating, but not really fully browning. But in any case, this is a detail you shouldn’t sweat – it the pan is deglazed (that is, any or the good browned beef bits are loosed from the bottom of the pan) and the vegetables have begun to perspire, your work is done.
Coarsely chop 2 medium onions, 3 medium carrots and 2 stalks of celery. (The recipe, below, calls for 1 pound of mirepoix – don’t obsess. A little bit more won’t hurt you or the stock).
Add the mirepoix to the roasting pan, stir to coat the mirepoix with the oil in the pan, and return the roasting pan to the 400 degree oven for a total of 30 minutes. Stir after 15 minutes so that the mirepoix doesn’t burn.
Add to the mirepoix to the stock.
Simmer for at least another two hours (at least 3 hours total at this point). A scum will float to the top during this time. Skim it off from time to time. These are impurities that will detract from the quality of your final stock if not removed. No need to obsess with skimming – getting most of it is good enough.
Add the Aromatics
After at least three hours of simmering in all, we add aromatics -- that is small amounts herbs and spices to lightly flavor the stock. A half teaspoon of lightly crushed peppercorns, a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme (1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, if you don’t have any fresh), a bay leaf, 3 or 4 parsley stems and, if you like, a clove of garlic.
You can tie all of the aromatics in a piece of cheese cloth, so that you don’t have to strain them out of the finished stock (the French call this a “sachet d’epice”), or, simply add them to the stock – they’ll come out when you strain the final stock.
Why parsley stems? Cooks are cheap. Usually parsley leaves are chopped and parsley stems discarded. Here, the stems work well, and you get to use the leaves for other uses. If you want to use the leaves as well as the stem in your stock, go for it, but don’t blame me when you want chopped parsley for something else and end up with wasted stems.
Simmer for at least one more hour (at least 4 hours in all)
Strain the Stock
Once the stock has finished simmering, let it cool. After it has cooled enough to handle, remove the big bits (bones and the like), strain the rest (we use a strainer that we line with cheese cloth). The stock is then ready to use, freeze or can.
We used to freeze our stock, but we kept running out of freezer space. We now pressure can it. With a good pressure cooker, canning takes a little time, but is simple to do and is a good solution if you make stock in large quantities. In small quantities, freezing is a convenient solution.
The recipe summarized:
For 1 gallon of stock:
5-8 lbs bones of grass fed beef
6 quarts of cold water
2 medium onions
3 meduim carrots
2 stalks of celery
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
2 sprigs fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
3-4 parsley stems
1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
2. Prepare about a 1– pound mirepoix and reserve. Mirepoix is coarsely cut onion, carrot, celery.
3. Rinse 5 to 8 pounds of beef bones and dry them well.
4. Place a thin layer of oil in a pan.
5. Add the bones in a single layer, turning them to coat with oil. Put them into the oven and cook 30 minutes. Turn and cook an additional 30 minutes or until evenly browned.
6. Transfer the bones to a stock pot.
7. Add 6 quarts of COLD water and bring to a boil.
8. Place the mirepoix in the hot pan used for bones and stir. Return the pan to the over and roast until evenly browned, stirring as needed. Rinse this pan with a cup of water, stirring up any browned bits. Add it to the stock.
9. Reduce the stock to a simmer. The stock will throw off scum which should be skimmed throughout the simmering time for a clear, good-flavored stock.
10. Add aromatics: 1/2 tsp black peppercorns, 1 bay leaf, 1/2 tsp. thyme, 3-4 parsley stems, garlic (optional 1 clove.)
Simmer the stock for at least 4 hours then allow it to cool enough to be handled.
Enjoy. Stock is a base for may good dishes, and is a base for good health.