Brrr! Last Friday, temperatures here plunged to 47°F. To celebrate autumn’s refreshing return, I did what any sensible omnivore would do: I made beef stock.
According to reports I’ve read (here’s one; here’s another), homemade beef stock offers myriad health benefits. It aids digestion, inhibits infection, fights inflammation, and reduces joint pain. And that’s not all, folks! Gelatin in the stock promotes healthy hair and nail growth. Commercially-produced stocks contain no gelatin whatsoever. Not the brands I’ve encountered, anyway.
Health benefits aside, beef stock is a cook’s treasure. You can’t make real French Onion Soup without it. It’s a must-have for winter stews and gravies, too. A cup of hot, nutritious stock will warm your soul during a blizzard.
And speaking of blizzards! Don’t wait until the snow flies to make your stock. Make it in late summer or early autumn, when you can flavor it up with fresh herbs and veggies from the garden. Got a glut of cherry tomatoes? Toss ’em into your stock pot.
Here’s my basic recipe:
First, put some meaty beef bones in a roasting pan. Oxtail bones, which most of us can find at the supermarket, are terrific for stock. For today’s batch, I used 5 pounds of bones, and ended up with 3 quarts of stock.
Add some peeled, roughly-chopped carrots…
And 1 or 2 peeled onions, quartered.
Put the roasting pan on the center rack of a preheated 450° oven, and cook until the bones are beautifully browned — about 30 minutes.
Then dump the works into a stock pot…
And add enough cold water to cover the ingredients by 2 inches.
Oh. If you have lots of stuck-on bits in your roasting pan (I did not), then you’ll want to deglaze it. To do this, pour some boiling water into the pan, and scrape the bottom with a wooden spatula. Add this flavor-rich deglazing “sauce” to the stock pot.
Now run out to the garden, and obtain a large, ripe tomato. Roughly chop the tomato, and toss it into the stock pot.
Grab some fresh herbs, too. Parsley and thyme are always welcome in beef stock. For no particular reason, I tied my herbs with cotton string.
If you’re like me, you’ll suddenly remember that you have lovage in your garden. Add a few stems to the pot. Loveage will contribute a nice celery flavor.
A note about salt and pepper. Most cooks add peppercorns and salt to their beef stock, but I never do. Instead, I add these seasonings as required for specific recipes in which the stock will be used. Furthermore, salt isn’t good for dogs. Lily the Beagle enjoys beef stock as much as I do.
Simmering the stock. Bring the pot to a boil over high heat. Then reduce the heat, partially cover the pot, and let simmer until the bones and veggies release their essences, and your whole house is enveloped in glorious perfume — about 4 hours. Do check the pot from time to time as it simmers — you might need to add a little boiling water just to keep the ingredients covered.
Can you make beef stock in a crock pot? Yes, I suppose you could. But I don’t have a method for you. Crock pot food always tastes a little “off” to me. Straining the stock. Strain the stock through a wire-mesh sieve set over a large bowl. (Since I made lots of stock, I performed this job in two batches.)
And just for the weirdness of it, bite into a carrot. It should have no flavor whatsoever. All of its flavor has gone into the stock! Feed the remaining carrots to your dog, your chickens, or your husband.
Meanwhile, the stock will be fragrant, delicious, and uniquely your own. As mentioned earlier, I achieved 3 full quarts of stock from my 5 pounds of bones.
If you’d like to degrease the stock — and you certainly don’t have to — just let it cool to room temperature. Then cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. After the fat rises and solidifies, you can easily scrape it off with a spatula or skimmer.
Storing the stock. When sealed in zip-lock bags, plastic tubs or glass jars, homemade beef stock will stay fresh and wonderful in the fridge for up to 3 days. For longer storage, freeze it. If you freeze your stock in glass jars, be sure to allow 1 inch of headroom. Otherwise, the jars will break as the stock freezes and expands.
Is homemade stock important to you? You can let me know by leaving a comment. As always, I love hearing from you!
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Here’s a printable version of the above. Feel free to increase, decrease, and amend the ingredients as desired.