Sep 8, 2014

How to Make Bone Broth or Beef Stock

I've written before about making stock - from chicken, vegetables, fish, and beef - but recently we purchased half a steer, and I found myself with a lot of wonderful beef bones. And since more and more people are buying their beef in bulk and have far more access to beef bones than they used to, I felt a new - more detailed - post was warranted on making your own beef stock. (Not buying part of a steer anytime soon? You can still make your own beef stock. Just find a real butcher's shop and request some beef "soup bones." These are bones that still have some meat on them, and which are full of good marrow. They will be inexpensive - or the butcher might give them to you for free.)

Please note that all you really need to make stock is bones and water. All the other ingredients are optional - but do improve the flavor of the stock and the nutrition of the finished product. So feel free to vary the ingredients, depending upon what you have on hand. However, I do highly recommend using the recommended vinegar, as detailed below; it really does help get all those good nutrients out of the bone marrow.

What You Need to Make Beef Stock or Broth

Roasting pan
Large pot
Strainer
Knife
Cutting board
Slotted spoon
Containers for freezing or canning the stock

about 5 - 8 lbs. beef soup bones, cut into pieces (the butcher will do that for you)
5 carrots, cut into 3 inch pieces
5 stalks celery, cut into 3 inch pieces
2 onions, quartered (leave the papery skins on)
2 - 3 cloves garlic, cut in half (leave the papery skins on)
handful of parsley
4 - 5 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 - 3 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon peppercorns
Vinegar (I use Braggs apple cider vinegar)


How to Make Beef Stock

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

2. Place the beef bones in the roasting pan. Most likely, you'll get frozen bones from the butcher. You don't need to defrost them - just stick them in the pan, frozen. Add the carrots, celery, onions, and garlic to the pan. Once the oven is fully preheated, place the pan in the oven and roast, stirring occasionally, until the meat on the bones looks cooked through. With frozen bones, this takes approximately 60 minutes. If the bones weren't frozen when you put them in the oven, it will take about 30 - 40 minutes. (NOTE: The roasting stage is also optional, but greatly improves the flavor of the stock.)
Before roasting. You'll notice I absentmindedly added the herbs at the roasting stage. This by no means ruined the stock, but I do think it's better to leave the herbs out until the simmering stage.
After roasting.
3. Pour the contents of the roasting pan into a large pot. Be sure to include any fat and liquid in the pan. Add the parsley, thyme, bay leaves, and peppercorns.

4. Add 1/2 cup of water to the roasting pan and use a spoon to scrap the bits of beef off the bottom of the pan. Pour into the stock pot. Add enough cold water to cover the contents of the pot. Add a splash of vinegar.

5. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently about 4 hours.

6. Strain the contents of the pot, reserving the liquid. (The vegetables can be composted or given to your chickens. Any meat on the bones can be picked off and frozen for soup made at a later date. Or you can give them to the chickens. It's possible to re-use the bones for stock making, but they won't make as fine a stock as the first batch; still, if you want to do this, it's okay to re-freeze the bones so you can use them another day.)

7. Place the stock in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, skim off any congealed fat you find on top of the stock. It should be firm enough that you can just lift it out with your fingers.
Overnight, all the fat rises to the top and becomes firm enough to lift out.
The stock is finished. This batch turned out beautifully gelatinous.
8. The stock may now be frozen or canned. To can, leave 1 inch headspace and process in a pressure canner: pints 20 minutes, quarts 25 minutes*.

I chose not to can this batch because it turned out really gelatinous. While that makes it questionable for canning (because it's thicker and therefore might not heat all the way through, killing any bad bugs during processing), gelatinous is a good thing! In fact, it's what gourmet chefs want. (What is the trick to getting it gelatinous? I'm not absolutely sure, but I think it's simmering it very low, and not adding any water to the pot once it comes to a boil.)



* NOTE: If you live at a high altitude, read this important information about adjusting canning times.



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