Monday, January 17, 2011

Beef Stock

A good stock is an essential ingredient in many recipes, homemade soup and sauces being just two of the uses.  I also like to add either a beef or a chicken stock to stews and replace the water with stock when making rice, adding flavor as the rice absorbs the liquid  Store-bought broth, and worse yet, those salty bouillon cubes just don't compare to a homemade stock.  According to the Weston A. Price Foundation, "Stock contains minerals in a form the body can absorb easily not just calcium but also magnesium, phosporus, silicon, sulphur and trace minerals."  It also says it contains material from broken down cartilage and tendons such as "chondrotin sulphates and glucosamine", which many pay big bucks for at the health food store.  (Please note: The above jars of stock were headed to the freezer, I do not reuse canning lids when pressure or water bath canning)


With homemade stock you control the ingredients.  When my husband's family hauled cows in to be butchered last fall I asked the butcher to leave a little meat on the soup bones with the intent of making stock and then using the bits of meat in a soup.  I also add apple cider vinegar when making stock as it will leach calcium from the soup bones, adding it to the stock.  Just 1 tablespoon per quart of water does the trick, however, if you are brave and add more you will enrich your stock with more calcium.  Judge according to your taste buds and remember it won't benefit you or your family if you don't want to eat the final product, so start gentle and add more as your taste buds adjust.  Vinegar also helps to clarify the stock.

Throw in lots of veggies and some herbs, they don't need to be chopped up as much as I have in the photo above, I got excited about chopping and got carried away.  Just give them a rough chop in half or quarters.  I like to save the ends of onions, garlic and carrots, the tops and core of celery, and even the stems of mushrooms in a plastic bag in the freezer for adding to the pot when I make stocks.  This time I followed the recipe from the cookbook "The Real Food Companion" by Matthew Evans (except I used apple cider vinegar) because I recently bought his cookbook and have been wanting to make a few of his recipes.  In the past, I just gathered up the approximate ingredients and threw them the the pot with water and vinegar and did not follow a recipe.  Both are good ways, and pretty much the same thing, but I include the recipe today in case you want one to follow.

Once it starts boiling you will want to skim off the scum, I bought this shallow strainer spoon on our recent trip to Minneapolis and am so glad I did, it has a long handle, is very shallow, and perfect for skimming.  Oh, and be sure to used filtered or well water, no chlorine in the stock please. 

After straining your stock, place it in the refrigerator overnight and the fat will harden on top making it easy to run a knife around the edge and pull out the fat.  This fat can then be used for making french fries if you have enough, used for making suet for wild birds, or simply discarded.  If you want to can the stock just reheat it to boiling and follow the instructions that came with your pressure canner for the amount of pressure to use.

Homemade Beef Stock
~adapted from The Real Food Companion, by Matthew Evans~
Makes 12 cups

4 pounds and 8oz beef bones
2 onions, halved
2 carrots
2 celery stalks, halved
2 bay leaves
2 thyme sprigs
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Place everything in a large stockpot with  16 cups water, making sure the water covers all of the ingredients.  Place over high heat and bring to the boil.  Just as it comes to a boil is the best time to skim it, running a ladle around the edges to scoop off any skum.  The vinegar helps to clarify the stock, but skimming is great, too.

Reduce the heat as soon as it boils, and simmer for 4 - 6 hours, depending on your patience.  You may need to top up the water during this time to keep all the bones and vegetables covered, as the stock is constantly evaporating.  Strain and discard all the bones and vegetables.

This stock keeps well for up to 1 week in the refrigerator (reboiling extends its life) or for 3 months in the freezer.

Sense of Home / Recipes / Soup, Stews, Stocks, Chili