Straight from the fridge! Cold beef stock is naturally jellied consomme. Great with a bit of lemon juice and salt.
We love homemade beef stock. It is rich and delicious and wonderful and easy to make. It is also much lass salty than the boxed or canned broths.
The hardest part of making beef broth? Getting beef bones from the supermarket. So, the first step is training a local supermarket butcher to save beef bones for you. The second step? Once he or she is saving bones for you, let the store manager know that you particularly appreciate this service from the butcher. Billy and Rudy at the Bi-Lo save bones for me. They’ve been known to chase me or my husband down the meat aisle with a package of frozen beef bones when they spot us in the store. You can’t ask for better service than that! Expect to pay a reasonable price for good meaty bones; my most recent purchase was $1.89/lb.
I use the oven to make stock so I can safely ignore it for long periods of time. Whether a crock pot, the oven, or the top of the stove is the most energy efficient seems subject to debate. There are a lot of opinions on the web but few reports of actual experiments that measure energy costs of the three methods. If your oven is relatively new, it is probably well insulated and fairly efficient for long, slow cooking of a big pot of goodness. A pot of stock in a 250ºF oven will simmer consistently without boiling over or scorching on the bottom.
(Amounts are imprecise. Intensity of flavor of the broth varies with the ration of water to the other ingredients and the amount of time the broth is allowed to simmer. More time and less water equal more flavorful broth.)
- 3 to 5 pounds of meaty beef bones
- An about equal volume of vegetables in large chunks, e.g. carrots, celery, onions, leeks, mushrooms, etc.
- A handful or more of herbs and spices, e.g. parsley, thyme, bay leaves, pepper corns, etc.
The real step one: scatter meaty beef bones in a large roasting pan. Cut up a variety of vegetables into large chunks and scatter these among the meat. I like a few large carrots (not peeled) and stalks of celery cut into 2″ pieces. If you have some slightly tired mushrooms, throw them in whole. Quartered onions, peel and all, are a great addition as are well washed leeks. These vegetables will give their all to the stock and will be discarded so don’t worry about how they look. Just make sure they are free of dirt and still edible.
Put the beef and vegetables into a 400ºF oven. This is imprecise cooking so it doesn’t matter if the oven is preheated or if the meat is frozen. If your frozen meat starts out as one massive lump, remove it from the oven periodically and pull the pieces apart as they thaw .
Roasted beef bones, carrots and celery in the stock pot.
Bake for one hour and check to see how the meat and veggies are doing. You want the meat to be somewhat browned on the outside and the vegetables to be starting to brown. You are aiming for brown not black, caramelized not carbonized. Lengthen the cooking time a bit if necessary. To speed it along, raise the oven temperature a bit.
Place the beef and veggies in a large stock pot. Add water to cover. Turn the oven down to 250ºF.
Fond is full of flavor!
Place the roasting pan on top of the stove over medium heat. Leave the fat in the pan; we will remove this later. Add about 1/2 a bottle of red wine to the pan and simmer for a few minutes to loosen the fond. Fond is the baked on drippings on the bottom and sides of the roasting pan and will add much flavor to your stock. Add a bit of water if the wine evaporates before the fond is loose. Once all the fond and fat are loose in the wine, pour it into the stock pot.
Bay leaves & parsley to flavor the stock.
Add a variety of herbs and spices. These, like the vegetables, will be discarded later so do not worry about enclosing them in a bouquet garni. Basics include bay leaves, pepper corns, parsley (a good use for the stems), fresh sage and thyme. Stand in front of your spice cupboard and imagine what flavors you wish to add to the broth and go for it. Are you adventurous? Try a couple cloves. How about a cinnamon stick? I like to lightly crush a few juniper berries and throw them in. There are no rules except your own. Just remember these flavors are there when you later use the stock.
Cover the stock pot and put it in the now cooler oven. To hasten it along, you can bring it to a simmer on top of the stove before you do this. Allow the stock to simmer for several hours, 3 or 4 at least. Taste it occasionally. When it tastes beefy, it is done. Remember, it has no salt yet so don’t expect a salty taste.
Remove the stock from the oven and allow to cool to a workable temperature. Strain it through a screen sieve or cheese cloth. Discard the solids. You may salt the broth at this point if you wish. I prefer to salt it as I use it.
Refrigerate the strained stock overnight. The fat will rise to the top and solidify. Skim the solid fat off the top. A rubber spatula works well for this as the fat gravitates toward the rubber. You can now discard the fat or use the beef fat to brown some stew meat. It adds great flavor.
The stock is likely to be gelatinous when cold. Spoon some in a bowl, put a bit of lemon juice and salt on top and you have a marvelous, cool, treat. If you’ve never had jellied beef consommé, you don’t know what you are missing! The rest of the broth can be stored in the freezer, turned into a beef stew, or just used whenever a recipe calls for broth. Our broth rarely makes it as far as the freezer before it’s gone and time to see if Billy or Rudy have saved more bones for me.