Friday, March 9, 2012

How to Make Beef Stock

Last January, I promised a post on How to Make Beef Stock. I’m ethically opposed to veal production and never consume it, but do, in moderation, eat beef, so that is the only meat I use for Beef Stock. Those of who are vegetarians probably already know How to Make Vegetable Stock. I’ll nonetheless post that a little later, at the same time I post How to Make Fish Stock
I completely understand if you’re too busy to make your own stock! I lead a hectic life, too. But stock is something you park at the back of the stove and allow to bubble away while you work out the definitive solution to string theory, for example. Why bother? (Why bother making stock - not why bother working out string theory). For one thing, you’ll probably have greater success with the former, than with the latter. For another, commercially made stock tends to contain a whack of sodium and additives. When you make your own stock, you determine what’s inside!  
Well-made stock offers a depth of flavor that is often absent in commercially made stock. You may have noticed that food carefully prepared at home often tastes better than food mass-produced in a commercial kitchen. I personally believe that the reason for this is the love a caring cook adds to the dish. 
Whether you read these words in the Middle East or in Israel, in Canada or in Russia, in Europe or in Africa, in Australia or in the United States, love is the secret ingredient - the only ingredient - capable of curing the world. Love heals hearts, homes, and homelands. Love triumphs over anger, greed, envy, pride, bullets, and bombs. Love lies sleeping within us all. It is more precious than gold. 
So that is why it’s a good thing to make your own stock. Let the time required to prepare it - two days, Dollinks! - be your time to contemplate making the world a better place. Beef Stock takes a little more effort than Poultry Stock, but the result is worth it. Here’s my recipe for dark, rich stock to use at once or freeze until needed. Feel free to vary the basic recipe with what you’ve got on hand. All quantities are approximate. This stock isn’t just good - it’s excellent!
How to Make Beef Stock:
5 lb. (2.2 kg) meaty sirloin bones (see Note)
1-½ lb. (680 g) oxtails (see Note)
1 or 2 large brown-skinned onions, quartered and unpeeled (see Further Note)
2 large carrots, in 2-inch chunks
3 or 4 celery ribs (leaves included), in 2-inch chunks
Canola oil, as needed
3 large garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
Any limp, leftover parsley on the stem (see Further Note
4 or 5 bay leaves
Coarsely ground salt, to taste 
1-½ tsp. whole peppercorns
Preheat oven to 400 deg. F. Place meat, onions, carrots, and celery in a deep roasting pan, sprinkling a little oil over meaty bones and vegetables to keep them from drying out. Roast, uncovered, for 1-½ hr., turning bones and meat halfway through cooking. Transfer meat, bones, pot scrapings, and vegetables to a large stock pot (Mine holds 16 quarts - about 15 L. Yours needn’t be expensive: A stock pot doesn’t require the same thickness and quality as a regular cooking pot). Fill with cold water to about 4 in. from the top. Add garlic, parsley, bay leaves, and seasonings. Cover and bring to a boil on high heat. Reduce heat to low, simmering 3-to-4 hr. Well-simmered stock or broth will be a deep, rich brown. 
Once stock finishes simmering, cool and use tongs to pluck out large bones and meat from the broth; set these aside in a bowl, cover, and chill until needed. Remove and discard vegetables from broth. Cover and chill remaining stock overnight, so fat can rise to the top and congeal. Skim off solidified fat with a metal spoon. Package and seal fat, placing in the trash. 
Pour defatted stock into a clean container through a fine mesh sieve, removing additional small globules of fat (Fat phobics may want to repeat this procedure with a layer of cheese cloth lining the sieve; I don’t go that far. Having a little fat in your diet promotes healthy cell growth. A trace of fat also adds flavor). Your stock is now ready for use in soups, stews, and gravies or for packaging, labeling, and freezing. Yields about 4 quarts (4 L). 
Now for those bones you’ve set aside! Remove every scrap of meat from them, using the meat immediately in beef soup or freezing it for future use. 
Note: Soup bones can be expensive. Prices vary by area, but I paid a shocking $9.15 for four oxtails. By contrast, a large bag of frozen sirloin bones cost only $5! And here’s something just between you and me, Dollinks! Those sirloin soup bones were so meaty and looked so delicious that Ron and I scooped a couple of cooked ones straight from the roasting pan and onto our dinner plates. They were great! Doing that greatly reduced the overall cost of preparing Beef Stock, making me feel better about buying those expensive oxtails.
Further Note: Roasting onions with their skins intact produces a darker, richer broth. As for the parsley … I routinely bag and freeze it when it goes limp. From the freezer, it eventually goes straight into the soup pot. Because the meat and vegetables are roasted at high heat, don’t add vegetable peelings to this mixture as you might do for Poultry Stock, lest they burn. 

Sirloin meat bones to the left, oxtails to the right! 

Chunk vegetables for roasting, too

Stir meat and vegetables to combine in roasting pan

Turn meat bones and veggies midway through roasting

Done roasting: Use drippings and pot scrapings, too!

Transfer roasted bones, veggies to pot
Add cold water to meat, bones, veggies

Closer view of meat, vegetables, parsley

Stock will darken and flavor will concentrate as it simmers

Spoon off solidified layer of fat

Sieve-strain smaller fat globules from broth

The deep, rich fragrance of this stock is exceptional!

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