Dearest friends and clients,
I ran out of my homemade beef stock last week, making it time for a new batch - and I thought, why not document my stock making to help others, who may be intimidated, really understand how simple it is to make a rich, dark, delicious tasting stock. So voila! I hope you enjoy, and if you have any questions, please don't ever hesitate to get in touch. I believe that delicious homemade stock is what elevates home cooking from mediocre to out of this world. If there were ever a general rule on good home-cooking, it would be to always have a batch of frozen homemade stock in the freezer. Store-bought stock doesn't even hold a candle. It's riddled with preservatives, lacking in depth and flavor, and devoid of the high mineral and vitamin content of the homemade stuff. Homemade stock is so rich in goodness many consider it medicinal. It heals guts, strengthens nails and hair, clears skin, and deliciofies (just made that word up!) everything it is added to.
In my opinion, there are four main factors to making an incredibly nutrient rich AND tasty stock:
1) The source and quality of your bones/meat
Since this post involves animal parts, I really cannot stress enough that in no way do I ever encourage or condone the use of tortured and mistreated animals (read:factory-farmed). For one, it's not sustainable. For two, it's morally unacceptable. For three, I firmly believe that to eat tortured animals means to ingest their abused spirits, in turn contributing to the dimming of our own inner light. So PLEASE be mindful of where you buy your meat. Ask questions. Never assume that meat is happy regardless of where you are buying it from (read:progressive grocery stores). I have 4 sources for local happy meat: 1) New Pasture Farm in Hurdle Mills, 2) Left Bank Butchery in Saxapahaw, 3) Good friends with happy sustainable holistic farms, 4) Friends who hunt and gift me venison. Remember that buying is a very political act. You are always either voting for well-treated, happy animals, a happy planet and healthy mind/body, or you are voting for torture, disease and unsustainability. Choose wisely!
Ok, now that we've got morality out of the way, let's talk about other reasons for being particular about the quality of your meat: higher nutritional value, much tastier, sustainable, and better for the planet. Basically, what's best for you and your body and heart, is also what's best for the planet, for the animals, for the world at large AND for your tastebuds. This makes choosing happy meat a really easy decision (me thinks). Factory farmed animals are deprived of sunlight, green grass, happiness. Their bodies are so depleted that they're injected left right and center with drugs, synthetic Vit. D, etc, not to mention fed empty pesticide ridden genetically modified grains which is NOT their natural god-given biologically required food! Cows were meant to eat fast-growing green grass grown in rich, dark, moist soil teeming with healthy critters and bacteria. When animals are raised the way God intended them to be raised, via grazing rotations, on rich pasture, with lots of space, sunshine and their friends, what results is meat that looks like this:
2) The type of bones/meat used
There are so many ways to go about making stock, so please don't think my way is the only way - this just happens to be what works best for me. I use mostly joint bones, like knuckle bones, because I want my stock to be gelatin/collagen rich. Feet of any sort are fantastic for this too, if you have access to them. A lot of people use marrow bones, I don't simply because I consider roasted marrow to be such a delectable delicacy (roast and eat over sink with corn chips...!) that I hate to waste it in stock, but that's just me. I do add a little ground beef too for extra flavor. What results is a gelatin rich, dark, very flavorful stock.
3) The roasting of bones and veggies prior to simmering
This is such a crucial step if you want really tasty flavorful stock - roasting the bones and meat and veggies beforehand caramelizes everything, brings out delicious pan drippings which are then de-glazed and added to the pot, and concentrates the flavors.
4) How long you let the stock simmer
In my opinion, the longer you're able to let your stock simmer, the tastier and more nutrient rich it will be. I like to let mine simmer for at least 12 hours if it's a beef stock - less time is needed for chicken because the bones are much smaller and less dense - and even less time (no time at all actually) is needed for fish stock. The longer your simmer, the greater the chance the bones have of breaking down and releasing all their goodness into the water. I usually let mine simmer through the night (I don't ever leave the stove on if I have to leave the house!!!). If you feel uncomfortable doing this, a great alternative is to get yourself a big crockpot and use that instead. I'm partial to real fire, but I've done it both ways and both ways work fine. If you do it this way, you could potentially get everything together in the morning before work, and then have a delicious stock waiting for you when you return home from work. Yay for crockpots!
Ok now for the actual steps:
1) Assemble bones, meat and veggies in a flat roasting pan, or two. No need to cut veggies into small pieces - just quarter your onion and halve your carrots. No need to add oil or any grease to pans.
2) Roast for an hour at 450 F.
3) While these are roasting, assemble other ingredients: 2 garlic cloves with skin, crushed a little under knife; a handful of fresh parsley; a tablespoon of real salt (read:NOT table salt); 8-12 peppercorns; little bit of fresh thyme; 1-2 bay leaves; 2-3 stalks of celery (I didn't use any because I didn't have any on hand, no biggie).
4) Using tongs, move veggies and bones and meat from pans into stockpot or crockpot. Gently pour fat into a jar and save for later. De-glaze pan(s), which essentially means add water to pans and using a spatula, scrape all the brown bits off the bottom of the pans - and then add this mixture of water and brown bits to the stockpot. Key to good flavor.
5) Add the other ingredients to pot.
6) Cover pot contents with cold water (filtered or Spring but not gross tap water if possible) until everything is just covered.
7) Bring to a boil and remove/skim any foam that has accumulated on top.
8) Turn down to lowest setting and simmer. Keep pot covered at all times. Revel in the delectable wholesome smells filling your home.
9) When you've deemed the simmering done (8-12 hours or longer!), let stock cool, then put in fridge to allow top layer of tallow (fat) to solidify.
10) Remove layer of tallow and store for later use. Strain stock into glass pint jars and freeze! Discard bones and onions, feed the other veggies and ground beef or other meat to your doggy friend.
I used 5 lbs of bones, 1 lb of ground beef, 6 carrots, 1 onion, and ended up with 12.5 pints of stock.
Making beef stock always results in some beautiful golden tallow - don't throw it out!!! What to do with all of it? Would you believe me if I told you this stuff was as good as gold? Here are some ideas:
1) Cook your veggies in it
2) Deep-fry your french fries in it! Makes for the BEST fries. Seriously.
3) Use in place of shortening (yuck!), and vegetable oils in baking, especially pie crusts.
4) Lubricate stuff with it! Don't tell me what, though.
5) Make soap out of it.
6) Use as a facial/body moisturizer! Make chapstick out of it. I promise I'm not crazy. Or gross. Really. Read this to better understand.
7) Condition your leather stuff with it.
8) Use it to make biodiesel!!!!!!
9) Write a poem about the wonder that is tallow, such as:
Oh tallow - you are far from shallow.
Resplendent in your golden hue,
All vegetable oils, I now eschew.
Come hither, oh delectable fat,
And hear me purrrr like a pussycat.