Stocks are the basis of so many recipes and sauces and as such, it is crucial that they be of excellent quality. I have yet to try a decent tasting commercial soup stock of any kind. They are all just salty chemical water. The difference between a dish made with commercial stock and one made with a good homemade stock is like night and day.
The saltiness is another problem with commercial stock. It’s not that I have an issue with salt, it’s just that you want to add your own salt so that you have greater control over the final product. For this reason, you should not add salt to your stock when making it. Leave that for you when you use it in your cooking.
The following recipe will give you a rich, brown, deeply flavoured yet neutral stock (no wierd flavours) that you can use in any recipe calling for beef stock. It is even great on it’s own with a bit of salt in a coffee mug on a cold winter’s day. Use the largest pot you have and make lots of it because it takes a while to make and it freezes very well. Freeze it in small 1 or 2 cup portions so that you thaw only what you need to make your recipes. Have the butcher saw the bones into 3″ or 4″ diameter pieces for you.
- enough beef bones to fill the pot half way – cartilage, marrow and bits of clinging meat add flavour and body
- a mixture of carrot, celery and onions, chopped in large chunks to fill the pot another quarter of the way
- a bit of vegetable oil (many people today are concerned about the use of vegetable oil, in which case you can use olive oil – vegetable is more neutral in flavour)
- a few sprigs of parsley
- a couple of bay leaves
- a few whole black peppercorns
- 4 tbsp.(or so) tomato paste
1. Pre-heat your oven to 475F.
2. Lightly oil the bones all over and spread in a single layer with some space between them in a shallow roasting pan. You may need more than one pan or do it in batches.
3. Roast for about 20-30 minutes, or until starting to brown.
4. Remove the roasting pan from the oven, turn the bones over and add the vegetables to the pan, turning them in the drippings to coat them. Return to oven for another 20-30 minutes, or until bones and vegetables are all nicely browned.
5. Remove from oven, place dollops of the tomato paste on some of the bones and return to oven for another 5 minutes so that the tomato paste becomes dark and dry looking.
6. Using tongs or a slotted spoon so as to leave the drippings in the pan, place the bones and vegetables in your stock pot. Thrown in the parsley, peppercorns and bay leaves. Fill to just below the rim with cold water and slowly bring to the boil, uncovered, over medium-high heat. Do not stir.
7. As soon as your stock reaches a rolling boil, reduce the heat to low and skim off any scum and foam that may have formed. Cover with a tight fitting lid and simmer over the lowest heat possible for a minimum of 8 hours and up to 24 hours. (I usually cook mine for 12-14 hours). Again, do not stir.
8. When done simmering, carefully ladle out the liquid and put through a strainer into another pot. Pick out the bones and vegetables and pour the remaining stock through the strainer and into the pot.
9. Fill your sink with cold water and place your pot of hot stock in it to cool it rapidly. You can place a baking rack under the pot to get more water circulating under the pot so as to cool it even quicker. (Be careful not to overfill the sink or your pot may float and tip over!)
10. As soon as the stock has cooled sufficiently, cover it and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. The next day, skim the hardened fat from the surface of the stock. It is now ready to use or to freeze!
Tip and Tricks
As with most recipes, temperatures and cooking times are just guidelines. I’ve never actually timed this. You need to be aware of what you are trying to achieve. In this case we want to give the bones and veg a nice browning. If it’s taking too long, raise the heat and vice versa.
Using a shallow pan rather than one with deep sides helps to brown the contents better.
Baking the tomato paste ’til it darkens will remove the “tinnie” flavour.
Do not stir your stock! The less you disrupt the contents of the stock pot, the more clear your broth will be. It is also partly for this reason that we want a very light simmer.
Making a good stock is all about “extraction”, not “reduction”. However, if you are limited in the time you can simmer your stock and it comes out on the weak side, you can “cheat” and reduce it a bit after it is finished and the fat has been skimmed.
It is important to cool the stock rapidly to avoid spoilage and prolong it’s shelf life.
If your stock appears gelatinous after you have cooled it, don’t worry. That’s a good thing! That is the gelatin from the cartilage and your stock will be a rich, full bodied velvety liquid again once it is reheated. And, it’s good for you!