Thursday, April 5, 2012

Making Homemade Beef Stock

My family bought half of a grass-fed cow this winter. I asked the processing plant for the bones and any extras they had. Now, I'm a veteran at making homemade chicken stock, but this was to be my first foray into beef stock. We put the huge bag of bones into the freezer to wait until I had room in the freezer to make stock. You see, we also bought a pastured hog that came in about 6 weeks before the beef did. That meant my freezer was full. to. the. max. Since, I had 200 thousand pounds of bones, I was going to need to freeze the resulting stock so it wouldn't spoil. Of course that was going to take up precious freezer space that I just didn't have until we ate some more meat.

When I knew that time was getting close for me to make stock we took the big bag of bones out of the freezer and set it on the garage floor to wait for me. I live in Indiana and it was winter time so this should have been no problem. Clue in on key word should. Let me rephrase...In a typical winter this should not have been a problem. Clue in on key words typical winter. In case you just flew in from Mars or something...this has NOT been a typical winter. No. We had to have a warm snap. Like, even warmer than our unusually warm winter snap. I couldn't get those bones out of the garage before they quickly spoiled because of the heat. GRRRRRR! Needless to say, I was NOT a happy camper. Lesson learned...

I still wanted to make beef stock, though. Bone broth is one of the healthiest foods you can consume and I am over buying an inferior product if I don't have to. Guess what I found out? You can actually buy the bones from a butcher many times. Meijers (a superstore in the Midwest) even sells them. So, I bought me some bones and made beef stock. Wanna learn?

First, you need to get some bones. I started by saving all the beef bones that came in our roasts and off of our steaks in a gallon sized bag in the freezer.

Then, I bought some soup bones at Whole Foods.

And last, but not least...I snatched up this baby to throw in for good measure. :0)

It's a cow hoof. The hard part has been taken off and it's been cleaned, of course.

I thought you might like a close up. You're welcome. :) These are really great for making stock because they're full of the substance which causes stock to gel. You want that. It's super good for your joints as well as your immune system.

I think I freaked the lady out behind me in the check-out lane at Meijers when she saw this on the conveyor belt. Our conversation went something like this...

- Excuse me, what is that?
- A cow hoof.
- What are you going to do with it?
- Make dinner.
- voice begins to raise... Exactly WHAT are you making with it?
- voice remains calm and nonchalant... Braised cow hooves with liver meatballs. It's cooked with lots of garlic and onions, which makes everything taste wonderful. It's really good for you.
- voice is near panicky and about 5 octaves higher... OH. MY. GAAAWD! How can you EAT that?

Naw, I didn't really say that to her. But, I totally would have if I was on-the-spot witty. Unfortunately, I usually come up with some real zingers, but it's always after the fact. :) This is how our conversation really went...

- Excuse me, what is that?
- A cow hoof.
- What are you going to do with it?
- Make beef stock.
- Oh?
- Yeah, they're great for making stock because they produce a lot of the gel that is so good for building your immune system and joints.
- Well, that makes sense. I just wouldn't want to see one show up on my dinner plate!

It wasn't until I hit the parking lot that I realized I could have had a really great time messing with her. Oh well, there's always next time. :)

You probably want to know how to finish making stock now so I'll get off of my bunny trail.

After I gathered all of my respective bones, I put them in my favorite 9 quart iron Dutch oven. I give you permission to use whatever you want, though. I'm nice that way. Then I added some flavor and nutrient enhancers.

This part is really flexible, but I added carrots, onions and garlic. They make the broth taste yummy and give a real boost to the immune system. I also added bay leaves, because bay leaves make everything taste better. The dried stuff you see in the picture is parsley from last year's herb garden. If you ever plan on planting parsley in your herb garden make sure to get the Italian parsley. Don't even bother with the curly stuff - unless you like to put a snippet of it on the side of your dinner plates for everyone to throw away. Then, by all means, knock yourself out. I won't judge you. Anyhoo...I also added sea salt and pepper for good measure. As far as flexibility goes, you can throw in celery, leafy greens like kale or collards, any herb you have on hand (think thyme, chives, sage...), the occasional potato peel, etc. I've even been known to throw in a few asparagus stems, though you would want to go easy on that. They have a pretty strong flavor when cooked for a long time and can quickly overwhelm the broth. You want the main flavor to be the animal the bones came from, not asparagus. Know what I mean?

A quick tip if you're going to start making bone broth, beef or chicken, is this: If you're going to peel carrots for something, wash them first and then save the peels in a zip lock bag in the freezer. You can also save onion and garlic skins, the tips of celery or the ends of any veggie that you would normally send to the trash or compost bin as long as you wash them first. This also applies to the stems of soft herbs. Then, when your bag of frozen veggie scraps is full just add it to your bones for broth. The scraps are still full of nutrients and flavor. Even though they're not fit for showcasing in a meal they're perfect for making broth and you didn't have to waste a vegetable in the meantime.

Here's another quick tip for you. Don't mess with peeling and chopping the garlic. I simply smash them with the side of knife and throw them into the pot skins and all. I KNOW.. so much easier! You're welcome.

Once you've decided on add-ins, or not, just cover with water. I mean...JUST. You don't want inches of water over the tops of your bones 'n veggies. Kapeesh?

Now, this next step is optional but highly recommended. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar to the water and let it sit for about 30 minutes before you turn the heat on. The cider vinegar begins to break down the bones so that inner substance that forms the gel that is so good for you can be released.

After about 30 minutes turn the heat on medium high and bring to a boil. Skim off any foam that forms and then turn the heat down to med low. Cover your pot. You want a gently bubbling simmer, not a boil. That's it! 

Don't let the details of this post fool you. It takes mere minutes of hands-on time to get to this point. From here on out you barely even have to think about your broth, much less touch it. So, though there is a lot of time involved, there is very little hands on time involved. It's brainless, really. smells SO GOOD your husband will go nuts when he gets home from work. I'm talkin' 'wake you up in the night 'cause it smells so good' good here. Moving on...

Ideally you want to let your stock simmer for 24 hours before you strain it. But, you can let it go even longer if you like. I wouldn't strain beef stock any sooner than 18 hours, personally. Chicken stock can be removed after 8 or 12 hours if you need to. The beautiful thing about making your own stock is that you can make it in a crock pot if you're uncomfortable with running your stove top for that long at a time.

Another tid bit of information is that your bones can be reused. Remove the veggies after each batch if you're using them. Chicken bones can be used 2 or 3 times. Beef bones can be reused up to 5 times. Now, each batch of broth is going to be weaker than the one before. The first batch of stock is superb, unequaled to store bought even, and is best used where the flavor is going to be featured. Think soups, sauces, etc. The later batches which are less flavorful are great for cooking anything that would normally just use water. Think rice, risotto, steaming veggies, yada, yada, yada. Although you don't get the awesome flavor, you're still getting extra nutrients.

When my stock was done, I poured it into mason jars through a cheesecloth.

Once it's cool the fat will rise to the top. You can scoop it off if you wish. Or, you can scoop it off and save it separately to use in cooking because what you have there is tallow - a traditional, healthy fat. You can see that the jars in the back look different than the jars in the front. They don't have that dark, rich color because they were from a later batch of beef stock. It'll be perfect for cooking rice or something like that in.  

All in all, I ended up with 7 quarts of beef stock. I can live with that. :0 I'm not lying when I tell you that the flavor of store bought broth in no way, shape or form comes anywhere near the flavor of homemade stock. The difference it makes in the flavor of your meals will amaze you once you try it.

You can go here for a tutorial on how to make chicken stock and a few more tips about packaging and storing broth in general.

So, do tell...Have you ever made your own stock before? Is this something you think you would ever do? Any more ideas on what to do with the later batches of stock that don't have as rich of a flavor?


  1. Ok, Pam, I am dying here over the cow hoof and the checkout lady. My sister is one of those people who can always come up with a snappy answer right away. I wish I had that, but, alas, I would be thinking of it in the parking lot, too.

    Honestly, I would totally buy a cow hoof to add to my stock if I saw it in the store, but I'd have to hide it when I started cooking. I am so not above doing that. Lol. What they don't know is often good for them!

    1. Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do! LOL

  2. I'm following your recipe as I write! Great write-up! I'll have to check out the rest of the blog!


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