Pulling out your own wobbly, gelatinous beef stock from the fridge will make your chest puff with pride. Perhaps it’s the feeling of self-sufficiency you get from making something out of mere bones and a few carrots, onions, and celery. Maybe it’s the sense of well-being that comes from having a stockpot of barely simmering liquid on your stove top for hours, perfuming your home with a mouth-watering aroma. Whatever it is, a pot of well-made stock will give even the most modest cook a little swagger.
Considering that most of us could use such a boost now and then, I’m not sure why we aren’t all making our own stock. You certainly don’t get the same feeling from pulling the can of store-bought stock off the shelf. Convincingly labeled “less sodium” yet still yielding a startling amount of your daily value of sodium for it being flavored water, store-bought stock pales in comparison to its homemade counterpart. Yet despite the great rewards for just a little effort, most home cooks shy away from anything have to do with stock.
Next week, I’m teaching a week-long “Stocks and Sauces” course at John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC. We’ll start with stocks, because they are the foundation of any good cook’s repertoire, and because they will be a much utilized ingredient as we make sauces. I’m hoping to convince the participants that attend the class that they have time to make stock, that there’s no magic involved, and that it’s well worth the effort. I hope they leave with the intention of making stocks a part of their kitchen routine, resourcefully using up what would otherwise be considered scraps, and elevating their cooking in the process.
Time is the biggest hurdle to making stocks. A flavorful broth can be made in hardly any time at all, but for a rich, full-flavored stock you’ll want to devote several hours to slow-cooking. I’m not keen on leaving my home with a pot on the stove top so I have to find time, 4-6 hours for chicken stock or 8 to 10 hours for beef stock, when I plan to be home. Simmering stock overnight is the best solution to this dilemma.
Upon waking, simply strain the stock through a fine mesh strainer into a clean pot or large storage container. Let it cool a bit while you get ready for your day and then pop it into the fridge on your way out. Upon your return, you’ll see the hard work has been done for you with the fat rising and congealing on the top making it easy to pick off and discard with your fingers. With most of the work being done while you are sleeping, you won’t have the opportunity to depouillage (to skim the fat off the surface of a simmering stock or sauce with a spoon), but the only thing fun about depouillage is saying the word, the act itself is painfully tedious.
Underneath that layer of chilled fat is what all the effort is about and if you’ve simmered for the appropriate time and kept the ratio of ingredients to water about the same as what I have below, then what you’ll be looking at won’t look liquid at all. The stock that puts that swagger in your step, when chilled, will look a lot like brown jello. If your stock looks like this when you pull it from the fridge, pat yourself on the back. You’ve extracted all the good stuff from the pile of bones you started with and the result is a flavorful and weighty stock, that is culinary gold.
Didn’t achieve meat jello? Don’t despair. You still have wonderfully flavorful stock to use in your kitchen that I promise will be much better than anything you find on the grocery store shelf. And I’m willing to bet that after you see the difference that homemade stock makes, you’ll have another pot simmering on your stove in no time. Happy cooking!
Homemade Brown Beef Stock – Printer Friendly Recipe
Yields about 1 gallon
This stock is a fond brun or “brown stock,” because the bones and vegetables are roasted before being simmered in water. A fond blanc, or “white stock,” is a stock where the bones are not roasted and are immediately placed into cold water. When making a fond blanc, after bringing the water to a simmer, one is usually instructed to drain the water from the pot and fill it again with cold water. This step, which is only done with white stocks, removes the impurities that initially float to the surface.
5 to 6 lbs veal or beef bones
1 lb yellow onions, cut into thick wedges
½ lb celery, cut into 3-inch chunks
½ lb carrots, peeled and cut into 3-inch chunks
about 3 ounces tomato paste
½ cup dry red wine
1 ½ gallons (24 cups) cold water
1 bouquet garni (2 parsley sprigs, 1 thyme sprig, 5 peppercorns, and a bay leaf wrapped in cheesecloth and secured with a piece of kitchen twine)
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Spread the beef bones, onions, celery, and carrots on one large or two small baking sheets. Be careful not to crowd the ingredients. Use a brush to paint the bones and vegetables with tomato paste. This step is called “pince.”
Place the baking sheet(s) in the oven and bake for 1 hour, turning as needed. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let cool. Use tongs to transfer the roasted bones and vegetables to a large stockpot. Drain any fat from the baking sheet.
Place the now empty baking sheet over two burners and heat over medium heat. Carefully add the red wine and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. This step is called “deglazing.” Pour the red wine and the brown bits into the stockpot with the bones and vegetables.
Add the cold water to the stockpot and drop in the bouquet garni. Bring to a simmer. Gently simmer 8 to 10 hours or overnight. Skim the fat from the surface of the stock as needed. This step is known as depouillage.
Remove the stockpot from the heat and drain the contents through a fine mesh strainer into a clean pot or storage container. Depouillage more if needed. Use immediately or refrigerate until ready to use. I also like to freeze stock in 1- and 2-cup quantities in Ziploc bags for easy use down the road. Enjoy.