Monday, January 14, 2013

Fun and Frugal: Beef Stock

Midday sun, January 11, 2013
Winter days, winter storms, early evenings, pale sun at noon...I love winter in the north!

This is the time of year I like to make stock...

Summer certainly isn't the time for it!

I simmer stock for up to three days on the back of the stove - that is NOT a good summer activity!

But when the temps hover between zero and 15 degrees (that's Fahrenheit  peeps!), the constant simmering liquid helps warm the house.

And the aroma? Heavenly. Drives the dog crazy :)

So, what is stock?

It's the original kitchen recycling project.
The foundational technique every chef learns.
The basis for soups, gravies and sauces.

In other words, Cooking 101.

Years ago when my husband was working at a hospital in Kansas City, the chef kept a stock pot on the back of the stove. He'd start with turkey, but then every bit of vegetable scrap generated by the kitchen staff (and this was a big hospital!) was thrown into the pot, along with additions of water as needed. Whenever stock was needed for a recipe, Chef Darrel would dip it out of the stock pot. Every five days (or so), he'd empty out the pot, save the stock, dispose of the bones/veggie pieces/etc and start over.

Our foremothers did the same thing - a pot on the back of the stove or at the edge of the fire. It was called a soup pot. Every scrap was saved and used for the soup.

It's a lot like quilting - every scrap saved and used.

And a lot like quilting, I now buy the ingredients for my stock rather than use leftovers.

We had a major winter storm move into our area on Friday, so with that forecast I hunkered down and started a pot of beef stock.

Here are the ingredients (Kav, avert your eyes until we get to the veggies):

Beef ribs with the meat on - I bought mine last summer when Walmart was having a clearance and froze them until last week

Other beef bones: knuckle bones, steak bones, etc.

Important: the amount of ribs and bones you use depends on the size of your stock pot. I have a 20 quart pot, so I use a lot of them.

Also important: Do NOT use an aluminum pot - use stainless steel.

The great thing about these bones is that they're often pretty cheap - look for stew bones or dog bones at your butcher or grocery store. Try to find bones with some meat on them, and the marrow is extra good.

Joint bones or knuckle bones are especially important to include - healthy stuff in them thar bones!
Veggies: onion, carrots and celery. Wash the whole veggie and use as many of the leaves as possible. Chop them coarsely.

4-6 carrots
2-3 celery ribs
1-2 onions
parsley - fresh if you have it, but otherwise use parsley flakes

I like to buy carrots with the tops whenever I can find them.

But celery usually comes with leaves. Use the heart of the celery - you know, the part you throw away when you're cutting up celery sticks?

Start out by preparing the meat.

Put the ribs in a shallow pan or roasting pan and roast for one hour at 350 degrees. This browns the meat nicely and will give your stock a good color.

Meanwhile, put the rest of the bones (with or without meat on them) in your stock pot, cover with cold water and add 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar.

The vinegar leaches out wonderful minerals from those bones.

After an hour, add the cooked ribs and your chopped veggies (except parsley) to your stock pot. Add more cold water (up to a couple inches from the top of your pot), and bring it to a boil.

I know you're thinking "Cold water? Wouldn't hot water help the pot boil faster?". Well, maybe. But using cold water keeps your stock from getting cloudy. No one wants cloudy stock.

As your stock comes to a boil, yucky foam may form on top. Be sure to skim that off.

Now, put the lid on your pot and lower the heat on your burner so that the stock keeps moving at a bare simmer. You want to see movement, but you don't want the liquid to boil.

And this is the best part. You want that stock to simmer for at least 12 hours, up to 72 hours.

Seventy-two hours??? You mean THREE DAYS?


While the stock is simmering, all the healthy stuff from your ribs, bones, meat and veggies are blending together into the best stock you've ever had.

This time I let my stock simmer about 36 hours. It turned out a beautiful amber color. As it cooks longer, it gets darker. My last batch was so dark brown it was nearly black.

About thirty minutes before your stock is done simmering, add the parsley. (And I have to admit, I often forget this step.)

When the stock is done, it's time to store it.

First, remove the bones with tongs, and then strain the liquid through a colander or sieve.

If you're going to freeze your stock, cool it thoroughly in your fridge. Remove the fat that congeals on the top, and then put the stock into freezer containers.

Don't be surprised if your stock resembles brown jello. That's good. It means there's plenty of gelatin in your stock.

I don't have room in my fridge to let the stock cool, so I can mine in pint jars. It's necessary to use steam pressure canning - don't even try to use the water bath method like you do for tomatoes.

Here's what my winter storm project looked like at the end:

The jars weren't quite cool when I took this picture -
the solid fat rises to the top and you can remove it before
using the stock.

And, of course, Wynter got her share. When no one takes the dog out to play, she makes do with a yummy bone!

Oh, and the fun and frugal part? This fits the January requirements I shared last week: low cost, tasty, and low calorie.

Ten calories per cup worth of low calorie. Now that's the kind of frugal I like!

One more thing - you can use this same concept to make chicken/turkey stock and vegetable stock. The only differences are to cook the chicken/turkey stock for only about 12 hours.

The vegetable stock is made from the leftovers of cleaning veggies to eat - peels, stems, leaves, etc. Add water and cook for about 2 hours.

So, how about it? Are you ready to plunge into the world of making stock?


  1. This is fascinating, Jan. I have to run to school now, but I'll be back later to read more and learn!

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Wow, Jan! I had no idea you could cook stock so long. I bet it really is rich! I've never made stock before so will have to try it sometime. Will probably do chicken stock since I use it so often.

    So the big question is... what is steam pressure canning???

    I love the photos! But I can't imagine how cold it is there. We've been in the 60's and 70's here. Unbelievable for January.

    1. This stock is very rich, Missy. You don't want to cook chicken stock as long, though. The bones aren't as dense, and if you cook it more than 12 hours you end up with a lot of dissolved bone in the stock.

      Not pretty. Dogs love it, though.

      A steam pressure canner is like a pressure cooker, except larger. You need to use it when you can low-acid foods like vegetables and meats. The pressure gets the temperature inside the canner up to 240 degrees. A water bath canner (no pressure, with the water covering the jars completely) doesn't go above 212 degrees (the boiling point of water).

      That's fine for acidic foods like tomatoes and fruit, but with low-acid foods, bacteria isn't inhibited by the acidic food, so you have to kill it with higher temperatures.

      I still think cooking is more chemistry than anything else :)

  3. I love this idea, Jan. this has to be so much better than the store-bought stuff. I'd probably go with the chicken variety though, since I go through a lot of chicken broth/stock.

    I have a pressure cooker. Guess I'd just have to figure out the process.

    Cool beans! I love it when you give me new ideas:-)

    1. I only make beef stock about once a year - like you, I don't use it as often.

      I like to make turkey stock in big batches, too. After we've had turkey (for several meals), I just put the leftovers in the stock pot with the water and veggies. The turkey bones with the bits of meat still on them give me at least 16 quarts of good, rich stock.

      And remember, you don't have to can the stock - you can freeze it. I only can it because of space issues with cooling the large batches I make. And of course, having a food-safety conscious husband around means I don't take chances. If the stock doesn't cool to below 40 degrees within 4 hours, I have to throw it out. So to avoid that, I just keep it hot and can it.

      One caution - my canning guide (The Ball Blue Book of Canning and Freezing) says not to use the pressure cooker pans for canning, so make sure you have a pressure canner if you're going to try this.

  4. Simba wants to know if he can come visit for a drool over with Wynter? He can even imagine how could that simmering stock must smell but he figures it's better then marinated tofu. :-)

    I haven't whipped up a homemade veggie broth in ages. You've inspired me.

    Oh -- and I made your hoohash last week and loved it and felt so proud of myself for being frugal and using up food I had on hand. And my, was it filling! Yum. Think that will become a favourite.

    1. Simba's welcome to come - but I'm not sure Wynter would share very well. She's selfish that way :)

      That hoo hash is great comfort food, isn't it? Warm, filling...I'm getting hungry...

  5. Thank you to whomever removed PornHub's very informative comment... Oh dear heaven's, these peeps need a life!!!

    JAN!!!! I love this, I love stock. I've always frozen mine although I do have a pressure canner now that's collecting dust because there's so little time.

    My mother-in-law canned soup once. Very proudly. I said, "Um, Mom... don't do it. It needs to be pressure canned. Bacteria grows in the vacuum...."

    She smirked and said, "It sealed all right."

    Fast forward a few days: BOOM!!! BOOM!!!! The glass jars blew up from the level of happily growing anaerobic bacteria. It's like they said, "Party At Grandma's!!!!"

    I didn't give her a microbiology lesson.

    We just decided it was a really bad idea, lesson learned.

    The end.

    I love how you do this, and your shot of the afternoon sun????

    This is why we love the North because winter makes us appreciative of God's great wonder...


      Explosion at Grandma's!!

      And pornhub? Sounds like a car club.

    2. Oh, my...explosions? I'm cringing at the idea of the MESS, and I didn't even have to help clean it up!

      And yes, sometimes it's best to keep quiet when things like that happen. Discretion is the better part of valor.

  6. Jan, midday sun?? Do you live in Norway????

    Ok, this is just the kind of recipe I need.

    Frugal. Tasty.

    But no pressure canner. So, I could make it and freeze it in containers, ya think?

    I was just admonishing myself this morning because I'd bought a whole chicken and shoved it in the back of the fridge.

    And promptly forgot it.

    How rich are we, that we can buy a whole chicken and FORGET IT'S THERE???

    Wow. Embarassing.

    So, back to frugal and being mindful.

    1. Ginny Lou, dear, Norway has no midday sun this time of year. We actually have sunshine from about 7 to about 4:30 - it's just very low on that southern horizon.

      And oh, the chicken! I did that same thing with a package of meat over the Christmas holidays. Different schedule and all that...I hate doing that.

      So yes, here's to frugality!

  7. cute doggy! drooling over those ribs - thinking they should have bbq sauce on thm...