Monday, October 24, 2016

Beef Stock Revisited: cooking 101

My apologies to those who stopped by the Cafe to see how the sourdough project is coming along.

It is progressing! But I'm not quite ready to share my bread recipes, yet. The starter from last week is still alive, though, and that is fabulous. :)

We've had busy times around here (including a looming deadline), so I decided to revisit a recipe I shared a few years ago. So long ago that it was before Thatcher's time!

Yes, this post is from a Corgi life-time ago!

So as we wing our way towards winter, let's enjoy autumn while we plan for cold nights, short days, and hot soups!

Fun and Frugal: Beef Stock

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

Mid-day sun, January 11, 2013
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 fore-mothers 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:

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?


I no longer have time for the 20 quart stock pot full of goodness. Our beef supplier (local rancher) also changed processors, so I wasn't able to order bones with our half-beef last no supply in the freezer.

But no worries! Now I quite often make my beef stock in the crock pot!

How easy is that?

I use the same principles outlined in the post below, but I make only about four quarts at a time instead of sixteen or so. Then I store the stock in the fridge and use as needed...within five days. If I'm not going to use it that soon, then I freeze it.

Jan Drexler loves her family, her home, cooking and just about anything made by hand. But she loves her Lord most of all.

Stop by Jan's website to learn more about her books:


  1. I love having a stock pot brewing, and this is brilliant for how to store it. Although I've never used the pressure canner downstairs. Is that terrible to admit? Maybe this year I'll experiment, Jan!

    And I hear you about busy days and deadlines and shoestring stuff. I'm not exactly creative these crazy weeks of fall between kids and the farm stand and writing... and don't let's talk about housekeeping because it doesn't get done!


    But it will all be waiting in a couple of weeks when the cold shuts down the farm stand... and the leaves fall into thick, wet piles.

    Love the frugal recipes. Keep 'em coming!

    1. Fall is crazy-busy, isn't it? Almost as busy as spring! But those cozy, work-filled, batten-down-the-hatches and spend-the-evening-by-the-hearth days are coming. :)

  2. It's hard to believe there was a pre-Thatcher time. We should do a dogs of the Cafe post. :)

    I love all this talk of winter nights and hunkering down. Sure is more appealing than the high 80s we had last week. All these up and down temps have had my sinuses rebelling and given me a horrendous cough. Today's the first day I have any energy. I want to clean my house. But I'm not sure if that means I'm getting better or worse. *grin*

    I have to hang my head and admit, my stock comes from a supermarket carton. Although I did recently read an interesting recipe for a stock that started with 5 pounds of pureed carrots.

    1. Five pounds of pureed carrots...hmmm...

      My stock comes from the store more often than I like, too. But when I have the bones, using the crock pot makes it easy. :)

      And a "dogs of the Cafe" post! You might have something there! I think our dog addiction is another one of those things we all have in common!

    2. Oh yes -- I'd love a dogs in the café post!!!! Love that your eatery is pet friendly. :-)

  3. So glad you reposted this because I totally missed the fact that you can freeze stock the first time I read this. Woot.

    I make a lot of soups and stews over the winter months and I must confess that I mainly use plain old water has the liquid (gasp!) and that's because the veggie stock at the grocery story is fairly expensive and I never need all of it since I'm only cooking for me. Since it doesn't have a long shelf life once it's open I usually end up dumping the leftovers down the drain. I hate waste. So now I know I can make my own with the stuff that winds up in my green bin and then I can freeze it in the exact quantities my recipes call for. Woot!!!!!!! Woot!!!!!! Woot!!!!!!

    And Thatcher's mug shot was totally worth the visit to the café today. And Wynter gnawing on her bone.

    1. Great idea, Kav! You can even freeze the stock in ice cube trays and then store it in a freezer bag. Use as many cubes as you need!

  4. I love Thatcher puppy photos! :)

    This is such an interesting post since I've never made beef stock. Thanks for reminding us how, Jan. I have done chicken stock before.