Stock is a great thing, whether it be chicken stock, vegetable stock, or in this case, beef stock. Making stock is one of the first things I learned in Culinary school. I remember the emphasis my Chef instructors put on making a quality stock. I remember them saying “never let your stock boil, don’t stir your stock, skim your stock of impurities frequently, when done simmering quickly cool your stock”.
When I hear people talk about putting love into their cooking I usually think of making stock, or baking bread. I know it is different for every cook and where their passion lies, but for me personally it seems as if you put part of yourself into the stock or loaf of bread when made from scratch.
A great stock can elevate a dish to new heights. Whether it is a simple soup, or a complicated sauce with many components. Homemade stocks are superior to store bought stocks in many ways, the two most important in my opinion is first taste, and secondly, the ability of a homemade sauce to reduce and thicken when making sauces. Store bought stocks always seem to taste salty and watered down, and if they are from a can they always seem to have a bit of a tin taste to them as well. Homemade stock has a wonderful richness and concentration of flavor. Beef stock smells and tastes like beef, and chicken stock smells and tastes like chicken, while both get a bit of added depth from the vegetables. Perfect. Homemade stocks will also thicken on their own when being reduced down without the help of any thickening agents like flour or cornstarch.
I will be honest, most of the time I do use store bought stocks. It is so convenient and quick to buy a box of stock and take it home and instantly use it. I mostly used boxed chicken stocks and have found some decent ones, but I still have never found a boxed or canned beef stock that doesn’t taste anything but weird. But in my efforts to eat better, and to not eat so much processed food, I am going to try and keep an ongoing supply of homemade beef or chicken stock at home and ready to use.
The specific reason I decided to make beef stock last week was because my wife and I have been having a craving for Pho. Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup. When she lived in New York city and Chicago she didn’t have too much of a problem finding good Pho. For me, my older brother turned me onto Pho about 10 years ago when we were living in Southern California, tons of great places down there to get Pho. But here on the Central Coast in Santa Maria, we haven’t been able to find any. So we decided we would give it a shot at home. Since the base of a great Pho is the broth, we knew we wouldn’t have an adequate Pho if we used a boxed beef stock, so we went to the butcher, bought some beef bones, and made beef stock at home.
Making the stock itself is not hard, but it is time consuming. But I think it is definitely worth the effort. Below is what you will need and the method to making a great beef stock at home.
What you will need:
-5-6 pounds of beef bones. We used mainly knuckle and marrow bones and got them from the Meat Company Butcher Shop in Arroyo Grande. If you don’t have a butcher near by then ask the butcher at the grocery store you go to.
-4 carrots, peeled and chopped into big pieces.
-4 celery stocks, chopped into big pieces.
-2 or 3 large yellow onions, chopped into big pieces
-1 or 2 tbsp tomato paste
Place bones on sheet tray and place in a 425 degree oven. Roast until bones are evenly browned, turning every so often.
When bones are nice and brown take out of oven.
Place bones in a large stockpot. Discard rendered fat from sheet tray except for about 2 tablespoons.
Cover bones with cold water. Place the stockpot on the stove and turn the heat on high. Bring to a simmer.
While your waiting for you bones to come to a simmer, add the mirepoix (carrots, celery, onions) to the sheet tray with the reserved fat and toss to coat all the vegetables.
Put sheet tray in 425 degree oven and roast vegetables until caramelized. Tossing the mirepoix every so often. It would have probably have been better if I split the vegetables into 2 sheet trays. I think I would have gotten a better caramelization to them.
While the mirepoix is roasting in the oven, check on your beef bones. When the water starts to simmer lower the heat to keep a consistent low simmer. I keep a bowl and a spoon near the stock pot while it simmers, skim the scum and impurities that rise to the surface frequently with the spoon.
When vegetables are done browning in the oven, take them out and add the tomato paste. Mixing it up with all the vegetables.
Cook for a few minutes on top of the stop top, or return to the oven for a few minutes to cook out raw tomato taste.
Add the mirepoix to the stock pot with the beef bones. Add a little water or red wine to the hot sheet tray to degrease, scraping up all the brown bits, add to the stock pot as well. Their is a lot of great flavor in those brown bits.
Let your stock simmer, uncovered, for 8-48 hours. I let mine simmer for 11 hours. I am not a huge fan of leaving my home with the stove on. Remember to check on your stock frequently in the beginning, skimming off the fat, scum, and impurities that rise to the top. Continue to check on it periodically after that.
When you are done simmering your stock, place another stockpot in the sink and surround it with ice. Put a strainer or colander over the pot and pour your stock into it, letting the colander separate the cooked vegetables and bones. You can throw away the bones and vegetables.
It is important to cool your stock off fairly quickly. You don’t want to put your stock in the refrigerator hot because it will take to long to cool off and it will heat up everything else in your refrigerator. Putting it in an ice bath will help it to cool off quickly, just don’t stir, that will cloud your stock.
When your stock is cooled off, place in a container with a tight fitting lid. Refrigerate for up to 3 days, or you can also freeze your stock for up to a couple of months.
In the above picture, you can see the layer of fat that rises to the top of the stock when it cools off. Before you use your stock you can scrape that layer off.
Above is the finished product, a nice dark brown beef stock with the fat scraped off, all ready to use. This is the stock we ended up using for our Pho later that night. But try it out in soups, or make a quick sauce using red wine and beef stock, also great to use as base for braising liquid. Whatever you end up using it for I really think you will enjoy it.