If your concept of beef stock comes out of a box or can…we need to talk. Box and canned beef stocks are lacking in flavor and taste dreadful, many of which with an awful aftertaste. This is because the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires a ratio of 135 parts water to only 1 part beef. Do you really believe if the FDA doesn’t require beef in beef stock that cost conscious food manufacturers are actually going to use beef? They don’t. As such, the beef flavor in beef stock doesn’t come from beef. It comes from advances in food chemistry. Manufacturers of beef stock use beef powder, technically called “dried pulverized beef tissue” and beef fat technically referred to as a “beef byproduct.” Another product used to give beef stock that “umami” character is MSG. Yum. Don’t you really want to feed your family canned or boxed stock?
I just can’t bring myself to use canned or box beef stock but I do like beef stock. I love its flavor in sauces, like the mother of all beef sauces Espagnole Sauce. Espagnole sauce then forms the base for other sauces, like bordelaise sauce and beef demiglaze. I love its flavor in consommés and soups, especially French Onion Soup. In other words, good stock forms the foundation of wonderful food preparations. Without good stock you only cheat yourself and your guests in the gastronomic experience.
The problem with making your own beef stock is two-fold. First, unless you buy a side of beef and have it butchered to your specifications, you have to buy beef bones, which aren’t cheap. Second, making beef stock takes time. Nonetheless, because I was making a batch of French Onion Soup, I needed to make beef stock… a GOOD beef stock.
In making GOOD beef stock, the first choice is bones. Some soup bones are basically just bones. They have little to no marrow in them. If all you use is marrowless bones, making a good stock will be very difficult. Marrow bones alone, on the other hand, while providing great depth of flavor and umami smoothness, also are lacking in flavor if that is all you use. You need a combination of marrow bones and meat. Choices for bones include ankles, shanks, ox tails, femur bones from young baby beef, etc. Don’t skimp on the bones; otherwise, save your time and money and go buy box or canned beef stock. This recipe provides you a great, rich umami beef stock perfect for use as consommé or any other use you have in mind.
- 5 lbs meaty, beef marrow bones
- 1 large yellow onion, rough chop
- 2 carrots, rough chop
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 4 oz tomato paste
- 4 stalks celery, rough chop
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 6 whole cloves
- 10 whole peppercorns
- 2 tsp dried thyme
- 2 Bay leaves
- 2 eggs
- 10 Qts cold water
Prep veggies and oil a roasting pan. Add the beef bones, onions, celery, carrots and crushed garlic cloves. Add tomato paste and smear on bones. Toss bones and veggies. Place in a preheated 350 F oven and roast for 45 minutes.
While the bones and veggies are roasting, fill a large stock pot with 8 qts water. Crack 2 eggs into the water.
Take an immersion blender or a whisk and vigorously whip the eggs to incorporate fully into the water.
Why in the world would you add eggs to the water you ask? Well, it’s because when the water boils, the eggs cook and float to the surface forming a raft which helps clarify the stock.
When the bones are done, add them to the water. Take the roasting pan and add water, red wine, brandy, whatever, and deglaze the pan getting all the yumminess from the sucs left from roasting the bones. Add the deglazing liquid to the stock pot with the roasted bones and veggies. Add the Bay leaves and dried thyme.
Gently bring to a boil stirring the bottom occasionally to scrape up any eggs cooking to the bottom. Allow it to come to a gentle boil. When you do the eggs will have cooked and risen to the top forming a raft that looks like this.
Reduce temperature to a simmer and simmer for 8 – 10 hours. Make sure to keep the bones covered with water. If you want a richer, more full flavored stock, cook it an additional 4 – 12 hours making sure to keep the bones covered with water. When done, strain through a fine sieve and muslin cloth. It will leave you roughly 2 qts of a beautifully clear, dark stock without coloring or additives. The resulting stock will have tremendous depth of flavor and character that you can use for consommé or any soup or sauce you choose. I used it in the accompanying French Onion Soup recipe. Enjoy.
NOTE: For those of you that are curious, beef stock and beef broth, although used interchangeably, are different. Beef stock, like this recipe, is made using the beef bones plus meat and seasonings. The bones are either cracked or sawed and roasted before adding them the pot. Cracking or sawing the bones allows access to the marrow and roasting provides a greater depth of flavor. Broth, on the other hand, is made from meat and seasonings but no bones. As a result, stock will have a a richer flavor with a different texture and mouth feel and will be gelatinous when cool. This is because the collagens from the bones are extracted while cooking it.
One last comment. If you read the full recipe you noticed the complete absence of salt. There is a reason for my not salting stock. First, if you salt it prior to reducing it to its final product, you run the serious risk of the stock being too salty. More importantly, however, although stock can be used in and of itself for a beautiful consommé, more often than not it is an ingredient in a soup, sauce or dish. The soup, sauce or dish will have its own instructions and ingredient amounts, including salt. As such, once again, if you salt your beef stock and then use it in a recipe along with its salt requirement, you may come up with a salty dish at the end. To avoid this I don’t salt my stock preferring to salt the finished product, if needed.