Sunday, May 25, 2008

Dem Bones: Beef Broth

Turn your heads, gentle vegetarian readers, turn your heads. I just had to share the delightful bubbling mess that's been brewing in our house for, oh, the last three days. We buy much of our meat from Polyface Farms, including some hot-damn hot dogs. In addition to really tasty grass-fed meat and the world's most delectable grub-fed chicken eggs, they helpfully sell giant sacks of beef bones, as well. I've been following Sally Fallon's recipe (well, pretty closely) and thought you might want the lowdown on how you, too, can make your own bone broth without too much trouble.

Define "trouble" it a recipe you can make in one day or in three, depending on what suits your schedule? Not in my book. That's what I love about this broth. It just gets better the longer you ignore it and let it simmer undisturbed. Let it cook for as little as 12 hours or as long as you like (if you keep adding water, all will be well...obviously, you don't want to cook off all of your broth and let the bones char to the bottom of the pot, not that I have done that, and to be honest, Fallon gives you a three day window which I have blatantly overshot in the past with no injury).

Here's the basics: take your knuckle bones and almost-meatless bones and throw them in big stockpots with enough water to cover them and 1/2 cup vinegar per pot. You're going to add some vegetables so don't fill the pots to the brim. Let the vinegar-water-bones mixture sit for an hour. While that's sitting, take the meaty bones and brown them in a 350 degree (F) oven for awhile so you get nice brown bits. Scrape as many of those bits off the pan and put the whole mess in your pots on top of the stove. Chop up a big onion, a couple carrots, and some celery for each pot.
Grind some green peppercorns and throw some thyme sprigs into each pot. Bring each giant vat to a boil. During this first boil, spoon off the bubbly goo that rises to the top of the water and discard it. Then, bring the heat down as low as you can go and let your bones simmer. Make sure you throw in a bunch of parsley and let it simmer for 10 minutes before you're ready to finish your broth.

Whenever is convenient to be handling giant pots of lava-temperature bones, fish them out with a slotted spoon. Use a colander to contain the mess. It's pretty revolting-looking stuff. If you want, you can take a knife and dig the marrow out of the bones to eat on a piece of toast; it's tasty and quite good for you, too, if Fallon's to be believed. I like to think of it as showing some reverence for the animal, too, to be eating up every last scrap. Anyhoo, get rid of the overcooked veggies and bones (trash 'em, or feed the super-soft veggies to a baby and let a deserving canine gnaw on a bone or two) and let your broth cool in the fridge.

When it's got a rock solid layer of congealed fat (beef tallow? anyone making soap? no? just old-school McDonald's fries?) on top, take it out and save the fat to feed to the birds (perhaps in a suet holder, I gotta ask my dad). I used to chuck the tallow! See how blogging helps me grow? Now I know I can feed that fat to the birds! Ahem. Then strain your broth through cheesecloth, store it in glass mason jars (leave at least 1 1/2 inches at the top for expansion or they'll explode) and put your broth in the freezer.

Use your broth for a delicious stew or soup base, or the foundation for rockin' gravy. I don't use beef stock to cook rice or couscous, but if you do the chicken bones version, it's delightful cooked into grains.

Hope you all are getting to hang with the people you love and tackle interesting, high maintenance projects yourself this weekend as we remember those who have given so much so that we can putter in peace.

P.S. If you live in NoVa, apparently you can buy Polyface meat at the Arlington farmer's market; I dunno about honkin' bags of bones, but it's worth asking....


amy t sharp said...


kate5kiwis said...

uh, not a gentle vegetarian in sight at our place, lol.
love the instructions, it's just how my mummy taught me to make stock.
here's to a hearty stew!!!
mmmmm X

Lynn from said...

My I come to find out that I've been making broth the WRONG way all these years! Who knew you were supposed to put in cold water? In a perpetual hurry, I thought adding boiling water just made the process go faster!

DH is an ovo-lacto-pesce-vegetarian, and I am most of the time, but am known to indulge in the occasional Whole Foods rotisserie chicken and then make soup from the rest.

I really appreciated the links to Sally Weston's recipe - which really was like a history lesson about eating!

Melanie said...

Oh, baby. You had me at "giant pots of lava-temperature bones." I love making stock. So easy, yet such big pay-off.

Alos, remind me to tell you about the time I knocked over an entire vat of hot veal stock onto the floor of a four-star kitchen. And into my shoes.

Ana said...

Oh this looks delish and I can think of a hundred and one recipes to use the broth in! Thanks!

Grandmother Wren said...

I make chicken stock regularly to use in gumbo but I've never tried beef. (why? now that I think about it...)I love making stuff that simmers all day on the back of the stove. Thank you for this recipe. I'm sure once the broth is done, my dog will be sending you a thank you note of his own!

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