With today’s techniques of freezing, preserving and packaging food, the difference between store bought and homemade can be minor; sometimes it is not worth the time to make some food from scratch. In the case of beef stock, however, the difference is still miles apart.
What makes most people shy away from making beef stock is the time it takes. It’s true it does take a while, but most of that time is spent in cooking, depending on what you make. The liquid in the pot reduced by half is a stock. Thicken that with roux and it is a brown sauce. Reduce the stock by half again and it is a demi-glace.
The next time you want some great beef stock, try making it from scratch and enjoy.
The only equipment you need is a stock pot and a roasting pan. Obviously, the bigger the stock pot, the bigger the batch of stock. I used a 3.5-gallon pot for years, but then I got a 5-gallon pot and I love it. I will never use a pot bigger than this on my house stove and will only use this for low-heat cooking. The reason is that if the pan is much bigger than your burner it will reflect too much heat back at your stove and that can cause damage to the stove or even fire (the same is true for large sauté pans). I use my 5-gallon pot strictly for stock, chowder or other things that need to simmer on low heat.
How I determine how many bones to use is by how many bones it will take to fill the pot no more than three-quarters to the top. Put as many bones as will fit in a roasting pan or roast them in two batches or two pans. With the larger pot, I use my roasting pan, as well as another pan. I move the oven racks so they both fit in the oven together. I rotate the two pans a few times during cooking and stir the bones more often so they cook evenly. If you don’t rotate them, one pan will finish a little sooner than the other.
The main keys are to brown the bones and vegetables as dark as possible without burning them and to simmer the stock on the stove as slowly as possible. It took me three full days for the liquid to simmer down to where I had my final product. The first batch I got about 24 ounces of demi-glace, which once cooled was like a rich beef Jell-O. I then cover the bones with water again and let it simmer but not quite as far — about halfway between a stock and a demi-glace. This will not be quite as strong but still usable for most sauces or other things.
The first batch is strictly for sauces and you only need about 1 tablespoon per serving so it goes a long way. Often I will repeat the process one last time, sometimes adding a few fresh veggies just for use in soups and stews (a stock). The third batch can be a little bitter without fresh veggies and I will add a touch of sugar if needed. Total time on the stove for all three batches was exactly one week, but I got a large quantity of quality stock and demi-glace that I froze in small batches. The next time you want great beef stock, try making it from scratch and enjoy.
Beef Stock and Demi-Glace
2 onions (1 with the peel), chopped
4 carrots, split lengthwise & chopped
8 celery sticks, chopped with no leaves
1 can cranberry sauce
15 juniper berries (if you have them)
15 to 20 peppercorns
2 small cans tomato paste
1/8 C red vinegar
2 T dried rosemary, crushed
1 T salt
4 to 5 bay leaves
2 C red wine
Brown the bones until golden. Stir once in a while. Add onions, carrots, celery, cranberry sauce, juniper berries and peppercorns. Let this brown but not burn, then spread tomato paste onto the bones. Add red vinegar and brown a little more. Scoop all this into the stock pot and discard the oil.
Cover the bottom of the roasting pan with water and bring to a boil scraping all the pieces off the pan. Pour this into the stock pot and fill the pot to just below the top. Add dried rosemary, salt, bay leaves and red wine. Bring this to a boil and turn down to the lowest simmer.
Let slowly simmer until the liquid has reduced by at least half and then strain. The more you reduce this, the stronger the flavor.