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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

homemade beef stock

tomato paste over neck bones

Cooking my own chicken and beef stock is something I've known for a long time I *should* be doing, but it has taken me a couple of years to actually come around to it. But now that I've made my own, I can never go back (at least, I hope my schedule never requires me to go back). On a weekend day, I'll make at least 6 quarts at once, and freeze them in little one quart containers. They taste infinitely better than the store-bought processes versions, are healthier, and they cost less too. I'll share a couple of recipes for soup that requires beef stock as the base soon, but for now, let's start with the basics. This one is loosely adapted from the New England Soup Factory Cookbook (also known as the only soup cookbook you'll ever need).

Grocery list (for 6 quarts stock): 7-8 pounds beef neck or short rib bones, 2 onions, 8 carrots, 8 ribs celery, 8 garlic cloves, salt, whole peppercorns, beef bouillon, bay leaves, thyme, parsley, one can tomato paste.

roasting beef neck bones 2

Quarter the onions; wash and cut the celery and carrots into thirds. Add the vegetables and the bones to a large roasting pan, and spread the tomato paste all over. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 40 minutes at 450 degrees, till everything has a nice caramelized crust.

beef stock

Place the contents of the roasting pan in a huge stock pot (12 quart capacity; if you don't have this, divide it up into 2 larger pots). Smash the garlic cloves and throw them in. Add a handful of peppercorns, a generous pinch or two of salt, 3-4 bay leaves, and fill the pot with water till it's almost full. Also add about 1/4 to 1/2 a bunch of fresh parsley, a few sprigs of thyme, and 4-5 beef bouillon cubes. I actually prefer the "better than bouillon" brand of paste, which has no artificial ingredients or MSG - use 4-5 tsps if you have this.

Bring the pot to a boil, then lower the flame so the stock is just simmering. Allow it to cook for 4 hours, adding more water occasionally as it cooks down. After 4 hours, remove from heat and allow to cool. Remove all the big hunks of bone and vegetable with a large slotted spoon. Set another large pot or bowl in the sink, and place a colander over top of it. Line the colander with cheesecloth, then pour the stock right through the colander into the bowl underneath. Then, you can easily measure out 1 quart quantities to freeze.

**Another tip: set all your one quart containers on the counter without the lids first. Allow the stock to cool more, and the fat will congeal on the surface - you can easily skim it off with a spoon. Once you've sealed the containers, beef stock keeps for 3-4 days in the fridge, or at least a couple of months in the freezer.

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