Taking Stock

Wait, I mean making stock.  I made my very first beef stock this past weekend.  I've made veggie stock, super easy and I make pork stock all the time.  I've just never beef stock.  Why no beef stock?  Well there are these little containers in the grocery store of vegetable, chicken and beef stock that are just so darn convenient.  There's ham stock too but for my pork chop recipe I need pork stock not ham stock so I make it.  After each pork chop dinner I strain the juices, skim the fat and store it in the freezer and use it to start the next batch of chops.

I know, why do you buy stock when it's so easy to make.  Easy is not the issue.  Time is the issue.  It is a very rare day when I'm home for 10 or 12 hours to allow stock to simmer on the stove or, as I did it this time, in the oven.

I visited Butternut Woods Farm on Saturday.  We are now buying all of our beef from this farm.  They raise Highland cattle and they are incredibly responsible farmers.  I was really impressed with the people and the operation when I visited it just confirmed my decision to source all of our beef from them.

The purpose of my visit was to pick up my spring order.  I decided the first thing I was going to make out of this offering was a roast.  I haven't had a roast in probably years and it just sounded good.  A roast needs stock.  Lucky for me, included in my spring box of meat were two soup bones.  All I needed were the bones and Michael Ruhlman's app "Ratio" and I was set.  Oh, and just a little free advice from Mr. Ruhlman himself via Twitter.  Thank you Mr. Ruhlman!

I roasted the bones first.  The kitchen smelled amazing!  I can't wait to make that roast!  I had just over a pound and a half of bones which according to my handy, dandy app called for about 37 ounces of water and I'd get a little over 3 cups of stock.

Stock takes a long time.  I had to run to Farmer's Market, the grocery store and walk the dogs before I could get it started so it was almost 10am by the time the bones and the water made it in the oven.  According to Ratio, they should be in the oven 4-10 hours.  Well I had to be in New Trier to meet one of the spouses of our deployed troops at 6pm so my stock only got a little over 5 hours for the first step.

This is the stock after about 5 hours.
After about 5 hours I added the mirepoix (onions, carrots and celery).  Again my cool little app told me how much of that I needed.  I also added some tomato paste, a couple of bay leaves, some thyme and I toasted up some white and black peppercorns and threw them in too.  The soon-to-be stock then went back in the oven for another two hours.

When I took the lid off my dutch oven after that last two hours the smell was unbelievable. No stock out of a box smells like that!  I removed all of the big bits and then strained the broth.  I used a coffee filter.  I think actual cloth would have been better but this worked.


The resulting stock was really good.  I pulled one of those boxes of stock out of the frig and compared.  The critics are right.  There's no comparison, not in taste and certainly not in price!  I can only imagine how good it would be if it had had a full 12 hours in the oven.

The downside?  Well it's a rare day when I'm home for 12 or 14 hours to babysit stock in the oven.  I could probably leave it in the oven overnight on a Saturday and finish it Sunday morning.  That's probably what I will have to do, because now that I've tasted fresh stock, the stuff in the box, well, yuck.  And now I'm sure I'll have to make my own chicken stock too.  I've made veggie stock before, in a pinch.  I think there will just not have to be so many pinches from now on.

I will say, however that if I'm going to spend 12 hours with the oven on I'm going to want more stock to come out of the effort!  So I'll be asking my friends at Butternut Woods Farm if they could spare me more bones!

I really wanted to make that roast this week but work and life are interfering.  The recipe I want to try takes about 5 hours and there just isn't that kind of time after work, especially this week when we have something going on every night. 
Right now I'm shooting for Saturday!

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