I’ve read a few snide comments here and there when people put up recipes that require stock. Like “1 c. beef stock. I use canned since I am not Martha Stewart and don’t have fresh grass-fed beef stock in my freezer” or “I’m not fancy enough to make my own stock.”
And it makes me INSANE. I think people have this notion that making your own stock is some elite culinary skill. Reality? You boil bones and leftover crappy parts of vegetables. The end.
It’s SO easy and for the hell of it, I’m going to do a comparison for you real quick.
Swanson Organic Beef Broth in my local Target is $4.29 for 32 ounces. They also have a Pacific Foods Organic Beef Broth for a bit cheaper and while it is very delicious, it does have added ingredients in it. From the package:
Organic beef stock (water, organic beef), Organic beef flavor base (organic roasted beef including beef juices, organic cane juice, organic beef flavor, organic onion powder, sea salt, organic canola oil, caramel color, organic garlic powder, organic black pepper, organic paprika, flavor), Sea salt, Autolyzed yeast extract, Organic garlic powder.
Though none of these ingredients aren’t technically bad, they’re not necessary when building your own soup or stew, which is what you would be using stock for most of the time. Also, for people with extreme diet sensitivities, caramel color and yeast can cause issues. Overall, I’d like my “base” to be as base as possible.
The Swanson is made with “cattle-raised” cows with no added hormones or antibiotics and has no fillers or MSG in the broth. So I chose this one when I need to have beef broth and don’t have any on hand, which happens very rarely. But neither brand mentioned whether the cows were grass-fed, grain-fed, grass-finished, etc. Just “cattle raised” which even though they may not have had antibiotics or hormones pumped in their bodies, they were still likely fed a grain-based diet. Cows are meant to pasture and eat grass and when I have the choice, I choose the animal that has been fed the correct food and lived the best life.
I am lucky in Iowa that we have a fairly active local farming community as well as a large farmers market (which goes indoor in the winter) and I have access to grass-fed meat. My Crossfit box also has a local organic pastured farmer visit the gym every couple of months and he sells his beef, poultry and pork and I can spend $200 and be set on organic pastured/grass-fed meat for 2-3 months.
Last time the farmer was out of soup bones, so I picked some up at the market this Saturday. It was $9.70 for two huge soup bones ($4.00/lb).
And because I know my penchant for making stock like it’s going out of style, I keep what I call a “stock bag” in the freezer. It’s a large sealed bag (or two or three) where I shove all of the “garbage” bits from my vegetables as I use them: the cores of onions, leafy parts and ends/hearts of celery, hearts and tops of leeks, ends and tops of parsnips, carrots, turnips, leftover herbs from when I have too much for a recipe. So this way, when I’m ready to make stock, I already the “stock stuff” on hand and don’t need to go out and buy or chop anything and just toss the “stock bag” in the pot. I always add 1-2 medium fresh onions though.
Ok, so even though I used “garbage vegetables” let’s do a price comparison assuming you had to go out and buy new ones. The cost is based on the fractions of the originals you would use. So around $.65 for new celery hearts and leaves, around $0.75 for 2 new onions, $.50 for fresh parsley, $.50 cents for 5 large carrots, $.12 for two bay leafs, $.30 for 5 large garlic cloves. This recipe makes 5-6 liters of stock, or around 170-200 ounces for $12.56 or $0.06 an ounce. The store bought organic is $0.13, nearly double. It would cost you around $25-$30 to buy the same amount of stock in the store.
So for half the price, you get an incredibly nutritious, nourishing, organic (assuming you add all organic produce), grass-fed beef stock. Plus, the fat that you’ll remove from the top can be used in myriad ways. You can use it to fry foods, or my mother loves mixing it with birdseed, making her own suet, and freezing to hang for the birds in the winter.
Hopefully I’ve convinced you to make your own beef stock by now so start your own “stock bag” in your freezer so you’ll have everything on hand after your next trip to the market. Here’s how you do it. First, there’s a few key things I find is integral to making a great stock. 1) Roasting the bones and 2) vinegar which helps break down the bones to better extract the nutrients.
Homemade Beef Bone Broth/Stock
What you need:
- 2-3 large soup bones, around 4-6 pounds
- 5 stalks of celery, including hearts and leafs
- 2 onions, roughly chopped
- 5 carrots, chopped (no need to peel or remove tops)
- whatever other odds and ends of veggies you have around
- 1 c. chopped parsley
- 5 garlic cloves
- 4 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 bay leafs
What you do:
- In a 400 degree oven, roast the bones for 45 minutes
- Put in a large stock pot, toss in the veggies, garlic, herbs, and vinegar and cover with cold, filtered water. Fill till about 2 inches from the top of of pot.
- Bring to a boil.
- Cover and set to low no less than 12-15 hours.
- Now, you can literally cook this for 2 days. By keeping the top on, it reduces much slower. If you want it to reduce faster, take the top off. But always keep it on low/simmer.
- When the pot has reduced about a third, shut it off, let cool and then put in the fridge if you have room. If you want your broth deep and rich, reduce to half.
- The next morning, there will be a nice white layer of fat. Scoop this off and save or toss it. As much of a fan as I am of fat, you don’t want this much in your stock, but you don’t have to waste it. Note: If your fridge isn’t big enough to put the whole pot in and scoop the fat off in one fell swoop, skip ahead to the next step and then scoop the fat off the jars after a night of cooling before freezing. Trying to remove frozen fat is harder than you think.
- Since the pot is so large, I strain it once by using a ladle and scooping the bones and veggies out into a plain old strainer. Keep your garbage can near by to dump the strainer when full.
- Once you’ve strained all the big pieces out, pour the broth back in the original pot and get ready to do it again. Only this time you strain it again through a cheesecloth. This catches all the bigger particles.
- You will need to salt this to taste as well since the amount each stock will get is so varied I can’t give you an accurate salt measurement. As always, do this very slowly and taste repeatedly.
- Pour into containers and store!