You know I'm an old hand at chicken stock. But beef stock has always been my Waterloo. First, how do you get beef bones? Aldi sure doesn't have them. Then, what kind of bones are best? And finally, when I finally did get beef bones last December, I ended up with a soup that smelled like foot.
I had bought something labeled "soup bones" at Whole Foods, roasted them, and simmered them for hours. What I got was something pale yellow and watery, smelling like wet socks, which gelled very firm but was no good to eat. (And I, being foolish, kept messing with it, wasting meat and vegetables trying to make it into something good, and ended up having to throw the whole pot away.)
I wasn't planning on ever trying again. Chicken stock is good enough for almost every purpose, and I can always buy beef bouillon cubes. (Herb-Ox has no added MSG, so it's what I usually use. Some boxed or canned broths are better, though more expensive.)
But then the baby had his issues. When I reintroduced chicken, he screamed inconsolably for an hour the next day. FOR AN HOUR. It just wasn't worth it, so now I'm not eating any chicken. Yet I do need stock for vegetable soups! And I wanted the health benefits of bone broth -- it is extremely rich in minerals. With John off grains and me able to eat only very small quantities of certain spices (like garlic and onion) I didn't trust any of the storebought brands.
I was at Shoppers (the "standard" grocery store) the other day and saw neck bones. The bones had lots of meat on them, and were discounted a bit (though still pricier than you'd expect considering it's just bones -- somewhere around $2 or $3 a pound), so I bought a 5-lb. package.
I spent a lot of time cutting the meat off the bones so I could use it for stew. I ended up with about 4 cups. (Warning: handling raw meat while caring for a baby is difficult. Luckily he was in a good mood and willing to be satisfied with me handing him toys with my toes.) Then I roasted the bones for about half an hour and put them in the crock pot with 3 quarts of water, a tiny bit of onion (including all the skin, for color), and a carrot.
Guys, it worked. Whether it was the shreds of remaining meat (well browned) on the bones, or the better quality of the bones (I suspect the Whole Foods bones were bad to start with), I got a dark brown stock that smelled good and worked fine in my stew.
5 lbs. neck bones with meat on them
3 qts. water
salt and herbs to taste
Remove meat from bones and reserve for another purpose. Roast bones in a 350 degree oven for half an hour. Simmer with water and vegetables for 5 hours. Strain stock, reduce as desired, and season. (It is important not to salt before reducing, or it'll be way too salty!)
Beef stock is delicious in beef stroganoff, shepherd's pie, beef-barley soup, and French onion soup.