We’ve been raising our own ethical beef since I was a little girl. When we process meat all our leftover bones used to be solely destined for dog treats. I now scavenge them for broth/stock. Thank you hipsters and paleo people.
A quick note on broth vs. stock. The definitions aren’t exactly clear, and a lot of people use them interchangeably. To me bone broth means something you would serve up in a mug and sip on a cold day. Stock is a gelatinous substance that I use liberally in my cooking. This process can result in either—just adjust the reduction time.
There are lots of reasons to make your own broth at home. Cost and quality are two obvious ones—but homemade broth also has some wonderful health benefits that broth bought in a carton is lacking.
Making a simple beef bone broth or stock
Step 1: Collecting the bones
You can source bones from your own animals, or can ask at your local butcher shop. You will want to make sure your bones are the best quality you can find by opting for organic and/or grass fed. Look for bones that have lots of marrow. It’s a good idea to add some knuckle bones to ensure that you’re getting enough collagen in your stock for a good gel (Plus, some people say it’s good for you).
Step 2: Roasting
Once you have your bones all together place them in a shallow baking or roasting dish and add any aromatics that catch your fancy. I always use carrots and onions and I sometimes add garlic and peppercorns. You can also put in fresh herbs if you like, but I prefer a simpler flavor. Just don’t add any salt (yet). Place them in an oven heated to 350° F . Cook the bones for 15-20 minutes, then remove the pan, flip the bones, and put back in the oven for another 15 minutes.
Step 3: Boiling
When your bones have finished roasting place them all into a large stockpot along with any aromatics that you used. Use a spatula to scrape the bottom of the roasting pan and add the bits to the pot. Cover everything with water and place over heat for a slow simmer. I prefer to do this in the winter when my wood stove is going. I leave my stock to reduce by half, which makes for a thick, gelatinous stock. This can take as long as 48 hours. I mix it occasionally with a large wooden spoon. The bones will start to break down. You can ladle out some broth at any point, add some seasoning, and enjoy a nice steaming mug of it.
During the simmering process you will likely want skim off some of the fat and foam that comes to the top of the broth. During my last batch of simple beef bone broth I didn’t do this. I don’t mind some tallow setting on top of my stock. However, I wish I would’ve ladled at least some of it off. You’ll see from the photos that I almost ended up with more tallow than stock in my jars.
Step 4: Straining and storing
Once the stock has reduced significantly remove it from the heat. I use tongs to remove all the large bones and chunks. It is at this point that you will want to add salt to taste. I use regular table salt and add quite a lot of it—because I reduce to a concentrated stock I use it for both flavor and salt seasoning. I also believe that extra salt helps preserve my stock while it is in the fridge.
You can then ladle your simple beef bone broth or stock through a mesh strainer and into jars. I like to use small mason jars so that my stock doesn’t go bad while it’s in the fridge being used. I store mine in the freezer, so I make sure to leave enough room to allot for expanding during freezing.
That’s it. One good batch of stock lasts me a full season. I like to use it in mashed potatoes, soups, stir-fries, or anything that could use a rich umami addition.