Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Making bone stock...

Being a cattle rancher's wife, I have learned a lot about cooking a whole beef, not all at once, but hunk by hunk, cut by cut, bone by bone.  One of the packages we get from the butcher is labeled "soup bones."    Our soup bones are generally quite meaty, cut from the shank or legs.  I make beef stock from them and honestly, they make the nicest, most flavorful beef broth for French Onion Soup that you can imagine.  As many times as I have made beef stock, I never really realized the nutritional value of boiling bones for a long period of time until recently.  I thought three or four hours of cooking soup bones was plenty, but now I'm reading about cooking them slowly for 12-48 hours and the reason why is nutrition.  It takes some time to fully release the nutritional goodness from bones.

Grandma was right, homemade soup is the very best medicine.  I recall watching several old movies where a gun-shot cowboy was lying- on his death bed, and what did the aproned homemaker feed him?  Broth.  What did the white-capped nurse feed the ill and infirmed who were in her care?  Broth.  When motherless babies were found on the prairie and there was no milk to be had, what were they given?  Broth.  It's the stuff that brings you back to life!

As I have aged (49 so far) I have noticed a few more aches and pains.  My skin is not as supple as it once was and my mind is not as sharp. I have realized how very important it is that I'm getting enough vitamins and minerals to keep my immune system strong and my body healthy and pain free.  Hubby and I really do not like taking pain relievers and so I have been on a quest to find out how to best support our joints and bones by nutritional means.  Lately I have been researching bone stock.  Bone stock can be made from the bones of any animal -- beef, pork, lamb, chicken.  The idea is to save bones from your cooking or to get soup bones (or dog bones) from your butcher and throw them into a slow cooker with a little vinegar (to break down the minerals from the bones) and gently cook them for a good, long time -- from 8 to 12 to 24 hours -- until the bones have released as much of their minerals as possible.  This creates a delicious and nutritious stock that you can sip from a mug or add to soups, gravies and stews.  The stock is loaded with good things for your body!  From bodyecolog, here is the good news:
Bone broth is rich in minerals to strengthen the immune system and support healthy digestion. Bone broth also contains collagen to strengthen tendons, joints, ligaments, bone, and skin.
The collagen in bone broth will help heal the lining of the gut to relieve heartburn, GERD, and other types of intestinal inflammation. On top of that, collagen will support healthy skin to make it supple and strong to reduce the appearance of cellulite.  You can make bone broth at home and even use it in your next fast to give your body ample nourishment. The glycine in bone broth will detoxify the body of harmful chemicals, improve sleep, and boost memory and performance.
Did you read the part about reducing cellulite, boosting memory and performance, and improving sleep?  I'm into that!  Minerals that bone stock provides include calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, sodium, potassium, sulfate, and fluoride, all of which are delivered directly to your body from food, not pills.  I think of it like this:  everything YOUR bones and joints need comes from bones -- boiling down animal bones into a stock (broth) that is highly digestible and is readily absorbed by the body.

You might think, "Well now Miss Jody, making homemade stock fine for you since you are at home and can keep watch over the stock pot on the stove, but I have a job away from home and I can't possible monitor a pot around the clock."  Me neither!  I have lots of things I want to do that don't involve the kitchen, so an easy way to slow-cook bone stock is to use the slow cooker.  Simply put your bones to the crock pot, add some peppercorns, a few hunks of onion, carrot, celery and garlic (or skip the veggie part), add 1/4 c. vinegar and COLD water and plug it in.  I turn my cooker on high until everything comes to a boil and then turn it down to low and let it slow cook for 12 hours or more.  I've read articles where a lady keeps her slow cooker going constantly and removes stock from her pot as she needs it and replaces the amount she took out with fresh water and leaves it cooking.  Doesn't that sound like something from Little House on the Prairie?  The perpetual stock pot -- just add more water and more bone or veggie scraps.  Making beef stock is not only nutritional, but it is economical as well. If you use the bones left over from a roasting a whole chicken or turkey or bones left from your pot roast or steak, you've got something to make bone stock with.  You can also ask for soup bones or dog bones from your butcher and get them at a minimal cost or for free.

In the past whenever I have made beef stock, I would freeze what I didn't use immediately so that I'd have it on hand for another time.  It is so easy to do and so convenient to have some good stock in the freezer.  I never thought about freezing stock in ice cube trays or muffin tins, but that would be a convenient way to add nutrition to any meal or to warm up in a mug for a cup of soup.

One of my favorite ways to make beef stock is to first brown the soup bones in the oven.  I pour a little olive oil over them, sprinkle with salt and pepper and stick them into a 400* oven for 30-45 minutes until they are dark brown, being careful not to burn them.  The browning gives your beef stock a rich, brown color that is tasty and hearty.  After browning the bones, I add them into the stock pot (or crock pot), add a little vinegar and cover with water.  I often add onion, garlic, a bay leaf, and peppercorns for extra flavor, but you don't need to.  Allow the stock to come to a boil and then reduce heat to low and allow it to simmer slowly for many hours.  I generally add a teaspoon of salt to a large pot, but it is best to salt it later on when the stock is completed if you feel it needs more.  Strain the broth and let it cool to room temperature, then refrigerate and skim off the fat.  Use the stock however you like.

Do you make bone stock?  Any tips or ideas?  Perhaps you have memories of Granny or Auntie making stocks and soups.  Were you the invalid who was brought back to health on bone stock?  Do tell.

For additional reading about bone stock, enjoy perusing the links below.
Bone Broth:  Heal Your Gut and Lose Cellulite
Beef Stock Anyone?
Perpetual Soup:  The Easiest Bone Broth You'll Make
Broth is Beautiful (lots of info on the nutritional value of stock and recipes)
Stock Recipes from Simply Recipes


  1. Thanks for the directions. I've been interested in making it, but never quite knew how to go about it.

  2. G'day Gumbo Lily. What a great idea to let the bones simmer for an extended time. I am making vegetable soup tonight and have boiled the chicken carcass that was roasted for our tea last night, to put in the soup. But, I only boiled it for a short time, so next time I am doing something like this I will simmer the bones for a lot longer. I like the idea of using the slow cooker to simmer them.Take care.Liz...

  3. Jody, I love this article; thanks for sharing. I learn so much from you!

  4. Wonderful info, thank you! I often make chicken stock (we grow our own meat birds and the stock is wonderful and full of gelatin) but I've never thought of making beef stock. I do cook mine for hours, usually 8 - 12, but the crock pot makes so much sense for this, and would use far less hydro or propane (my stove is propane), I will use it next time. Also, I will ask for the soup bones the next time we butcher a steer.

    Have a wonderful rest of the week,

  5. Thank you SO much, Jody! This is enormously helpful. I just "pinned" this post over on Pinterest, so I can always find it again quickly.

  6. Wow Jody! I was just reading recipes for making chicken stock the other day and wondered why I never see recipes for beef stock. This is a great idea -- Thanks!

  7. Yours looks wonderful. My girls all make it and store it in their freezers. I haven't I am sorry to say.
    You made me really think about it.
    I know that the best soups are made this way with this as a base.
    There is a Basque vegetable soup with the beef base like that it it is wonderful.

  8. Hi Jody, I always make my own stock but I have never used the vinegar. Do you add it to your stock? I wonder if it changes the wonderful flavor of the stock. I am a bit afraid to try adding it to my precious broth.

  9. LOVE this post Jody!! I've made broth for years - but never knew any of the health benefits - other than it was good for whatever ails you :) I'm going to try simmering it for a long time in the slowcooker too. Thanks for a very informative post!

  10. Thank goodness for crock pots!!! It is soo good to have in the freezer incase you get sick like my whole family has. I am too sick to make broth, wish I had been organized and had some in my freezer xox Clarice

  11. I just popped over on to your blog for the first time! I am also a stock maker, chicken and beef stock. I save my bones in the freezer, and when I have enough I make it for the same reasons you mention. Having a few quarts of stock in the freezer brings me joy. It's a lost art, sadly, and it's so easy to do.

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