Taking Stock

Taking Stock

The weekend was bitterly cold, so I spent much of it nesting.  I made only two trips out, once to take Xander to robotics and once to go pick him up.  While I was out the first time, I ran errands.  Went to Home Depot and got the lights for my seed starting setup as well as some miscellaneous hardware (I get to learn how to install a doorknob!), then to Costco for the bulk staples (hamburger, cheese, meatballs, etc.), where I also scored some really nice sneakers for Morgan and I for $20 each.  Then to Giant for the two week grocery shop.  Didn’t get there *quite* soon enough to avoid the crowds.  Gods, I hate shopping when it’s crowded.  It’s just too much stress.  But I did score a couple of bargains that are now waiting patiently in my freezer to be called into service.

But the first big project was to be my first attempt at beef stock.  I do a lot of soups in the winter, because I love the comfort of them and because they give me an excuse to make bread to go with it.  But I hate having to buy stock for the base.  The packaged stuff, no matter what kind, always has a funny taste to it and is waaaaay too salty.  I make a decent chicken stock, but doing beef stock had always struck me as too intimidating.  But the new pressure canner had lit a fire under me, so with visions of the perfect French onion soup in my head, I made the leap.

It really wasn’t that hard.  I got 4 pounds of bones from the grocery store and supplemented it with a pound of stew meat from my freezer.  I dumped that all on one of my big cookie sheets and added two quartered onions, three carrots hunked up and 4 garlic cloves.  I added 3 tablespoons of olive oil and a tablespoon or so of tomato paste and mixed that all up good, then stuck it in a 400 degree oven for about 45 minutes, stirring it once halfway through.  What came out looked pretty tasty.

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I dumped all that into my 6 quart crockpot, deglazed the pan, added that in along with celery, more garlic, and thyme and then covered it all with water, set the pot to low for 8 hours and forgot about it.  Literally.  I was halfway into bed for the night before I remembered it!  I drained it through an old dish towel in a colander, and…was disappointed.  There wasn’t very much stock.  But as I said, I was halfway to bed, so I put it aside to chill and deal with in the morning.

The next morning, I peeled off the layer of fat and threw that out, then funneled it all into quart jars.  Yeah, not nearly as much as I’d expected.  2 full quarts and 2/3s of a pint jar.  When I do chicken stock in my pentola, I get 6 quarts easily.  So yeah, next time I won’t use the crockpot.  Now that I’ve figured out the back burner on my stove with do the low and slow thing on that much liquid, it’s just a better option.  Plus, in using the pentola, draining it is so much easier.  Just lift out the insert and voila, stock’s done!

That said, the stock I did get was gorgeous.  Meaty and dark with lovely garlic-ness.  I’d probably pass on the extra garlic next time just to keep it from being quite so strong, but it’s going to make a gorgeous addition to beef stew and for that French onion soup I’m dreaming about.

So there you go.  If you’ve been intimidated by beef stock, don’t be.  It’s just as easy as chicken stock, even with the extra step, and is so worth it to avoid that canned stock flavor.