Before we started switching to Real foods a year-and-a-half ago, I remember wondering what the big deal was about homemade beef and chicken stock. Actually, I wasn’t even sure what the difference was between “stock” and “broth”, so I just figured a can of “broth” really couldn’t be that different from homemade “stock”. I was so wrong!
Although there are some places in the world where the terms “broth” and “stock” are interchangeable, when we’re talking about Real food, there are some generally agreed upon definitions.
- Broth tends to be lighter in color, because it is only cooked for a few hours and contains only meat and vegetables. It can be flavorful and nutritious, especially if you keep the solids to liquids ratio pretty even.
- Stock is much darker in color. It contains not only meat and veggies, but also the bones. Often beef bones are roasted first, which gives a richer flavor. Rather than just a few hours, stock is generally simmered for at least 24 hours and up to 72! The long cooking time allows the minerals from the bones to actually become part of the stock, which gives a huge nutritional boost. Real foodies often use a little vinegar to draw even more minerals out of the bones and to help stock “gel” better, but we really don’t care for the flavor.
When we first started making stock, I religiously followed recipes. Now, I just toss in whatever we’ve got! Please don’t think, “Oh, no! I don’t have enough carrots to make stock!” If you look at my pictures below, you’ll see that I have more celery than carrots. No big deal! It’s still going to be nutritious and tasty! In fact, don’t feel like you have to use nice-looking produce. Keep a jar or bag in the freezer and toss onion, carrot and celery scraps in it until you have enough to make stock. Do the same with leftover bones, too. Some of the best stock I’ve made was from the turkey bones and veggie scraps from last Thanksgiving!
These photos were taken while I made a batch of beef stock, but it’s almost exactly the same for chicken stock. All you need to do for chicken stock is skip the first step (roasting the bones) and you’re good to go!
Roast beef bones on a cookie sheet for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.
If any foam rises to the top, skim it off. (This seldom happens for me.)
Reduce heat to a very low simmer and cook for 24 to 48 hours.
Remove from heat and cool.
Strain through a mesh strainer (or cheesecloth-lined colander) and pour into jars.
As you can see, we use whatever jars we have handy, but we love to use wide-mouth quart-sized jars with plastic lids and keep them in the freezer. If you do this, leave about 1 1/2 inches of space in the jar to account for expansion when the liquid freezes. Otherwise, the jar could crack. Also, we put the jars in the fridge overnight and then transfer them to the freezer to keep from accidentally thawing other frozen foods with all of that warm stock.
If you like, you can also toss in some herbs for the last half hour of cooking. I have added some of our home-grown and dried rosemary to the beef stock and thyme to the chicken stock. Delicious!
I don’t salt the stock until I’m ready to use it (just in case another ingredient in the dish I’m making is extra salty, already!), but when I do add the salt, I always use Celtic sea salt. It is unprocessed, so it’s actually GOOD for you!
My favorite way to use our homemade beef stock is in my Garlic Soup recipe. You can get that recipe, along with over 70 other ones, by ordering the Real Foods, Real Easy ebook cookbook!