Myr has been sick and her doctor has put her on a “gut calming” diet. Bone broth is supposed to be good for what ails her. I have never made bone broth—it always seemed like too much work—actually most of the time is spent watching the pot bubble.
The hardest part of making this soup is finding the bones. Regular supermarkets—like Safeway— tend not to have “real” butcher shops, they get only “choice” pieces of meat that produce the cuts that most American shoppers put on the table. Ethnic stores are the way to go, a good Hispanic or Asian store buys whole or half steers that are then cut down into steaks and the bones and tendons that are integral ingredients to dishes like menudo and phở.
Looking at various recipes, I picked and chose according to Myr’s dietary restrictions and my own preferences. Tomatoes are off the diet, but a little acid helps the bones dissolve—many of the key nutrients of this soup are the minerals leached out of the bones during the long slow cooking process. To replace the umami of the tomatoes—found in many of the bone broth recipes—I decided to use dried mushrooms and a touch of soy sauce.
Cook’s Illustrated chefs frequently add powdered gelatin to achieve the unctuous mouth feel of the collagen released by slow cooking beef tendons. Simmering massive amounts of bones for 24 hours is a messy, greasy task—I skimmed off a literal quart of lard out of my pot and separating the good meaty bits from the pile of slimy fatty bits is an act of courage. If you are at all squeamish, this task could turn you into a Vegan. However, the umami gold of the final broth is worth the effort.
While celery is also off her diet—too much fiber—the flavor is too important and the fiber will be strained out when I decant the broth from the solids. The same choice went for carrots and garlic, while the primary flavor of the broth should be beefy, a few enhancements goes a long way. To add some spice notes, I chose to add black pepper, coriander, and bay leaf.
Some recipes call for you to blanch the bones before roasting. Other recipes call for you to roast the bones and then skim the foam as it forms in the pot. While this “scum” is edible—it is the clots of loose lipoproteins that meat releases when heated—it makes your broth cloudy and gritty. I found that when I drained the pot after the pre-boil, the bottom of the pot was covered with a thick layer of this scum. If I had simply added the roasted bones to the pot and started to cook, this layer might have scorched during the long simmer and ruined my broth.
Note: After I was finished, I had two quarts of broth and a pint of the meaty bits and broth. While many of the recipes I looked at suggested drinking the broth, I found it far too rich to consume straight—adding rice and vegetables makes a fantastic soup. I plan to measure out and freeze one cup servings to add to soups, stews and pot roasts. The pint of meaty bits, I plan to turn into a gravy for biscuits and gravy.
Karl’s Beef Bone Broth
7-9 lbs. beef bones
2 stalks celery
8 cloves garlic
1 large carrot
1 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 large onion
2 tsp. Kosher salt, separate uses
1 Tbs. black pepper corn
1 Tbs. coriander seeds
2 bay leaves
4 Tbs. dried mushrooms, powdered
2 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
A large stock pot (16-20 qt.)
1. Put two gallons of water into your stock pot and bring it to a boil.
2. Add the bones and simmer them vigorously for 20-30 minutes.
Tip: A large amount of foam will form on the surface of the liquid. Skim as needed, but you will be discarding this water after the blanching. You just do not want it sticking to the bones as you remove them.
3. Line a large roasting pan with parchment paper and spread the bones out in a single layer.
Tip: The parchment paper make the pan easier to clean when you are finished roasting the bones.
Note: The flavor created by the Maillard reaction during roasting is the source of a good broth. If you simply threw the raw bones into the pot you would end up with a wane and flavorless soup.
4. Scatter the cloves of garlic over the bones and lay the whole celery stalks and carrot around the edges of the bones.
5. Roast the bones and vegetables in a 400º F oven for one hour.
Tip: Rotate the bones and vegetables every 10 minutes, so that they brown evenly.
Note: As the vegetables become well browned remove them to the stock pot. You do not need to cut up the vegetables, but you may.
6. While the bones are roasting, drain and clean the stock pot.
7. Heat the oil in the stock pot and sauté the onion with half a teaspoon of salt, until well browned.
8. Add the whole pepper corns and coriander seeds and heat them for one minute to bloom their flavor.
9. Add the bay leaves, powdered mushroom, soy sauce, vinegar, and a gallon of filtered water.
Tip: Put dried mushrooms in your spice grinder and process to a fine powder.
10. Bring the pot to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat.
11. Transfer the bones and roasted vegetables to the stock pot and add enough water to cover the bones.
Tip: Drain the grease in the roasting pan into a bowl or jar—if your diet will allow it you may use this for deep frying or other purposes.
Note: If there is fond on the bottom of the pan use a cup of hot water to release it and add it to the stock pot.
12. Cover the pot and simmer the broth for 24 hours over a medium low heat.
Tip: I had the pot at a vigorous simmer while I was there to watch over it and I would lower to it a gentle simmer while I was away.
Note: The bones have a lot of fat attached to them. As they cook, they produce a thick layer of grease that will float to the top of the broth when the pot is at a low simmer. Skim this fat out of the pot every once in a while.
13. At the end of the day of cooking, use tongs to remove the bones from the pot.
Tip: Use a knife to scrape any meaty bits into a separate bowl before discarding the bones.
Note: If there is any marrow left insides some of the bones, remove it to a sieve and press it through and into the broth with a spatula.
14. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the large solids into a separate bowl.
Tip: After the broth has rested for a time the grease will rise to the top. De-fat the broth to your preferred level—for Jan I remove all but about a tablespoon per quart.
Note: Cook’s Illustrated chefs would simply discard these solids—as being “used up.” While I usually would grind any remaining vegetables to add to the broth, in this case they were too badly mixed into the gobs of fatty bits. I still went through the messy, greasy pile to recover any bits of meat.
15. Strain the remaining broth through a fine meshes sieve to remove the whole spices.
Tip: Use a spatula to press any liquid and small bits of vegetables into the broth.
16. Transfer the broth to quart containers.
Tip: If you put the containers into a cold water bath it will quickly cool them down enough to refrigerate or freeze before bacteria starts to grow.
Note: The broth will last 3-4 days in the refrigerator and six months in the freezer. If you are planning on freezing the broth, separate it into one cup portions—or for a more versatile form put it into an ice cube tray—to use as needed.