Each year, we invest in a quarter of beef from a local ranch which humanely raises cattle on a grainless diet (grass fed). The butcher offers the bones to us, and I always say yes, as these “discards” are my little nutrient goldmine! The bones, all shank or knuckle/joint bones, are cut into 2-5 inch lengths and bundled in bags.
Maybe you’ve had similar bones in your freezer, and you’ve wondered what on earth to do with them. Here’s what you do:
Place one large, or two small, beef bones into a large crock pot. Fill with enough purified water to cover bones by 1 inch (3-5 qts?). Add 2 Tb. red wine (vinegar can be used, but I find that it fights the beef flavor); this acidifies the water and causes more leaching of minerals from the bones.
Turn the crock pot on high. After an hour or two, when you notice that the water has heated thoroughly, turn down the crock pot to low, and let slow cook for 24-48 hours. If you see skum form on the top of the broth during cooking, carefully skim away and discard. If the marrow of the bone is exposed from the bone cut, you will notice after a day that it has become soft. Scoop it from the bone, mash into the broth, and continue to cook it down.
When the broth is finished, you should notice that the bones have seemed to shrink slightly in size, and that they appear quite porous as so much of their minerals have been leached into the broth. Remove bones with a slotted spoon, and discard. Place a sieve over a funnel fitted into a quart size glass canning jar. Ladle broth through sieve into jar, leaving about 1.5 inches at the top. Continue to fill additional jars until all broth is stored; cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, you will notice a hardened white layer at the top in each jar; this is fat, and may be removed with a spoon and discarded. As you remove it, you’ll notice that the broth under it is actually Jello-like in consistency. This is caused by the minerals and gelatin which are suspended in water.
Freeze all the jars of broth which you will not use within the next 2 days. Defrost in the refrigerator 1 day prior to use.
Beef broth is the basis for beef flavored soups, including my favorite, French Onion Soup, and can be used for sauces, glazes, and gravies.