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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Beef Stock

I'm sure you've heard me extol the wondrous, multitudinous, uses of stock... perhaps several times.

It's great stuff to have on hand.

So, it goes without saying that I was super excited about canning a large amount of beef stock from a rib roast I just made.

In fact, I had barely finished eating the roast beef, before I turned the stove on and got to reducing the remnants.

Reducing the remnants... that has a cool sound to it.  ;)

Now... making meat stock can be pretty gross.  There's a lot of flesh, cartilage, and carcass-y kind of leftovers which need to be broken up and boiled.

It can be gross... but, like I mentioned, I was really excited about this stock.  Beef stock is awesome stuff.  So I was positively gleeful while toiling away on this.

I got it started on the stove, and brought it up to boiling for about ten minutes, before transferring the entire pot to my slow-cooker, and letting that simmer for a long time.

The longer you reduce this liquid, the more concentrated it will become.  That's a good thing!

So, even though I gave mine a good 36 hour stint in the slow-cooker, I nevertheless felt like it could have stayed for much, much longer.

Enough time to still get all the greasy, meaty, fats and oils to seep into the stock, and to make sure that most of the flavour and nutrients (yes - believe it or not - there are actually plenty of great things your body needs in this concentrate) have all become liquefied.

Here's a pic of the rib bone of this, rather large rib roast, after it's been stripped clean.

Not much left on there... it's practically gleaming.

Anyway, now began the hard part of saving this stock.

Now... preserving, and canning, has had me wary in the past.  

Sure, I understand the general principle: ensure all your materials and surfaces are free of contaminants (usually by boiling), and then give it a good seal.

Of course I've watched my Grandmother and my Mother can a variety of things, and the way they did it was simply to boil the jars in a large double-boiler, then pour in your preserves, and seal it up.


Recently I delved into reading some literature on the subject.  And it shook my belief that I could do this.  Several (many, really) books and websites had me absolutely convinced that unless I was preserving something which was itself acidic (either naturally-occurring, like tomatoes for example, or by the addition of an acid, like vinegar), then I needed to use a pressure canner.

Now, pressure canners are cool things... honestly it wasn't the fear factor which prevented me from opting for this method... but rather the cost.  Those things are bloody expensive.

So... I figured I'd just put a pin in my preserving for now.

But then I talked to my Mom the other day...

And she told me I was being over cautious, and assured me that as long as your jars are sterile, and your contents are hot, it should be fine.

She did however, also provide a cool extra step which clinched the ordeal for me though: she suggested that, after sealing it all up, just place the jars BACK into the double boiler to heat up again.  

This makes sense to me.

Scientifically speaking... we've killed anything which might have been on the jar; we've killed anything which might have been in the food, and - just in the extreme case that something might have gotten in in the brief time it takes to fill the jars - we bring the sealed jars back up to boiling for about ten minutes, and kill any chance anything had of living in there.

So... I felt confident I could do it.

I sterilized all my jars, and utensils (including a funnel and a strainer I used) in a super large pot of boiling water.  For at least ten or fifteen minutes.

Then I carefully (this shit is freaking hot, after all) strained and poured the stock into four separate jars I had.

After finishing with this process, and sealing all the jars up tightly, I put them back in the boiling water for another 10 minutes or so.

This had be reasonably assured that these puppies were safe to store.  Although I admit I had a brief picture in my over-active imagination of expanding gases needing an exit and finding the glass the easiest escape route in my now tightly-sealed jars.  An image compounded by their sometimes violent rattling about in the boiling water.  However... it all worked out ok.  Maybe there was less gas produced than I feared, or perhaps I left enough room at the top of the jars for the gas to expand a bit... but no exploding jars of hot beef stock.  :)

So, it seems to have all worked out.  However, I'll admit some part of me is a little wary, and I'll probably give each of these jars a strict twice-over with my hypersensitive sniffer before consuming anything.

I've just been hard-wired to be leery of foodbourne illnesses, and the idea of placing room temperature concentrated beef extract in my freaking cupboard for months on end is a little frightful.

I hope it works out though, because I'm really excited to have a few jars of this gorgeous beef stock available over the next year.  This stock was so concentrated, in fact, that there was a good two-centimetre layer of congealed fat on top of each of these jars, after they cooled.  Crazy!  That, in turn, prompted me to do a brief stint researching Aspics... but that's a (gross and disturbing) story for another day...

As for these bad boys... I'm already planning on making some delicious French Onion Soup here.  I expect I'll write something on that once I do.  And I imagine that will be soon.  :)