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Clear Stock: With Thanks to Michael Ruhlman

Clear Stock: With Thanks to Michael Ruhlman

clarified beef stock

We’ve been cleaning out the freezers to make room for some incoming elk and lamb, and we found several packages of  “soup bones.” They were far too meaty for the dogs, so I made a batch of stock.

First I roasted them all off in a hot oven with three or four onions cut in half, and half a dozen carrots until everything was nicely carmelized. I was thrilled to discover the tail in the treasure trove as well (when it’s wrapped in butcher paper, it’s sometimes a surprise when you unwrap it). After everything browned up, I put it in my biggest stockpot, brought it to the barest of simmers, and left it overnight. Then I cooled it, skimmed off the hard beef fat that had congeled on top, and strained out the vegetables and meat (veggies went to the chickens, and the meat got stripped off the bones and added to the dog food).

Now here’s where the “thanks to Michael Ruhlman” part comes in. I’ve been making stock my entire adult life. It’s why I always spent a little more for organic chickens, because I was planning to get whatever I could out of them, and over the years I’d tried a lot of methods for straining out the grungy bits — cheesecloth, strainers, coffee filters — but I never wound up with a really nice clear stock.

This is where Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking comes in. Ruhlman has a really clear description of how to make a raft with egg whites to clarify stock. Actually, he describes how to enrich stock with additional mirepoix and ground meat to make a consomme, which isn’t really what I needed to do. I just wanted a nice clear stock that I could pressure can and store in the pantry.

And since eggs are plentiful around here, I separated six egg whites out following Ruhlman’s instructions, added them to the cool stock, and brought the whole thing up to a simmer. This is when the egg whites start to coagulate, and form a sort of mat across the top of the pot. Basically, they act as a filter. The stock simmered for an hour, while the egg whites filtered out all those little gritty bits. As you can imagine, not pretty, but effective. And easy! For some reason I thought making a raft was going to be difficult — but it’s not. It requires some attention and stirring while the stock comes to temperature so the egg whites don’t scorch on the bottom of the pot. But aside from that, once the raft forms, you leave it at a gentle simmer, and it does it’s thing. After an hour, I removed the raft (which I fed to the chickens), and underneath was a lovely clear amber-colored stock. There was more than I wanted, so I boiled it down for about an hour until it was two-thirds in volume of what it had been. In the meantime, I got out the pressure canner, sterilized some pint jars, and prepared to can the stock.

Here’s what I wound up with — six pints (well seven, but I ran out of new lids, so one pint is in the fridge) of clear, lovely beef stock, that’s shelf-stable and can go in my pantry.

I also wound up with some goodies for the chickens, and for the dogs.

Now, this is one of those projects that’s really easy if you work at home. Not everyone has the time, but if you do, and you have the kind of schedule that allows you to hang around the house while occasionally taking a break to perform the next step, then this is really pretty easy.

Half a cow and ten chickens

Half a cow and ten chickens

Here’s an interesting article about buying meat in bulk, including practical tips for those of you who might be interested but don’t know where to start.

The Seminal » Food Sunday: I’ll take half a cow and ten chickens please.

We’re lucky here in Montana — not only is it pretty easy to find a rancher who will sell you part of an animal, we’re one of the few states that still has small local slaughterhouses. Big Ag has managed to kill them in most other states — I have a friend in Colorado who would raise cattle for her family, except that she has to send them to Kansas to be slaughtered, and they have to go to a big feedlot. Here we’ve got some great local slaughter and butcher operations, in part because of out-of-state big game hunters who need their meat cut and packed. We bought a pig in August, and have half a lamb coming sometime this week. We’ve also got elk from one of Chucks’ friends, and another friend of his gave us several big roasts cut from their own cattle. You need a freezer, but if there’s one foodie thing I can absolutely recommend, it’s buying meat from a source you know. You keep an animal out of the industrial food system, you get nice clean delicious meat and generally save some money over what buying organic meat costs you in the grocery store.

Deadline Week: Potato Soup

Deadline Week: Potato Soup

I’ve got a deadline this week, so blogging will probably be light, and since the temperature hasn’t gone above thirty since Friday, I thought perhaps a recpie for potato soup might be in order. There’s just about nothing cheaper, it’s dead simple, and infinitely variable. The basic recipe is, of course, Julia Child’s:

  • 1 lb. russet potatoes, peeled (you want a mealy potato, not a waxy one)
  • 1 lb. leeks or onions (onions are much cheaper, and my leeks are currently frozen in the garden)
  • 1 tbsp. butter or olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • water

Really. That’s it. Peel and cut up the potatoes. Chop the onions or leeks. Melt the butter or oil in a pot and saute the leeks or onions until they’re soft. Add the spuds, salt, and water to cover. Cook until the potatoes are falling apart, and either mash with a potato masher, or pureee with a food mill or immersion blender. Sometimes I add a carrot or two to the soup, I like the sweetness and color. Also, a clove of garlic or some thyme can be nice as well.

Variations, here are a few variations I like. I add these after pureeing the soup, so that there’s some interesting texture:

  • Cut up cubes of ham
  • Thinly-sliced kale
  • Frozen corn
  • Frozen peas
  • Dollop of cream or sour cream when serving

This is such a delicious, cheap and easy soup that there’s no end to the experimentation you can do with it. We had some last week with a fresh loaf of No-Knead bread and there were leftovers, so I think tonight we’ll finish it off, with some sort of variation. Warm soup on a cold nigh. Yum.

Frugal Recipe of the Week: Buffalo Meatballs

Frugal Recipe of the Week: Buffalo Meatballs

I made a batch of meatballs the other day which were delicious, but interestingly enough, also stretched just under two pounds of meat into at least four meals if not six. I’m looking at a lot of cookbooks right now for BookSlut, and this recipe is very loosely adapted from the one in the A16 cookbook.

I used buffalo because it’s readily available here, and because this story in the New York Times (and this one about how Costco actually tests for E. Coli) only amped up my deep suspicion of all ground beef, even when I know the butchers at my supermarket have ground it themselves. Buffalo is more local, and even though it was more expensive, I just felt better about it. Plus, I didn’t need very much.

  • .75 pound buffalo (or a pound, I split a 1.5 pound package in half)
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 2 ounces pancetta, diced very fine (or chopped in the food processor)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup ricotta (I used the end of a container of Greek yogurt instead because that’s what I had on hand)
  • 6 ounces bread (about half a baguette), reduced to crumbs in a food processor
  • 2 ounces shredded parmesan or asiago cheese
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 onion, diced finely
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
  • 1 tbsp. fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 3 tbsp. finely chopped parsley

First,  beat the eggs, milk and ricotta until just incorporated. Add all the other ingredients to a big bowl, add the egg mixture, and mix thoroughly with your hands. You don’t want the mixture to become gummy, but you want an even distribution of ingredients.

Using a soup spoon or a small scoop, roll out golf-ball sized meatballs. Put them on sheet pans and bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. After you’ve baked them off, this is where you decide what you’re eating tonight, and what you’re saving for later. I figured 4 meatballs for each of us, which was plenty. The rest I put on one sheet pan and popped into the freezer. The next day they can be put in ziploc bags.

For the meatballs you plan to eat tonight. Put them in a casserole dish, and cover with tomato sauce. Cover the casserole tightly with foil and bake at 300 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Serve over lots of spaghetti with more cheese on top. (Preferably while watching baseball playoffs!)

Although I haven’t experimented with it yet, I imagine you could pop frozen meatballs into the casserole when you come home from work, cover with tomato sauce and cook for probably an hour and you’d have an easy mid-week dinner.