Generally, all meat stocks comprise three fundamental elements: meat, which gives the stock its flavor; bones, joints, and skin, which give the stock body in the form of gelatin; and aromatic flavors from vegetables, herbs, and spices. Stock takes time because water extracts and converts the collagen in the bones, joints, and skin very slowly. The most gelatin-rich stock, veal stock, takes many, many hours at a gentle temperature. Happily, this can be done in your oven while you sleep if you wish. So, veal stock is no more difficult than Easy Overnight Chicken Stock.
To speed up the process of making beef stock without diminishing its quality, it’s simply a matter of adding gelatin that has already been extracted from bones and joints, in the form of powdered gelatin. Water will extract the flavor of ground meat and vegetables in about an hour, then you strain and add the gelatin. That’s all there is to it.
Beef stock is a perfect base for soups. Reduced, it can become a traditional beef sauce. It’s also an ideal poaching medium for beef, whether filet mignon (my favorite way to cook this cut; I wrote about it in Ruhlman’s Twenty and serve it with a lemon-coriander vinaigrette). In the 1970s, my beloved mom was fond of the cocktail called a Bullshot, beef broth and vodka.
The quality of the gelatin is important. I’m not a fan of the most commonly available brand, Knox. To me it tastes too boney. Try melting some Knox gelatin in plain water and smell it—you’ll see what I mean. My preferred brand is Great Lakes. But there are many good ones available, including non-GMO and hormone-free gelatins.
I’m not usually a fan of the super lean beef sold these days at grocery stores, but in this case, choose the leanest beef available. For the vegetables, remember that the finer you cut them, the faster the water will extract their flavor.
Combine the beef, onion, carrots, celery, bay leaves, and tomato paste in a large pot. Pour in the water; add more if it’s not enough to cover everything. Bring the water to a simmer over high heat, breaking up the ground beef as you do. When it reaches a gentle simmer, reduce the heat to maintain that simmer. Cook for 1 hour, then strain it, discarding the solids.
Taste the stock. If you’d like it to be stronger, simmer and reduce by as much as half.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
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