At WinCo this weekend, they had these great bags of beef “knuckle bones” on sale for $1.08/lb … and these beautiful slices of ox tail for $1.89/lb. I had visions of beef-mushroom stock instantly
I bought two big pieces of ox tail–each easily eight inches in diameter, with a big chunk of bone in the middle of each slice, yes … but lots of meat, too–and then a 4-pound bag of bones that–as you can see–filled up the rest of my roasting pan nicely. I added three large onions (simply peeled and then split in half) to the top, and sprinkled the whole thing with some of my favorite steak and chop seasoning. I put my pan into a 425 degree oven for about an hour–letting them share the heat while I was busily cooking some oven-fried chicken legs for my cute husband–then I dropped the heat back to 250 when I pulled the chicken out, and just let my bones and meat cook low/slow for another five hours or so … to create all of the great browned flavor I could make in them.
Once everything was darkened and drive you absolutely crazy aromatic–maybe even to the point of being dried out in places (which is NOT a problem)–I tossed everything into my 36-quart stockpot, fat, drippings and all. I de-glazed the pan with some warm water, then added it to the pot with about two cups of dried mushroom powder that I made by pulsing big dried shitake mushrooms in my food processor. I covered everything with about 20 quarts of water, brought the pot to a hard boil, and then cut the temperature back to a simmer. From there, I basically let it cook all day … until my meat had fallen completely apart … and the stock had reduced by about two-thirds.
I grabbed my Asian spider at that point, strained the solids out into a separate bowl, then refrigerated the bowl and my pot of stock.
The next morning, I cleaned all the fat off the top of my stock and put it on to warm again. I then picked all the good pieces of meat out of the gristle/fat/bones, and returned them to the warming stock. I again brought the whole mixture up to a hard boil, then reduced the heat … and let my remaining meat stock simmer for about an hour again, further reducing.
Doesn’t that look amazing? This is definitely one of those times I wish I had a Smell-O-Vision widget on my blog
In the meantime, I had two small dogs dancing at my feet. Can you imagine what I did for them?
Once my beef-mushroom stock had really melded all the flavors and meat together again, I canned it in pints and processed it as hot-packed meat … NOT meat stock!
Why did I do that? That’s easy: three-quarters of my jars were MEAT. In my book, that didn’t qualify as “stock.” Stock has maybe 20% solids in it. Soup has 50% solids. These jars were more like 75-80% solids. They needed a more intensive processing than either stock or soup. My solid contents were largely meat … not stock, so–as I said–I chose to can it like it was hot-packed beef instead … just to be 100% certain it was sterilized properly.
It looks excellent in the jars, doesn’t it?
I tried some tonight, in fact. I’d smelled it cook for so long over the weekend that I wasn’t going to just put it on the shelf for later. It made five pints exactly … so I didn’t have any leftovers, plus all of my pints sealed … so I just asserted myself and opened a pint for dinner this evening.
I cooked my dinner plain, really … just the beef, onions, mushrooms, and seasonings in my meaty stock … mixed into simple-cooked rice noodles that I kicked up with a few spoonfuls of store-bought sour cream. Simple, and–at the same time–hot and filling and simply full of flavor … just like I wanted it to be