So it's not the sexiest thing out there, but making a proper stock is one of the most important skills any cook starting out should know how to do. The basics are pretty simple and universal so if you can make a beef stock, you can make any stock out there.
The important keys are this:
Purge your bones in some way
Blanch in water and drain
Roast before adding to the stockpot
For fumet (fish stock) soak the bones in lightly salted water for about an hour, then rinse and wash away all traces of remaining blood
Always cover your stock with cold water
Bring to just a rolling simmer, then lower the heat just a touch so it sits just below, a steady stream of bubbles is what you’re looking for - Try to never let it rapidly boil!
Skim the surface often to remove impurities
Strain carefully and slowly though a double strainer
Each stock will require subtle differences. For example, a fumet is typically only cooked for about 20 minutes and uses mostly while and green vegetables as aromatics, verses beef stock which can be cooked for hours, sometimes even overnight, and uses bolder, more colorful veg. There is a lot of room to play with stocks though, and rarely any hard and fast rules, so play with it and see what flavours you enjoy most.
This recipe is for the amount of stock we make at the restaurant (read: a lot) but you can make much smaller batches with what you have on hand. Also, if you reduce your stock, you can always portion it into ziplocks, throw them in the freezer, and have them on hand when you need them. I'll give the amounts we use in the restaurant followed by a reasonable home recipe size in brackets.
Beef Bones, sinew, and trimmings from half a cow (about 3 to 5 lbs bones and trim)
10 carrots, peeled and rough chopped (2 carrots)
10 onions, peeled and rough chopped (1 onion)
5 leeks, washed and rough chopped (1 leek)
4 ounces tomato paste (1 to 2 tablespoons)
Roast, steam or blanch your beef bones to remove any blood or impurities. We chose to roast ours at 350F for about 20 to 30 minutes for a darker stock with those toasted flavours. About halfway through, spread your tomato paste on your bones and finish roasting them together.
Add your bones to a large stockpot, scrape any cooked bits off your tray and into your pot and cover with cold water. There is the option to deglaze your roasting tray with red wine at this point, however, we keep ours very basic at the restaurant so we can flavour and season depending on the final dish. We add in any meat trim that we may have as well to the pot at this time. If it doesn’t have large blood vessels or bone fragments that need purging, these can go straight in without pre-cooking. Bring your water to a simmer, and then reduce the heat just a touch so it holds and cooks with occasional simmers and bubbles. You do not want to boil your stock, or it will be cloudy and the flavours will be a bit muddled.
Cook like this for about 3 hours or so, skimming the surface often. This will help to extract all the flavour the bones have to offer, and now add in your vegetables. Allow them to simmer for another hour or so.
Remove your pot from the heat and using a spider, or strainer, carefully remove and discard the large pieces of meat and vegetable from the stock. I used to hate throwing these away, but after years of trying to figure out what to do with mushy, over-extracted vegetables, I have finally realized they indeed served their purpose, so now I just eat the carrots and discard the rest. Using a fine meshed strainer over a deep pot, use a pitcher or a ladle to scoop and strain your stock. You can pour your stock to strain if you want, but I find even with careful prep, there is some dirt and impurites that will gather at the bottom of your pot, so if you use the ladle method, you leave that last inch or so, leaving you with nothing but the best.
At this point, you can use the stock as is for base of a soup or sauce or reduce it down and save it for later. One tip is to not season your stock with salt until you know where it’s going to end up in your dish. For example, if you season it when its 10 litres, what if you need to reduce it down to 1 litre? You’re going to be left with one salty sauce! That’s why I save my final seasonings with stock until just before using.
Your stock is ready for all kinds of use now! French onion soup, bone broth, reducing to glaze meats or veggies with, gravies, risotto, honestly, it's so tasty you'll be finding tonnes of places to add flavor to your cooking.
So that's one of about a million ways to make beef stock and everyone has their own tips and tricks they like to use. My best advice is that you try and use the bones and bits you may have once thrown away after a nice roast chicken meal or after trimming some beef off bones. It really isn't that hard to throw on some Sunday afternoon and the impact having a from scratch stock has on your dishes is really unmatched. Give it a try!