This classic beef stock is essential to making brown gravies and demi-glace. While you can buy rather good beef stock in the supermarket, the ones made by Kitchen Basics are especially good and available in salt-free versions, there is a special pleasure that comes from transforming a pile of bones and vegetables into stock. And the result is worth the effort. Not that making stock is either difficult or particularly time-consuming. True, it does take all day to simmer, but it does not require much attention while it does so stock making is a fine background activity for a day of puttering around the house.
4 pounds beef shank bones cut into 3- to 4-inch lengths
1 pound mirepoix (½pound diced onion, ¼ pound each diced carrot and celery)
1 gallon cold water
Sachet containing 1 bay leaf, 1 large crushed clove garlic, ¼ tsp. dried thyme, 6 fresh parsley stems or 1 tsp. dried parsley leaves, 8 crushed black peppercorns
2 small tomatoes, diced
Place the bones in a roasting pan and brown in a 375° oven for about 1 hour, turning once in a while to make sure they are evenly done. When ready put the bones in a large stock pot and pour off the fat, saving it for other uses. Deglaze the pan by putting over heat, adding ½ inch of water, and scrapping up the meaty bit stuck to the pan as the water heats. Pour the deglazing liquor, as it is called, into the stock pot. Add the rest of the water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to bring to a gentle simmer.
In the same roasting pan used for the bones, add ¼ cup of the reserved fat and the mirepoix. Roast in a 350° oven, stirring every 5 minutes to prevent burning, until nicely caramelized but not burned, about 20 minutes. Add to the simmering stock along with the sachet and the tomato.
Simmer, skimming as needed, for 6 to 8 hours, replenishing the water as needed to maintain the volume. At the end of cooking, strain the stock into a suitable container and cool overnight in the refrigerator. (Some authors recommend cooling in an ice water bath first, but I am not sure that is really necessary. In the winter, of course, you can just put the pot out in the snow to cool!)
When well cooled, defat the stock and strain again, this time through cheese cloth. I dispense the stock into 1-quart plastic screw top containers and freeze it for up to several months. To use I put a container in the microwave for 3 or 4 minutes, pour off what I need, and put the rest back into the freezer.