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The Stock Answer to What to Do With a Tough Beef Neck [Oct. 29th, 2011|10:26 am]
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(Written on Friday, but not posted then due to internet problems...so "today" is Friday throughout.)
Those uncertain of their ability to handle the blood and guts, as it were, of basic cooking, should turn aside and go eat something that never looked you in the eye.  Those who, for reasons of economy or a determination to be involved in their own food-gathering, meat included, and who have not yet encountered the neck of bull might find this useful.  

So while digging in the freezer, I came across a portion of neck from the bull we killed and cut up.   He was a large fellow and subsequently filled freezers at several households.  I, being a stock-and-soup maker, asked for the less attractive chunks (the loins, for instance)  and scored a lot of good soup material, but the neck had managed to slither down under things (especially when lamb went in on top) and thus...something had torn its plastic wrap and it was somewhat freezer-burned.

In my initial enthusiasm for dismembering a 2000 pound bull (and that didn't last long into the process, I can tell you.  The 600 and 900 pounders were nothing to this monster...the assembled crew began to feel like Cro-Magnons dismembering a mammoth)  I had wanted the neck because I wanted to make a traditional mince pie or several.   I have recipes from my great-grandmother's time, in which mincemeat was made from the neck meat of adult cattle--boiled in aromatics and spices, just as I do for stock, and then the meat picked off, minced, and mixed with fruits and spices and so on and packed into stone jars to keep until needed for a mincemeat pie.

But the freezer-burned neck was not that prepossessing.  Still....there's always the stock pot.  So a hefty (guessing at 7-10 pounds) of neck went into the 12 quart pot, along with onion, garlic, peppercorns, carrot, celery, bay leaves, and some dried herbs (all we have, thanks to the drought.)    And after it finally simmered to the point where the meat was falling off the bones, I looked at the meat and thought...well, no, not tonight.   My husband fell upon the neck with glee, and ate quite a bit of the meat, even though I'd told him it was freezer-burned.    That was last night.  With all the other stuff out (first pass of clearing the pot down to stock)  I had about 5-6 quarts left.  It needed chilling (to make the fat layer so I could easily remove it) and simmering down, and it needed a pass through the colander to get out the last bits that I can never quite capture.   

That was today, assisted by the cold front and not turning the heat on in the house because it's too early.   Chill, remove fat layer,  then pour contents of 12 quart pot through colander into 8 quart pot.   Take congealed fat layer pieces out to the  place under the pear tree where we leave treats for critters.  It won't be there in the morning.   Bring 8 quart pot to boil, then down to simmer to reduce to 3-4 quarts. (Because I store stock in one-quart plastic sherbet containers--broad-based ones that stack nicely in the freezer. )  Wash and dry 12 quart pot and lid, and the steel bowl used to hold the pieces of congealed fat.  Wash and dry everything that needs it, whatever it might be.  

Yield was three quarts of stock, plus a cup and a smidgen.    I reduced it a tad more than I meant to (but--all the richer.)

The cup and a smidgen made all the difference to supper's sausage and potatoes.  Good gravy, in other words.

This is my annual "yes, anyone can make stock" post.  The basic recipe is the same for beef, lamb, turkey, chicken stock (add more vegetables for vegetable stock, and I dunno about fish stock--we're not in fish territory, until someone gene-engineers land-dwelling, drought-tolerant fish who can live on grass and forbs.)   For 5-7 pounds of bones & meat (if a meat-based stock), one large onion, one head of garlic (yup, all those cloves), about half a bunch of celery (the leafy end), one carrot, a bunch of parsley, a rounded tablespoon of peppercorns, 2-3 bay leaves, some rosemary, sage, oregano, thyme, basil (dry if, like us, you've been in a historic, worst in 3 centuries, drought).  Double that for a giant, 20-quart-pot batch of 10-15 pounds of bones & meat.  Just cover with water, bring to boil, down to simmer, simmer until the bones (if using meat) look "dry" and white and the meat is coming off by itself.  Most of the time you can be doing anything else you want while it simmers.   (Those are my proportions for the stock--you can wiggle them around to suit you, but if you get it too carroty and you don't like carroty--you have to rebalance in anything you put it into.  Carrot-flavor can really stick out.  You need the carrot in there, but you only need so much.)   Notice that you do not add salt to the stock.  (Great for people on low-sodium diets.)   Salt, if needed, can be added to the final food of which stock is only one ingredient.

And what you get out of it is this magical stuff that makes week-night cooking much, much easier (and tasting better.)  
Store-bought stock does not (whatever the ads say) have the flavors and intensity of  homemade stock.  Better than no stock, but not as good as your stock.   If you have been wise (or sneaky) and put up 2-cup packets of cooked cubed meat (turkey, chicken, beef, ham)  in the freezer as well, the appropriate stock allows you to make delicious homemade soups in an amazingly short time.   Plop a frozen lump of chicken stock in a pot, for instance...then a quart of water, dump in a can of diced tomatoes & green chilis (or no chilis if you hate spicy food),  a can of drained, rinsed black beans, and when the lump of stock is melted and the mix is bubbling, a cup of barley or rice.  When that's cooked, add in the 2 cups of cubed chicken or turkey.   If you want (and I often do) you can add sliced or diced carrot, celery, and green onion in the last minute--right after adding the cubed meat--for fresh crunchiness.  I like a squirt of fresh lime juice in my chicken soup but that's a personal thing.  Now you have a hearty homemade soup better than anything in a can--with almost no prep time and cooking time related to the starch you choose to use, if you want a starch in there.   If you use pasta instead of rice or barley, you have it faster.   I've added corn, or red or white beans, or green beans, or whatever was handy--fresh, frozen, canned--to the mix.  

[User Picture]From: judifilksign
2011-10-29 05:12 pm (UTC)
As a child, we were served "Prince Valiant Dragontail" stew, in which stock soup was made from beef neck bones, the normal veggies like carrots, peas, and potatoes, and also cooked with artichoke.

Each bowl of soup was served with a vertebra in the bowl, covered in the stew with artichoke,the leaves broken apart, looking like scales.

The idea was that a hero had cut off the tail of the dragon, and served it up for us. It worked; we ate it happily!
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-10-29 06:13 pm (UTC)
Oh, that sounds like SUCH fun.
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[User Picture]From: mrs_redboots
2011-10-29 05:14 pm (UTC)
Your stocks always sound so lovely, and I do make my own, especially chicken stock (yum), but, alas, freezer space is limited so I can't really make much or often.

We dislike cooked celery, so I mostly leave that out, but just occasionally I put in a stick left whole so easy to fish out at the last minute. Bought vegetable soups, even good-quality ones, all too often taste of nothing but celery, whatever they're supposed to taste of!
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-10-29 06:14 pm (UTC)
I use celery mostly for the leaves, which are peppery and good--but fished out afterwards. That's why the straining step. I don't like cooked carrots at all, but I like what a cut-up-in-chunks carrot does to stock.
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[User Picture]From: mrs_redboots
2011-10-29 06:44 pm (UTC)
Rather like I like what a stick of celery does! I love cooked carrots - and raw ones, come to that! But they have to have been raw to start with - tinned or frozen are pretty vile!
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[User Picture]From: danceswthcobras
2011-10-29 06:02 pm (UTC)
Ahh, giant bulls. Been there chopped up that. To save freezer space, I often bone out the less prime cuts (or all of it, if the animal itself isn't exactly in its tender prime) and take ALL of the bones to the bandsaw until they are in nice manageable pieces. The meat is wrapped and frozen after a day in the coolers for the muscle fibers to relax post-mortem, and the bones go either into the oven or the stockpot. I do love good roasted marrow bone segments with sea salt, and some stocks really benefit if you roast the bones first for flavor.

Just processed one of our hogs yesterday, also one of our heritage turkeys. The stock from the bones is still on the stove and is smelling quite nice! He was just a wee one at 200-odd lbs, and I did his loin cuts bone-in, so only one big stockpot was needed.

Speaking of loin cuts, why would you use those as soup? They're generally the only decently tender part of an older bull.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-10-29 06:12 pm (UTC)
I didn't use the loin cuts in soup (sorry if I was unclear)...I took more than my share of soup bones and gave up some loin in trade. Because I love to make stock and soup.

And you have coolers, you lucky person. We don't. I keep muttering at Rancherfriend that he should put in a cold room if we're going to be doing this, but he doesn't want to run more electrical line. I bought the meat saw, and half the lights and freezers go off when we run it. Cattle are at Rancherfriend's not here, including ours. Thus processing of cattle is done over there, not at our place except the time that Nameless Heifer broke her leg in a coyote den before he'd built the big barn and it was 100 degrees in the shade. He hauled her over to our place and we strung her up in the carport. Not ideal; the carport isn't high enough. We do the lambs at our place now, since Lambsource moved nearer to us than to Rancherfriend and we can do a lamb much more quickly and easily.
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[User Picture]From: danceswthcobras
2011-10-29 07:37 pm (UTC)
What kind of meat saw? I use a Hobart butcher's bandsaw for making a lot of neat cuts in a hurry, and a basic good quality reciprocating saw to make basic cuts while the carcass is hanging, to get the legs off, etc. I had a wellsaw which is supposed to be specifically for carcass cutting, but I did not like the way it handled or performed compared to the recipro saw, so I passed it on.
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[User Picture]From: jcbemis
2011-10-29 06:19 pm (UTC)
you don't roast the bones first? does that not matter in the long run?
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[User Picture]From: danceswthcobras
2011-10-29 07:13 pm (UTC)
Depends on what you're aiming for in a stock. Also how tired you are by the time you get back from a slaughter, if you are running out of cooler and fridge and freezer space and you urgently need 40 lbs of bones to become a few Ziplock bags of stock with as little fuss in between as possible.

Frankly I've done quite a lot of boiled bone stock that has zero prep (no roasting) and zero seasoning. I freeze a lot of it off as a very thick demiglace and use it as a flavoring component. Tasty, and takes up less room that way.

If I want a soup, I'll generally run a thinner stock from scratch and kick it up a notch with the frozen demiglace. And the thinner stock is where roasting tends to make a difference. If you reduce your stock for storing down to a luscious, thick, jellied demiglace, roasting isn't needed to deepen the flavor. Neither is seasoning; veggies come out bitter and salt ends up oversalting, when you do that long of a reduction.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-10-29 07:26 pm (UTC)
I often roast the bones first. But not when the meat on them is freezer burned.

Roasting the bones changes the flavor, yes, and I like the roasted-bones and marrow flavor (and deglaze the roasting pan with a good red wine--YES), but it's not essential to making a useful stock. My mother made stock and I don't remember her every roasting the bones....she went straight from raw soup bones to stock to soup (we couldn't afford to waste even tired vegetables.) I learned to roast the bones many years later. Now I usually roast the beef bones, and use the carcasses of roasted chickens and turkeys in those kinds of stock if I have them around. But if not I make chicken stock from the raw chickens (which my mother did too, along with saving the pieces of chicken that weren't very meaty--wing tips, backs-for the next batch. Meaty pieces got fried; non-meaty pieces added to the chicken stock or soup.)

It's pretty much a matter of preference. I know people who are bones-roasters and people who are not bones-roasters, but they all make homemade stock that satisfies them (and me when I eat at their house!)

The thing about freezer-burned meat is...it's not harmful, but it's already burst its little cells. And it's hard to tell how far in the damage has spread. I would rather put it in water and cook it in a wet situation than a dry one. But again, that's my preference.
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[User Picture]From: danceswthcobras
2011-10-29 07:54 pm (UTC)
Do you ever make Vietnamese "pho" stock? That is one that does benefit from roasting. I grow my own Thai basil and Thai hot peppers, so pho generally happens when there are beef bones lying about that need a good home. It's the best use for beef shanks I've found yet.

Also, about midway through making stock, even tough bits of meat can reach a nice tenderness and still have some flavor if they're from a mature animal. I generally steal a good deal of the meat at that point and return the bones to the stock.

Roosters are particularly nice that way. I pull most of the meat when it is tender, a few hours into cooking, and return the carcasses to the stock pot. The meat makes an excellent chicken salad, or pate if you season and grind it.
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[User Picture]From: melissajm
2011-10-30 01:18 am (UTC)
For some reason, we can never get our stockpot to hold a simmer. I can make decent veggie stock/broth with the crockpot, though. My favorite batch so far had a slightly wrinkled sweet red pepper added to the usual "chunky mirepoix."
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-10-30 02:32 am (UTC)
I had that problem with my old 10 quart Revere-Ware soup pot, and with the big steel or enameled steel ones. It takes A) a truly heat-spreading bottom (at least)...my big stockpot now has a heavy aluminum disk on the bottom of its stainless steel body. And B) thick enough sides. The taller it is, the more you need the laminated sort of side (or a cast iron core) to carry the heat up the sides so the top doesn't cool off. All-Clad is hellish expensive, but I can now put the 12 quart (my biggest All-Clad) on to simmer, and when I get the right temp (not always what the stove says is simmer) it will simmer for hours without missing a bubble or boiling over. Both the 4 quart and the 8 quart will do the same. It's like magic. I can also do long slow simmering in Le Creuset--again, thick, heat spreading sides as well as bottom.
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[User Picture]From: melissajm
2011-10-30 07:24 pm (UTC)
Unfortunately, my husband (the only one of us who can lift a full stockpot) got so frustrated with it that he swore off anything to do with stock and declared that henceforth that pot shall only be for making corn on the cob. But I get decent results with the crock pot.
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From: 6_penny
2011-10-30 02:23 am (UTC)
For smaller batches - I cook for myself only- a pressure cooker is invaluable. Cuts down the time too. I do finish off with simmering in the stock pot on the stove.
Pressure cooker is good for beans too. You still have to soak, but most kinds take 15 minutes at pressure.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-10-30 02:34 am (UTC)
I still can't forget the time my mother's pressure cooker blew its valve out and coated the kitchen ceiling with bean mush. Also the stove, the side of the fridge...it was epic. I was a little kid and remember the sound, the smell, and the sight of my mother standing there with hot bean goo on her and telling me to get out of the kitchen doorway and be quiet.

I'm not using a pressure cooker. I have time to let my beans simmer along in a less explosive setting.
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[User Picture]From: bookwyrm_sr
2011-10-30 03:14 am (UTC)
My mother used to tell about the time when her older sister was in the hospital after having had her 3rd child and the brother-in-law decided to make splitpea soup in the pressure cooker. With the explosive results that you can imagine!!
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[User Picture]From: bookwyrm_sr
2011-10-30 03:19 am (UTC)
Don't believe that I've ever had beef neck (unless it is part of the 'stew meat' packages that I get at my local grocery store), but over 50 years ago my family was invited to dinner by one of my father's co-workers. The gentleman was an avid hunter and so the main course was the result of one of his hunting trips -- elk neck roast. It was utterly delicious! This hunter knew how to cook what he caught.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-10-30 05:00 pm (UTC)
Elk...ymmm. OK, I've had elk only once, at a game dinner at which many things were served (including bear...not yummm when set out on a table on a hot day in South Texas...) But elk I have remembered the rest of my life as a delicious meat. I am very fond of venison (white-tailed deer that we have around here. I'm sure mule deer venison is a little different-everything is a little different--but white-tails, though very small in our over-populated area, are still delicious. Especially backstrap. Especially backstrap that's been introduced to a good red-wine-and-herbs-and-spices marinade just the right length of time....but then venison chili is the best chili EVER.)
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[User Picture]From: pyg_klb
2011-10-30 05:16 am (UTC)

Crockpot Chicken Stock

I find that my 6.5 quart Crock Pot is ideal for making chicken stock. In fact, I don't even defrost the chicken any more.

Put 4-5 lb chicken (whole or leftovers from cutup chicken) in crockpot.
Cover with water.
Heat for 2-3 hours until the chicken is no longer frozen.
Add frozen vegetable trimmings and/or carrot, celery and onion cut into inch-long chunks.
Simmer overnight on Low.
Strain stock and chill to solidify fat.
Pick meat from bones; use for cooked-chicken recipes.

I like to reduce the stock by 50% and freeze in ice-cube trays (2 tablespoon each). This gives cubes which can be easily used in recipes: add two cubes and a quarter cup water per half cup stock.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-10-30 05:03 pm (UTC)

Re: Crockpot Chicken Stock

That's how I get my packets of cubed chicken meat for later introduction into anything calling for 2 cups of cubed/diced cooked chicken--off the chicken(s) in the stock pot. I always include garlic, though. Again, a matter of personal preference.

So is how much to reduce the stock, and what size container to put it in. A lot depends on what you have to store stuff in and how you use the stock later.
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[User Picture]From: cgbookcat1
2011-10-31 04:24 am (UTC)
I like to make stock in a crock pot. It can simmer overnight without anyone having to watch it, go through a colander and be refrigerated in the morning, and be made into soup that evening. However, I'm generally dealing with smaller quantities than a beef neck. (No room for a chest freezer in an apartment.)

I second the "no salt added." When I have soup at a restaurant I inevitably end up downing 3-4 glasses of water due to the unnecessarily high sodium levels.
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