Making a Rich Brown Bone Broth … or Brown Stock … or whichever.
The picture above may not look much like a broth, but, when chilled, a very rich broth that has been prepared with lots of collagen containing bone, skin, and connective tissue will form a thick, highly nutritious jelly when cooled.
The recipe here uses bones and attached meat which are first roasted before being simmered, and this gives the resultant broth (or stock) a deep brown color. In classical Western Cookery (chiefly from the French tradition), this makes it a ‘Brown Stock’, in contrast to a ‘White Stock’ where the meat, and any vegetables used, are sometimes blanched, but not roasted.
Traditionally, a ‘proper’ Brown Stock is made with Veal Bones, but, here, I am using a mix of Beef Marrow Bones and whole Pork Hocks with the skin still attached.
‘Stock’ or ‘Broth’ – What’s the Difference?
These days, you can almost start a fist-fight over what constitutes a stock, and what constitutes a broth, particularly since ‘Bone Broths’ became the latest culinary fashion with ‘experts’ jumping on the bandwagon and touting books, recipes, ‘healthy’ diets, and what-not. All of this faddish nonsense is enthusiastically gobbled up by hordes of internet denizens who think that these ‘magic elixirs’ are something wonderful and new.
The problem of course, is that there is no ultimate authority dictating what makes a stock, or what makes a broth, and there are no formal definitions for either carved into stone back in the mists of time, despite a wide range of camps insisting that *their* definition is the right one. The middle ground (almost always the safest), is to conclude that you can, without being a heretic, use the terms interchangeably, and, on that note, I defer to James Beard, who can certainly be regarded as knowing a thing or two about food:
The other morning my old friend Helen McCully called me at an early hour and said, ‘Now that you’re revising your fish book, for heaven’s sake, define the difference between a stock, a broth and a bouillon. No book does.’ The reason no book does is that they are all the same thing. A stock, which is also a broth or a bouillon, is basically some meat, game, poultry, or fish simmered in water with bones, seasonings, and vegetables.
The Armchair James Beard. Beard, James (2015). Open Road Media. ISBN 9781504004558.
I think that rather says it all….
Notes on the Ingredients
As noted, we are using Beef Marrow Bones and Pork Hocks with the rind (skin) still attached for this recipe. The skin on the Pork Hocks provides a LOT of collagen to give body to the broth, and the Marrow adds terrific flavor. The Marrow Bones I have used here are not too bad, but it is best if you use them cut into the shortest sections possible.
The Onion will be roasted along with the bones as this will lend a nice sweetness to the broth as it simmers, while the dried Porcini Mushrooms (in the bowl beside the Onion) will add an extra umami dimension to the blend of flavors. You can substitute Dried Shiitake (Black Chinese Mushrooms), in place of Porcini, if you like. Indeed, I am more likely to have those on hand rather than the Porcini, and will usually use them, but the Porcini make for a lovely addition too.
Finally, I am using White Wine here in this particular recipe. Red Wine is sometimes used, but this will affect the flavor and may be an issue for some uses of the finished broth (or stock). Using Wine not only enhances the flavor, but the acid it contains also works to really leach the collagen out of the connective tissue. In some Brown stock recipes, tomato, as a puree, or some other form, is added for this affect (and to add color), but, while this may be necessary when only using veal bones, it is not especially necessary here. On the flavor front, you can replace all, or part, of the wine with a dry Sherry, or even a nice Port.
The Basic Method
Your first task is to briefly roast the meat, bones and onion in order to get a bit of caramelization going for added flavor. Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees and then rub a little oil over the bones, hocks and onion. Sprinkle them with a pinch of the salt, and place them in a suitably sized roasting pan, making sure it is not overcrowded. Roast this for about an hour or so, turning the bones and hocks occasionally, until everything is cooked through nicely browned.
Once you have accomplished the browning operation, rinse the bones and hocks well under running water to flush away excess fat and remove any scum or detritus.
Transfer the hocks, bones, and onion to a stockpot and add the pepper, wine, mushrooms and the other pinch of salt. Add the water ensuring that everything is submerged. The mushrooms and onions will float but after the first two hours of the cooking process they will have given up their flavor and can be removed.
Bring the water to a low boil and then turn the heat down until you can maintain a nice light simmer. Brew the stock, skimming off any fat or scum that rises, for 5 to 6 hours.
At the end of the simmering, strain the brew through a fine sieve to remove all the solids. By this time, the stock should be about half to two thirds of it’s original volume and, to a good strong brew, reduce it further by cooking at a low boil in a fresh pot until just a quart, to a quart and a half, remains.
After reducing, filter through a cheesecloth to clarify further if desired, allow the stock to cool, and then pop it into the fridge briefly until any remaining fat has congealed on the surface. There shouldn’t be a lot if you skimmed frequently during simmering but whatever remains can now be lifted off with a spoon. As you can see, this batch has so little fat that it is not really worth removing.
Storing and Using a Brown Bone Broth
The broth will keep for up to five days or so in the fridge, but you can extend this for quite a long time by brining the broth to the boil every few days and then putting it back in the refrigerator again. For safety’s sake, it is best if you sit the pot in a sink full of very cold water to chill it quickly, rather than letting it cool in the pot at room temperature.
You can also freeze the stock until needed and it may be convenient, depending on your intended uses, to fill ice-cube containers with the broth so that you can have small amounts easily available when needed.
Ultimately, the stock can be used anywhere a rich stock or broth is called for, including as a base for soups, stew, sauces, or noodle dishes.
Your Recipe Card:
Rich Brown Bone Broth
- 2 lbs. Beef Marrow Bones
- 2 meaty Pork hocks
- 1 Medium Onion cut in half
- ½ cup dried Porcini Mushrooms optional
- 1 tbsp. Peppercorns
- 2 generous pinches of Salt
- 1 cup White Wine
- 4 quarts water more or less
- Rub a little oil over the Bones, Hocks and Onion. Sprinkle them with a pinch of the salt and then place them, uncrowded, in a suitable roasting pan.
- Roast everything at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about an hour or so, turning the bones and hocks occasionally, until cooked through and nicely browned.
- After cooling briefly, rinse the bones and hocks under running water to wash away any detritus and excess fat.
- Transfer the hocks, bones, and onion to a stockpot, add the pepper, wine, mushrooms and the other pinch of salt, then add the water, making sure everything is submerged.
- Put the pot over a medium-low flame and maintain a gentle simmer for about 5 to 6 hours, skimming any fat, scum, or detritus as necessary.
- Strain the broth, discarding the solids, then continue simmering until the volume has reduce to approximately one and a half quarts (liters). Filter again through a cheese-cloth for extra clarity if desired, and then refrigerate until needed.