"Let's face it: I can extol the glories of homemade broths until Hades freezes over. In reality, the only people still making their own broth are me and an eighty-year-old woman in Siberia." — Lynne Rossetto Kasper

Why make beef stock or broth at home? It's so easy to pick up cans or pouches at the local grocery. First and foremost, homemade tastes better, particularly in recipes that call for a large amount of broth. And if you have food allergies, or follow a sugar- or sodium-restricted diet, you don't have to worry about scanning labels for worrisome ingredients.

This recipe is relatively fast - a classic beef stock is simmered for six hours or longer, and has a lower ratio of beef and bones to water. You'll notice there's almost no salt (and no MSG), so it might seem a bit bland at first taste. Don't add additional salt and pepper during the cooking process, it's best to adjust the seasonings later when you use the stock in soups or sauces.

Beef Stock

Vegetable or olive oil
1 large onion, large dice
2 carrots, unpeeled, large dice
2 stalks celery, large dice (use the leafy tops, too)
6 lb (3 kg) beef shank steaks, bone in1
1/2 cup (125 ml) dry red wine2
2 qts (2 l) water
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic, pealed, crushed
3 sprigs parsley

1. Pour just enough oil to cover the bottom of a large skillet, and turn on the burner to medium-high. When the oil shimmers, toss in the onion, carrot and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Transfer vegetables to a large bowl and set aside.3

2. While the vegetables are browning, cut the beef shanks into chunks of about 3 inches (7.5 cm); save the bones, you will use them.

3. Lightly coat a large stock pot with vegetable oil, heat to shimmer over medium-high heat. Toss in about a quarter of the meat and bones and brown on all sides, then transfer to the veggie bowl. Repeat with remaining batches of beef/bones, adding a bit more oil as needed. (Avoid the temptation to do this in larger batches, overcrowding the pot will slow down the browning process.)

4. Add the red wine to the stock pot and reduce the volume by about a half, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom as you stir.

5. Reduce burner heat to low, and add the browned beef and bones to the reduced wine. Cover the pot and cook until the meat sweats out juices (about 20 minutes).

6. Add the browned vegetables, bay leaves, garlic and parsley. Increase the stove heat to high, then pour in the water, stir. Bring the liquid to a full boil, then reduce heat to low and half-cover the pot with a lid. Slowly simmer 1-1/2 to 2 hours, until the beef is tender. Check the pot from time to time, skimming off the sludgy foam that rises to the top.

7. Remove the beef from the pot and refrigerate or freeze (you can use it later for soup or tacos). If you have a bit more time, simmer the liquid with the bones and vegetables for another hour or so.

8. Strain the liquid into a clean bowl or pot, and discard the bones, vegetables and seasonings. Refrigerate until the fat hardens on the surface - just remove it with a large spoon. The stock can be refrigerated in a tightly-sealed container for about four days, or frozen for about four months. If freezing, transfer to small containers (or try freezing in non-stick muffin/cupcake tins; remove the frozen rounds, cover with plastic wrap or foil, then store them in a plastic freezer-safe storage bags).

1 May also be referred to as beef shank cross cuts, center beef shanks, cross cut shanks or stewing foreshanks. You can substitute chuck steak and additional small marrow bones (about 4 lbs/1.8 kg meat and 2 lbs/.9 kg bones) - ask your butcher for advice.

2Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Shiraz/Syrah, Zinfandel, Sangiovese, or Cabernet Franc - if you don't drink red wine, many stores carry 187 ml (one-quarter) bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. If you live in an alcohol free home, omit the wine but there's no direct substitution (though a tablespoon of tomato paste is a good addition if you are making a beef-vegetable soup).

3You can use the stock pot to brown the vegetables, but a second pan saves time and you are less likely to end up with a burned mess on the bottom of the pot (you do want to be able to use those nice brown bits when you deglaze the stock pot with wine in step 4).

The Debutante notes: "I often brown all my meat in the oven, then deglaze it. Much easier! Also, if I'm using left-over bones from a roast, I tend to throw in the vegetable peelings from whatever we had with the meal. That's a good economical stock. When I freeze my stock, I reduce it right down and then pour it into ice cube bags. Of course that increases how long you have it on the hob, but it makes using it so much easier."

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