Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Basics : Beef Stock and Vegetable Beef Soup

Like chicken stock, beef stock or broth made with bones and scraps, is a great basic to have in your Paleo freezer.  And you make it in exactly the same way ... pretty much.  You can make this either on the stove or in your slow cooker.

Health Benefits of Stock
  • Beef stock provides plentiful and easily absorbed minerals which is especially important today when our soils are so depleted.
  • The bones supply glucosamine and chondroitin, both which help with joint health and can be especially helpful for arthritis.
  • The natural gelatine that forms is terrific for the skin and muscles.
  • Many people worry about food combining, but if you eat beef broth with your meal this won't be necessary.  The gelatine is a colloidal substance which means it attracts digestive juices.
  • The large amount of amino acid glycine assists with detoxification in the liver.  Since we are constantly surrounded with toxins, this is very important today.
To read more on the benefits of gelatine, read my post here.

 Quick and Easy Paleo Beef Stock

 By the way, you'll notice the pictures are the same as for chicken stock.  These are really just here to give you an idea of what the process looks like, and since it's the same for both I didn't think it would really matter. 

Ingredients :

- 1 bag of meat scraps, bones, leftover meat etc.  Alternatively you can use a pound of stewing beef or a cheaper steak sliced.  Try and get one with a bone in it.**
- 1 bag of stock vegetables - carrot, onion and celery eft-overs. If you don't have this add 2 whole carrots, 1 onion and 2 stalks of celery, leaves and all.  Don't bother peeling.
- salt and pepper and a bay leaf if you have one.

If you use raw beef it's best to brown it first.  When you are using left over steak bones and such you're fine, but without browning raw beef really won't give you the same rich flavour.  
This is easy to do.  Just throw it into a hot pan with a couple of spoons of fat (coconut oil, olive oil, butter) and cook on high until it's browned.  It's best to keep stirring while this is cooking so it will brown evenly.

Directions :

- Put everything in a large pot, cover with water until everything is submerged.
- If cooking on the stove, bring to a boil, lower to the lowest temperature you have, then simmer covered for at least an hour.
- If using the crockpot put on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 to 10

Once the stock is finished remove the bones and vegetables by pouring it all through a large sieve into another pan or bowl (Image from blog.delementals.com). Preferably do this in the sink, and if you use a soup ladle it will take a bit of time but make less mess. If you are making a really large amount of stock, you could also use a colander, but be prepared for your stock to have some little bits still in it.

At this stage some people recommend boiling until the stock has reduced by half.  If you have room in your freezer for the amount you made, I think you might as well skip this step. Chances are whatever you use it in will need extra liquid anyway, so why spend time evaporating it?

When it comes to freezing your stock, here are 2 great ways recommended by thekitchn.com :

You can freeze in individual one cup containers, first placing a ziploc bag inside.  That way once frozen you just remove the bag and you have a nice container shaped bag to freeze and can use your container for something else.

For me the most convenient way to freeze stock is in an ice cube tray. Fill, freeze until firm, then remove and store in a freezer bag. When you need stock just remove however many cubes you need and add to whatever you're cooking. They will thaw a lot quicker this way as well.

If you're stock doesn't gel, here is an article that can help.

If you have a large family, much as making stock in a slow cooker is easy, it won't be the solution for you because it won't give you the amount you need.  You will need to invest in a good stock pot.  Since stock is something that you will use on a constant basis once you start cooking Paleo, it will certainly pay for itself over time.  Here are a few to consider.

This 8 quart stock pot, though one of the cheapest, has had a lot of good ratings.
New Professional Commercial Grade 8 QT (Quart) Heavy-Gauge Stainless Steel Stock Pot, 3-Ply Clad Base, Induction Ready, With Lid Cover NSF Certified Item

The 12 quart one by the same company has very good ratings as well.
New Professional Commercial Grade 12 QT (Quart) Heavy-Gauge Stainless Steel Stock Pot, 3-Ply Clad Base, Induction Ready, With Lid Cover NSF Certified Item

To check out more pots just click on one of the above links.

Leftover Ground Beef Soup

If you have beef stock in your freezer, even if all you have is leftover bits and pieces in your fridge, you have a meal in the making.  And a substantial one at that.

One freezing cold winter day I came home from a long trip totally exhausted only to find my husband had left on his trip without restocking the fridge.  The only thing left (other than the token 1/2 inch of cream for my coffee the next morning) was a cold burger, a couple of wilted celery stalks, and a carrot that had seen better days.

However, lucky for me I had beef stock in the freezer, and within half an hour I also had supper.  While the stock thawed in the microwave, I washed and chopped the edible parts of the celery and carrots, threw them into a pot with the chopped up burger, and then poured in the stock.  I added some hot sauce for a bit of kick, covered the whole thing and let it simmer while I unpacked. Once I was ready to eat, the soup was ready as well.  And if I'd had some frozen crepes to cut up and add (egg crepes recipe) it would have been even better.  (It looked sort of like this picture.)

You never know when you might find yourself in a similar situation. It pays to be prepared!

 When you have the time to make a planned soup, here is a great slow cooker recipe.

Italian Vegetable Beef Slow Cooker Soup

Ingredients :

- 1 1/2 lbs. cubed stewing beef
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 cups of water
- 1 (28 ounce) can of whole tomatoes
- 1 small package of frozen peas
- 1 bag of frozen cauliflower or 2 cups of chopped fresh **
- 4 cups of beef stock
- 1 tablespoon of Italian seasoning or just dried basil
-  salt and pepper to taste
-  a dash of hot sauce if you like a bit of spice

 ** If you use fresh cauliflower make sure you put it in first and don't mix the soup. Fresh vegetables take the longest to cook so need to be at the bottom of the pot.

Directions :

- In a hot pan with a couple of tablespoons of fat (butter, olive oil, coconut oil) brown the meat.  When brown add the onion and cook until it starts to brown as well.  Put the beef and onion mixture into the slow cooker, making sure you scrape in all the good stuff from the bottom of the pan as well - that's where all the flavour is!
- Add all the rest of the ingredients and mix well.
- Cook on low for 8 hours. Serve with some freshly grated parmesan and you have a soothing hot meal in a bowl.  Enjoy.  (will freeze)

 “Life isn't about finding yourself.  Life is about creating yourself.”   - George Bernard Shaw

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