Making stock is supposed to save you money but unfortunately the way I do it means it doesn’t quite work out that way. The main reason for this is a stock made purely from bones, while producing a gelatin rich liquid, just doesn’t taste very good: there has to be some meat in there otherwise you won’t get, in this case, the characteristic beef flavour you’re looking for.
Now, there’s two ways to solve this problem, one is to use bones that still have plenty of flesh attached to them but I’ve only ever seen marrow bones in Irish butchers and they have generally been trimmed very thoroughly (most likely mechanically). The other is to follow the Modernist Cuisine suggestion and include some mince: this can then be browned and due to its extremely large surface area will give up its flavour much more readily than larger chunks of meat.
Increasing surface area is also the reason why I have sliced the mirepoix as thinly as possible using a mandolin; however, Modernist Cuisine also warns to avoid the temptation to mince the vegetables as it can lead to too much flavour extraction, especially from the carrots whose sweetness can unbalance the whole stock.
And as if adding meat hasn’t made everything expensive enough as it is, I dispensed with bones altogether, which you can often get for nothing, and used beef tendon instead. I buy mine from the Oriental Emporium on Jervis Street for €5/kg and only realised last time that it’s actually my local butcher on Meath Street who supplies their meat counter. I got the blood for my black pudding from them and they often have the more esoteric cuts in the shop so I’m not surprised at how they’ve expanded the operation.
Anyway, beef tendon is basically just connective tissue (it joins a cow’s muscles to its bones) and is composed primarily of collagen – around thirty to thirty five per cent of the total weight. This is good for us because that’s the compound converted to gelatin during cooking. And while bones are also a good source of collagen (between twenty five to thirty per cent) it is apparently possible to cook them to near disintegration and end up with an unpleasant, chalky mouthfeel in the final product.
I have to say it’s not something I’ve ever encountered and I sometimes wonder if it’s not another kitchen myth but I’ve been so afraid of wasting hours of work that I’ve always been somewhat cautious: never going over two and a half hours using the pressure cooker or twelve with the traditional method. However, replacing the bones eliminates this putative problem and you can concentrate on maximum extraction of gelatin.
For this batch I decided to try three and a half hours and when I was straining out the solids afterwards the three tendons I used were still intact although reduced in size. I wonder now would they have virtually dissolved had I minced them; I guess I’ll have to try that next time. I then divided the stock amongst some zip lock bags for freezing but, as a test, I kept one back and left it in the fridge. In the morning, the liquid had completely solidified and not a jelly-like consistency but rather something more akin to rubber. I’ve only ever got a similar result with veal stock (even more expensive!) so I think this qualifies as a very successful experiment.
1kg beef tendon
250g beef mince
15g tomato paste
125g onions, thinly sliced using a mandolin
60g carrots, thinly sliced using a mandolin
60g celery, thinly sliced using a mandolin
5g parsley stalks
2.5g thyme sprigs
- Cover the beef tendon with cold water in a pot and bring to the boil.
- When at a rolling boil, remove from the heat and discard the water.
- Wash any of the scum off the tendons and then place in the pressure cooker.
- Place a frying pan over a high heat for 2-3 minutes and then pour in a thin film of oil.
- Add the mince and cook until dark brown.
- Lower the heat to medium and add the tomato paste.
- Cook the paste until it has turned a dark rusty colour.
- Deglaze the pan with 200ml of water, scrapping as much of the fond off all possible, and pour the contents of the pan into the pressure cooker.
- Melt the butter in the frying pan over a low-medium heat and, when foaming, add the onions.
- Cook slowly, for around half an hour, until the onions are golden brown.
- When done add the onions along with the carrots, celery, peppercorns, parsley and thyme to the pressure cooker.
- Pour 2.25l of cold water into the pressure cooker.
- Bring up to full pressure (15psi) as per the instructions and cook for 3.5 hours.
- Take off the heat and allow the pressure to drop naturally. Do not use the quick release or the stock will boil and become cloudy.
- Strain out all the solids and using a sheet of kitchen towel at a time, remove as much of the layer of fat floating on the stock as possible.
- The stock will keep for three days in the fridge or over six months in the freezer.