Three day beef stock, 12p

Three day stock... A friend on Instagram commented it looked good enough to drink, to which I sheepishly confessed I had been doing just that... Patience is a virtue, good stock is your reward...

Three day stock… A friend on Instagram commented it looked good enough to drink, to which I sheepishly confessed I had been doing just that… Patience is a virtue, good stock is your reward…

First, a disclaimer about the perceived profligacy of a three day stock: this was accidental, as I am a busy and unorganised soul. On Tuesday when I decided to make beef stock from the forerib bones and scraps of beef left from Sunday’s lunch, I didn’t imagine it would be a half-week affair. I started making stock, turned it off when I had to nip to the shops, forgot about it, reignited it the next day, and so on. And then, rather than use up the gas cooking it long and slow on the hob, I simply slung it on the bottom shelf of the oven and let it live there while I cooked other things. A loaf of bread? Great, another hour of stock cooking. Roasting sausages for the kids for a journey? Boom, another 40 minutes. And so on, and so forth, until impatience got the better of me and I stopped.

I started to panic that it may all end in Death By Stock. I was fairly confident about my constitution, given that I was brought up on Avgolemono soup made from the carcass of a Sunday roast chicken and a few fistfuls of rice, left on the back of the cooker for days on end as we helped ourselves, adding a jug of water here and there to break up the sticky rice mass that formed overnight. If eggs and rice and chicken at room temperature didn’t do me in in my formative years, a stock boiled to within an inch of its life could fancy its chances.

And to cut a long story short, Three Day Beef Stock was a resounding success. Soft, silky, milky, saline, meaty, an indescribable creamy consistency that those of you familiar with proper ramen bars will know why some of us obsess over them. Friends scorned me: ‘there will come a point where that stock won’t get any better’, they said. ‘Those carrots and bones can only give so much’, they said. Well, when I reluctantly finally strained and bottled it late last night, it was with the feeling I could have gone all week…

Those of you who balk at the thought of leaving a pot of meat and veg hanging around in the warmer months of Spring, or don’t use your oven as much as a house with two professional food writers might, can cook it as long or as little as you like. If you have a slow cooker, which apparently uses less energy than a lightbulb, fling everything in for 10 hours and see what happens – but I’m convinced part of the magic is the gelatinous jelly layer that forms as it cools, that I melted down again, and again, and again. There are no hard and fast rules here. Just, folks, boil your bones. And boil them some more. And some more. Things can only get better.

Three Day Stock (made 6 x 250ml servings at 12p each – granted this doesn’t include the bones, which were leftovers, and the cooking time, which would be impossible to calculate for every kind of energy tarriff, so I hope you take it in the spirit it’s meant…):

Bones (I used beef forerib but any bones will do – for cheap options try pork rib bones or chicken wing bones)
1 large onion (mine was a 210g whopper), 11p
2 or 3 carrots (200g), 10p
2 stalks of celery (40g, optional, don’t worry if it’s not something you have kicking about), 7p
6 fat cloves of garlic, 11p
a fistful of parsley (5g-ish, I keep the stalks in a freezer bag and use them for stock), 14p
2 bay leaves (optional but delicious), 16p
a few generous pinches of salt, <1p
a good pinch of pepper, <1p

Roughly chop all of your veg without peeling it, and toss into the pan. I don’t bother to peel my garlic cloves for stock, and Nigella once commented that she doesn’t peel her onions either, so if you’re slightly lazy sometimes, this is where to get away with it all. Add your bones and cover with water, and then a few inches more.

Bring to the boil and boil vigorously for 10 minutes, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for at least an hour, adding more water if required, then remove from the heat. Cover with a lid, large plate or foil to retain as much heat as possible, and allow to cool completely.

Leave in a cold place overnight – I popped mine on my front doorstep. Nobody has ever stolen a pan from my doorstep, and there have been quite a few left out there over the years. Not even the foxes.

The next day, pop it back on the heat and bring to the boil again to bring it back up to temperature and banish any nasties. Either simmer for another hour, or throw it in the bottom of your oven if you’re planning to use your oven for anything else (make sure your pan doesn’t have a plastic handle or it might not have a handle at all by the end of it).

Repeat these steps for the next few days, two or three, always bringing it back to a vigorous boil first, and adding extra water when required. If it tastes weak, add more salt. Stock needs a terrifying amount of salt. You’ll be fine – you’re not going to drink it all at once anyway. Then strain into another pan, pour into jars, allow to cool, and enjoy. I made 2 litres in 4 jars and bottles, one for the fridge and three for the freezer…

Tips: If you have a large pot of anything boiling on the back of your hob, like stock, balance a sieve over the top and use it as a steamer – you might as well, seeing it’s emitting a world of delicious steam over there. Use it to steam greens, broccoli, kale, any veg you like. If you don’t have a sieve, fashion one from tin foil with some small holes stabbed in it. Wrap a couple of layers of tin foil around the bottom of a bowl and scrunch it tightly to form the base shape, and make some holes with the tip of a sharp knife. Balance it on top of your pot, and voila. A temporary steamer.

Bones leftover from Sunday roast. Basics onions 80p/1.5kg. Basics carrots 75p/1.5kg. Celery 80p/450g. Basics garlic bulbs 35p/2. Fresh parsley 80p/28g. Bay leaves 80p/10. Basics table salt 25p/750g. Basics black pepper 40p/25g.

Jack Monroe. I’m on Twitter & Instagram @MsJackMonroe

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18 Comments »

  1. I am so glad to know that I am not the only one who believes that starting and stopping stock really does make it better! I’m still not telling anyone here (USA) because so few people have a sense of what the world was like without refrigeration and so live in terror what “could happen”

    Thanks for idea of throwing it in the oven. I really would never have thought of that! And then to cap it, the simple steamer…you’re a great friend Jack.

  2. I love a stock and share those back of the mind thoughts that once day I might get unlucky and spend three days chundering for my sins.,

    Re slow cookers, as you probably know, they need to be started off with less liquid because they don’t concentrate in the same way, For this reason I am disinclined to use them for stock.

    I buy (and am sometimes given) bones from my butchers which I roast on a bed of leeks, onions and carrots in the oven then the whole lot gets tipped into a deep stock pot with some fresh veg and liquid.

    Then I fish out the more jaded of the roasted veg and set it to quiver gently on the back hob. Marsala is good too.

  3. The slow cooker is definitely the way to go for stock, bung your chicken carcass (which is what I usually have) or whatever in, breaking up to fit and your veg ( I keep veg offcuts and peelings rather than use veg we could eat!) and pour boiling water from the kettle over it. Leave at least all day, then strain! Easy, cheap on fuel and fuss free. I think you need onion skin in there, whether you use off cuts or new veg- it gives a good colour. 3 day bottom of the oven stock sounds good though, good if you know you’ll have the oven on a lot – shall be bearing it in mind 🙂

  4. Thankyou so much Jack….Ive often started off a stock and forgotten about it and not been brave enough to boil it up again and keep going!…..wont be such a wimp in future…..I guess a good boil should kill off all known bugs anyway!

  5. i have a friend who was a chef in the navy many years ago, and they used to have a pot of food on the stove that got reheated every day when left overs were tipped into it. it was called pot mess!

  6. I forgot about a pressure cooker full of stew, which contained amongst other things 3 Wood Pigeons I shot: on the stove for 2 full days, I was so guilty for wasting them more than anything! So, I refitted the lid and heated it up and cooked it again on as high as I dared for 15 minutes, was sure I would blow up the pressure cooker! I had some excellent stew that night, and chilled the rest then froze it the next day…..I’m still here!

  7. Just be careful. Our sensitivity to illness is not what it was even in healthy adults. Our diets, possibly due to changes in our microbiome are very different to what they were even a short time ago. We no longer have the same immunity as we have as kids (or adults would have had at the same time). Food is a complex thing which is very, very rarely sterile (nor should it be). You may have been lucky in this case but it wouldn’t be something I’d recommend doing again.

  8. I make slow cooker chicken stock. I was boiling the bones from one of Aldi’s free range ones and had to go out. I thought ‘I wish I could leave this on a low simmer’ then spotted the slow cooker waiting to be put away and threw everything in there and went out for the afternoon. It made delicious risotto.

  9. I love the fact you made stock but cannot get over the beef forerib.

    Most people on a budget cant afford this kind of beef! I can barely afford a topside let alone a forerib!

    I know I know I can ask the butcher for the bones…. and I do. I appriciate that agirlcalledjack can now afford this type of beef, and hell why not?!? I would if I could but for me to taste such would be luxury

      • I love that you are honest about what you are using. You could have just said, beef bones, but you tell us what you do. Love everything you do. Now to to see if I’m brave enough to heat, cool and reheat. My grandmother would not think anything of it, as she use to just leave a pot of soup on the wood stove all winter. It would get cold overnight then reheated during the morning for lunch, and pushed to the coolest part of the stove for the afternoon.

      • I totally agree, but a word of warning: many years ago, my mates family went on holiday for 2 weeks and let him, aged 14 or 15, stay behind. She made a huge pan of stew, “tater ash” for him/us to live on. BUT….back then the gas hobs had a pilot light constantly burning to light the rings, and by the end of the holiday, the stew was fermenting, actually was bubbling away by itself. We had stopped eating it and kept it to see what else would happen: it reeked something shocking, which was how we knew to stop eating it! No stupid ‘use by’ labelling back then either, we used common sense to judge if food was edible.

  10. The rule I learned, from the health and diseases book which VSO gave us before heading into the unknown, was that you can kill most nasties by boiling food for at least 3 minutes. (Except leftover rice, which you do have to be careful with after a day or so.) As long as what went in wasn’t too iffy in the first place, keeping at room temperature and then boiling should be absolutely fine, provided it’s covered and no flying beasties can get at it.

  11. Great recipe, will try it out myself on my wood burner (our only heating source!). Just wanted to mention that I love the idea of leaving the stock out on the doorstep but I know a special doggie that got very sick after having slurped stock left out of the back door. Thanks for your recipes Jack x

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