Pouring Beef Stock Into Pot with Wine, Vegetables, and Herbs to Improve It

Kennon-Green & Co. Fiduciary Financial Advisor, Wealth Management, Global Value Investing

A homemade beef stock is the foundation of so many recipes.  Yet, making homemade beef stock can take a big time investment, not to mention needing bones, meat, and other ingredients on hand.  One of the best tips I’ve seen came from the legendary cookbook author Julia Child, who found a way to treat canned or boxed beef broth, transforming it into a stock that tastes almost as if you had spent days simmering it in your own kitchen.

[mainbodyad]During the testing phase of many of our beef recipes, we have been using this trick as it allows us to focus on the recipe itself and not constantly repeat ourselves by having to make huge batches of beef stock.  We just buy Swanson’s beef stock and then improve it with Julia’s methods.  The entire process is very fast and requires almost no work.  It is also cheap.  The flavor difference before and after is enormous so I really urge you to try it if you love French cooking.

Here is how you can do it very quickly and with very little time.  I think this is one of the most useful tools I’ve learned and it really does make recipe testing easier, and the results far tastier.  You owe it to yourself to try it.  Once you’ve found the perfect improvement method, you will never be content to use the beef stock straight out of the can without first treating it.

Julia Child Trick for Improving Canned Beef Stock

First, cut 3 table spoons of minced onions (I make half of it a yellow onion and half of it a purple onion), 3 tablespoons of carrots, and 1 tablespoon of finely minced celery.  (Personally, I’ve run tests and excluded the celery and the treated beef stock still turned out far better than it was in the beginning.)


Pouring Beef Stock Into Pot with Wine, Vegetables, and Herbs to Improve It

Put those vegetables in a pot.  Then, add 1/2 cup red wine, dry white wine, or dry white vermouth.  I prefer a sweet red wine since I think it goes better with beef.  Then wrap 2 parsley sprigs, 1/3 bay leaf, and 1/8 teaspoon thyme in washed cheesecloth or in a herb bouquet infuser and dunk it in the liquid.  Finally, pour in 2 cups of canned or boxed Swanson’s beef broth.


Improved Canned Beef Stock Trick by Julia Child

Simmer the beef broth for 20 to 30 minutes (I prefer longer for a stronger flavor concentration) and then strain the vegetables and herbs out with a fine mesh sieve.  Put back into the pot and let reduce for another few minutes, flavoring to taste and sampling as you progress.  You should now have a fantastic beef stock that tastes almost as if you had made it yourself, light years ahead of what came out of the can or box.

You can also continue to simmer the liquid down slowly for up to two more hours until it turns into a syrup that solidifies in the refrigerator.  This is known as Glace de Viande and is often added to beef soups to add a huge infusion of flavor.  

Not only is it useful for its own purposes, Glace de Viande can be reconstituted with hot water to recreate the beef stock, essentially reversing the process.  

In her book, Julia Child describes how you can keep this sauce in refrigeration for up to a few weeks, allowing you to grab it and make quick dishes for lunch or dinner that taste as if you have spent all day in the kitchen.  That information is on page 111 of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I.  (For those of you who are interested, a full explanation of the beef stock improvement process is available on page 67 of the same treatise.)  The book also includes information on how to improve chicken stock and other bases, as well.