After the hunt comes the work, they say. And that work can continue for days if you are doing it all yourself. Skinning, gutting, quartering. Then butchering, packaging, freezing. Sausage-making and meat grinding. And then, finally, it’s time to make bone stock.
Any hunter or angler really ought to have the skill of stock-making down pat. It’s an easy way to get more out of your game, to save money, and, frankly, to make a product better than anything you can buy in the store.
Good stock starts with a little meat and bones—and trim. What I mean by “trim” is most everything you plan on tossing in the trash: silverskin, weird bits, sinewy stuff. However, you should still throw out all the bloodshot or meat massacred from your shot. I also sacrifice a little meat to the cause: usually the meat between the ribs on a deer or a busted up wing or leg on a bird.
3 to 5 lbs. of meat & bones
2 bay leaves
Sprig of rosemary
Sprig of thyme
1 chopped onion
2 or 3 chopped carrots
2 chopped celery stalks
1 chopped parsnip (optional)
Large handful of dried mushrooms (optional)
1 tbsp. crushed juniper berries (optional)
1 tsp. celery seed (optional)
Makes about a gallon
Put the meat and bones in a large roasting pan and coat them with a little vegetable oil. Salt liberally and set in the oven.
Turn the oven to 400°F and roast until everything has browned nicely, about 1 hour.
Remove the bones and meat and put them in a large stockpot. Cover with water by about 2 inches, but leave enough room in the pot to add a bit more water. Turn the heat to medium-high.
Pour about a quart of water into the roasting pan and let this soften the browned bits in the pan, about 15 minutes. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits in the roasting pan and pour all this into the stockpot.
Bring the bone stock to a very gentle simmer—basically a shimmer, not a bubble—and manage the heat to keep it that way. Usually, this means the lowest heat on a small burner. Let the meat and bones cook like this for at least 4 hours and up to 12 hours.
When you are ready, add the remaining ingredients, stir them around a bit, and simmer for 2 more hours.
To strain the bone stock, put a piece of paper towel in a sieve, and set the sieve over a large pot, plastic bin, or other container. Ladle the stock through this, which will catch most of the impurities. You now have stock.
If you want to go further and make broth, taste the bone stock. It should need salt. Don’t add any yet. Put the strained stock back on the stove and cook it down slowly—that means below a boil—until it is salty enough for you or until it’s reduced by half. Add salt to taste then and you’re good to go.
The bone stock or broth will keep a week or so in the fridge, a year in the freezer or on the shelf if you’ve pressure-canned it.