There are two schools of thought when it comes to preserving food: canning and freezing. Some only can, others only freeze, I prefer a combination. I will freeze certain vegetables (corn, broccoli), but for a majority of my preserving I prefer canning. Although it is a little more time consuming, I like being able to grab something off of the shelf that I need, rather than worrying about having to plan ahead and thaw it out. For me the upfront work is worth the added convenience later.
The canning process will be the same no matter what you're preserving until you reach the end and have to use a pressure canner, or can get away with a water bath. Simple rule of thumb: if the food is acidic (i.e tomatoes, pickled veggies, sweets) then you can get away with a water bath (or nothing at all). The acidity in the food itself will ward off bacteria. If the food is alkaline (i.e potatoes, meat, stock, beans), processing in a pressure canner is required. In this case beef stock, or any kind of stock for that matter is alkaline, so I will be using a pressure canner to ensure a proper seal.
Beef stock, or any stock for that matter like anything else is best homemade. It has a distinct bone flavor that cannot be created artificially or purchased in a store. For certain dishes, marinades, and sauces where the beef flavor isn't the main component, you can more easily get away with using store bought, although homemade is always the preference. But, nothing can or will ever beat homemade stock in soups, stews, or any other dish where beef is the primary flavor.
You don't have to raise your own beef to make stock. I've seen smaller grocers who carry soup bones, or you could always go to a local meat market or butcher. When we have our cow done and I review the cut sheet with the butcher, he asks if I want the bones. I'm sure that there are several people who decline, leaving bones up for grabs! Make sure they are meaty marrow bones for a good full bodied stock. If bones are scarce, you can supplement the bones with some meat (which I will do), but to get that true rich beefy body you need the marrow bones, otherwise you will have a weaker broth.
Stock can be easily stored in your freezer, or canned. Freezing is much easier and faster, and doesn't require an upfront investment in a pressure canner, jars, lids, etc. Just let it cool and throw it into some quart freezer bags and you're all set. Or, if you're needing a hint of beef flavor, freeze some stock in ice cube trays. They will pop out easily, and can be kept in a freezer bag and pulled out individually for a burst of flavor in your dish. For larger quantity preserving my preference is canning because the stock is readily available when I need it without worrying about thawing, and it frees up freezer space. I believe canning to be a dying art, but it is still my personal preference. Any who, let's get to it!
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