What do you do with ribs? That’s what I (Jerica) was asking myself when we brought home 9 cows before winter set in—we wanted to make sure we had plenty of grass-fed beef to last us (and our customers) through the off-season. And boy, did we have plenty of ribs!
The only way I’d ever heard of preparing ribs was smoking them, which takes lots of time and preparation…not to mention going out into the cold to check/baste/taste them! So I decided to experiment and see what else could be done with ribs…
First I tried making them like a roast in the crockpot. Not so yummy. Ribs have a very beefy flavor and tend to have lots of fat and connective tissue—great for health. Not so great for a crockpot roast. Because I didn’t know what to do with them, I never really tried recommending ribs to our customers. But one day I got adventurous. I decided to see if I could come up with something really yummy with this plentiful but mysterious cut.
We got a great deal on organic onions, so I wanted to make French Onion Soup. But I needed beef stock, and we sold out of beef soup bones at the Shreveport Farmers Market this year. I decided to try my hand at “Rib Stock”–boil the ribs whole to make beef stock. Along the way I realized that there is TONS of wonderful beef fat that renders out of the fatty tissue surrounding the meat. (We’ve been out of beef fat for almost a year!) Also, I was able to extract a huge amount of meat for use with other fast meals during the week. Then I realized that I needed to share all this info with you.
So here’s what I did:
Toss 3 packs (about 4 pounds each) of ribs into a large crock pot. Chop up a pound or so each of carrots, celery and onion and add them to the pot. Just make sure there are enough veggies to fill the space in the pot. Add some crushed garlic, 3 Tbs. sea salt, 2 Tbs. vinegar, and any fresh herbs you might like (not anything strong-tasting like basil or rosemary, though—they tend to overpower other flavors in cooking, so add them only when you’re sure you want them). Cover with water and simmer for a day or so. Here’s where the triple-purpose comes in:
Grass-fed tallow is hands-down the best frying fat there is. It makes incredible French fries and fried chicken. It’s also the most stable fat since it is high in saturated fatty acids (good—see www.westonaprice.org). If it comes from well-raised animals, it doesn’t have all the scary toxins and hormones that you might worry about with conventional beef.
While the liquid is still hot, carefully skim the clear fat (looks like oil) layer off the top of the pot. If you get any broth in there, dump it back into the pot and try again. You can tell there is broth by the little beads of liquid at the bottom of your ladle that are clearly separate from the oil layer on top. Pour the pure fat into a loaf pan and place in the refrigerator. Once solidified, bang the pan on the counter over a piece of waxed paper until the block of tallow falls out. Wipe any gelatinous residue from the bottom of the tallow (this step helps it keep better in the fridge, and won’t cause splattering when you are getting ready to fry). Use a hot knife to slice or a knife and mallet to break the tallow into bricks for storage. Store in the freezer up to a year or the fridge up to a month.
Bone Broth (aka “Beef Stock”)
Any kind of bone broth is full of minerals and beneficial proteins and nutrients. It serves as a digestive aid and flavor enhancer (where do you think they got the idea for bouillon cubes?). It is also an inexpensive way to increase the nutrition of various foods like rice, gravy, bread, and soups. It freezes very well and can be used in a variety of ways. I always have at least a few quarts on hand.
Once you’re done skimming off the fat (and don’t worry about getting all of it—save some for your broth!), allow the liquid to cool until it can be handled safely. Strain the remaining liquid through a sieve and place it into freezer-proof containers. Broth will keep a year in the freezer, but you’ll like having it so much, you’ll probably use it sooner!
Every good (and busy) cook needs some ready-to-go, precooked meat in the freezer. Now is your chance, and you don’t have to do anything extra!
Separate the meat from the veggies, connective tissue, fat, and bones. Give all the extras to your dog, cat, or chickens. Portion the rib meat out by pounds (or however much your family will use for a meal) and freeze it. Or if you’re me, you might just toss it into a big container in the fridge and use it in various meals throughout the week. I don’t like cooking twice! Here are some ideas (this is what I did—share what you like in the comment section!):
BBQ Rib Sandwiches or Sloppy Joes (Pulse the meat in a food processor to make it nice and fine, but don’t overdo it or it will turn to mush.)
Supplement leftover roast veggies with beef rib meat
Here are some more ideas that I will try next time…
Beef & Rice Casserole
Free Pet Food
I guess this is really a quadruple-purpose strategy. Don’t put food scraps into the garbage! Pets LOVE all the good stuff that you’re not going to use—give it to them for a special treat every Broth Day.
Happy cooking! Let us know what you think!