Saturday, February 12, 2011

Our Ancestor's Leftovers

So, after all of the meat and the offal are eaten and there's nothing left but bones there's still some amazing eats left.

First of all, you can take the bones and make stock. There's a pretty big difference between broth and stock. Broth is made from the meat of an animal. Sure it's tasty, but you know what? Chefs know something you don't. Stock is where the real culinary magic lives. Stock is made from bones. Now, you might be thinking “Bones? What's so special about bones?”

Well I'll tell you. Bones are loaded with collagen. When you slowly simmer bones for hours with mirepoix (that's carrots, onion, and celery) bones release their collagen. So, what's the big deal with collagen? Well, it gives your stock this amazing unctuous texture along with the flavor of the bit's of meat still attached to the bones. Now you've got something special.

But don't turn all of the bones into stock. There's something even more special in some of them that you really want to eat. Marrow!

Bone marrow is amazing! Growing up we used to fight over who would get to eat the little bit of marrow in the round steak bone when mom made steak for dinner.

So what's so special about marrow? Well our ancestor's would eat it as sustenance as they scavenged a carcass. Gross right? NOT!

Historically, native American hunters would pass up a thin bison carcass, rather than eat the lean muscle or just eat the fatty meat left over they'd crack open the bones and eat the marrow inside. Bone marrow was a very popular food among foragers because it's a great source of protein and calories. Of course, whatever killed the bison couldn't get into the bones, but our ancestors knew how to break the bones open to get to the goodness inside.
But it's not something you can just grab at the megamart.  You'll have to go to a good butcher shop to get it.

I did just that last week.  While at The Butcher and The Larder  Rob, the owner, was breaking down a side of beef. I inquired about any marrow bones that might be available.  While they didn't have any in the case they said they had a whole femur in back they could cut for me. SCORE!

They brought out a femur from a Dietzler Farms animal. The femur is loaded with marrow. A whole femur makes two good sized serving of marrow. He tossed it onto the ban saw and cut each ball joint off the ends then cut it in half. I could hardy wait.

When I got home I prepared the marrow by simply placing it into the oven and roasting it for about 20 minutes. While it was roasting I sliced some bread to spread it onto, and made a parsley and shallot salad top it off.

Oh man! Was it good.

So what's the point? Sure you can get a tasty steak from cattle, but once the meat is gone why waste what's left? You shouldn't, because there's still some stuff left that tastes even better than the prime cuts.

Our ancestors knew it. Why don't you?

So, go out of your way. Instead of going to the megamart to buy your meat, go to a butcher and ask what's good. He'll turn you on to some amazing stuff.


  1. I've heard that coarse salt is a must have on marrow. Is that added while cooking or after?

  2. Bruce, I add a bit of coarse grey sea salt to the parsley salad and to the top of the marrow bone when it comes out of the oven.

  3. My sister and I still fight over the marrow from the lamb that mom puts in her gravy on Sundays. Now that I've found a butcher in my neck of the woods (bought 12 pounds of chicken, a roast and a steak yesterday; He makes me happy) I will have to ask about marroow bones and do as you describe here. tried to get suet from him for puddings, but he didn't have any.

  4. Lou,

    You'll want to make a salad of fresh flat leaf pasley, shallot, capers, a few drops of lemon juice, a bit of good olive oil, and just a bit of good sea salt.

    When you're rosting the marrow bones be sure to watch them closely because if you cook them for too long, or too hot, the marrow will melt on you, and that's a sad thing.

  5. If your butcher is amenable, have them leaves the ball joints on and bandsaw the femur lenthwise. Now you've got 2 troughs of marrow with lots more surface area to season/broil and the marrow cant run away if it liquifies.