Marrow is the soft, creamy, high caloric substance found in the center of the bones. According to Waverly Root, in his reference work Food, bone marrow is “the rather mucilaginous matter which fills bones and is considered a particular delicacy by cannibals.” Root was obviously not a fan, but cooked bone marrow has a mild taste and the consistency of soft butter; gourmands compare it to foie gras.
The most popular marrow is veal or beef, from the animals’ leg bones. Don’t neglect what you find in lamb and pork shanks, hams, and game bones. Even if you don’t eat the marrow straight from the bone, remember to add those bones to your stock pot to enrich the final broth.
Since man began hunting, marrow has been an important food source. It provides fat, iron, phosphorous, and vitamin A, with trace amounts of thiamin and niacin. For people living at subsistence levels or in marginal areas, it could mean the difference between life and death. All mammals have marrow in their bones, as do birds–though to a lesser extent, because many bird bones are hollow, which helps them fly.
During the Middle Ages marrow, like suet (the fat from around the kidneys), was used in place of butter as an ingredient in pastries, sweet puddings, and desserts. In Victorian times, marrow was a popular dish at English high teas and in men’s clubs, and it was often served, instead of pudding, at the end of each meal. Queen Victoria was a devotee, who it was said, ate marrow and toast every day. That may not have improved her figure, but it didn’t shorten her life.
Although rich, beef marrow is easily digested. Because it is one of the richest foods there is, in the past it was the nutritional choice of anyone with poor appetite or who needed building up. It was regarded as a health food, perfect for invalids and children. In one English recipe, the marrow is colored yellow with saffron and then whipped until it resembles butter. It was recommended for sickly children.
Fortunately, we don’t need the excuse of feeling undernourished to eat marrow; we can eat it because we like it. However, because many of us pay attention to the amount of saturated fat in our diets, marrow is usually a special treat.
Knowing where your meat comes from, and how it has been raised, is especially important when it concerns bone marrow. Spinal marrow is found in the bones of chips and ribs, the neck, and tail. The safest bone marrow is that from the leg bones, because it has no contact with brain tissue.
This information is excerpted from Bones by Jennifer McLagan and can be purchased here.
This is the dish that started me on my bones journey. Scooping out the soft, warm marrow and spreading it on crisp toast is a sensual delight. A touch of salt, and all is right with the world. I suggest two marrow bones per person, since it is a very rich dish–but I could easily eat all eight. Marrow bones are cut from the shank bones of beef and veal; ask your butcher for bones cut from the center of the shank so the portion of marrow to bone will be higher and the marrow easier to extract.
Serve the bones French style, with only fleur de sel, or English style with Parsley Salad. Use good rustic bread for the toast. Plan ahead, as the bones must be soaked for 12-24 hours to remove any traces of blood.
Place the bones in a bowl of ice water to cover, add 2 Tbsp. salt, and refrigerate for 12-24 hours, changing the water 4-6 times and adding 2 more Tbsp. salt to the water each time.
Preheat the oven to 450º F. Drain the bones and pat dry. Stand them up in a lightly oiled roasting pan, and roast for 15-25 minutes, or until the marrow has puffed slightly and is warm in the venter. To test, insert a metal skewer into the venter of marrow, then touch it to your wrist to see if it is warm. There should be no resistance when the skewer is inserted, and a little of the marrow should have melted and started to leak from the bones.
While the bones are roasting, prepare the parsley salad, if serving it, and toast the bread.
Divide the bones among four plates and serve hot, with the optional salad, toast, and fleur de sel. Each diner scoops out the marrow and spreads it on the toast, sprinkling it with salt.
Poached Marrow Bones ºYou can poach marrow bones in simmering salted water instead of roasting them, but they must still be soaked in advance. Poach them for 15 minutes or so, depending on the thickness of the bones; drain well before serving.
The information and recipe, contained within, is excerpted from Bones by Jennifer McLagan and can be purchased here.
This condiment is so rich and delicious I can’t believe how easy it is to make. And it’s a serious upgrade to generic unsalted butter (which, granted, is pretty good, but this is way more impressive!) It has a rich, tongue-coating umami taste that makes everything you eat it with seem infinitely more decadent. It goes well with anything–spread on a slice of warm crusty bread, slathered onto vegetables prior to roasting, or melted on top of a baked potato, dolloped on a grilled steak, the list goes on!
Pro-Tip: Save the marrow bones to use in the beef broth recipe, found here.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil or parchment.
Place the marrow bones marrow side up in the prepared pan and roast until the marrow is bubbling and soft when you stick a fork in it, about 25 minutes.
Remove from the oven and let cool; when the bones are cool enough to handle, scoop the marrow into a small bowl with a spoon and place the bowl in the refrigerator to cool completely, about 15 minutes. When the marrow has cooled, it will have the consistency of softened butter.
Put in a blender or food processor with the herbs and season to taste with salt and pepper. Blend on medium speed until white and fluffy,
Bone marrow butter will keep in the fridge for many weeks, just like dairy butter, although after it’s refrigerated it will lose its whipped consistency and harden, also like conventional butter, All you have to do is leave it out until it reaches room temperature; you can then use it as is or blend it again in a blender or food processor if you prefer the whipped consistency.
Information and recipe excerpted from It Takes Guts by Ashleigh Vanhoute and can be purchased here.
Bones are inexpensive and can be found at any butcher shop (or use your own from home harvests.) It’s rich, warm, salty, buttery, and chock-full of health-promoting collagen and micronutrients that our bodies need. It tastes delicious spread like butter across warm, crispy toast, but the most satisfying way to enjoy it is straight up, on its own.
Don’t forget to save the bones once you’re done to make that yummy broth, found here.
4 Cross-cut Beef Femur (marrow) Bones, 2-inches long
Coarse Sea Salt
Preheat oven to 450° F
Place the bones cut side up on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle the bones with coarse salt.
Cook until the marrow is softened and starts to bubble and brown, about 20 minutes. To test the softness of the marrow, stick a fork or toothpick into it; the marrow should be gelatinous and soft all the way through.
Information and recipe excerpted from It Takes Guts by Ashleigh Vanhoute and can be purchased here.
Blood sausage is probably one of the most challenging charcuterie projects for most people, as obtaining a bucket of blood, keeping it liquid and pouring it into skins in your kitchen is well beyond the comfort zone of a lot of cooks. That said, if you’re untroubled by the fact that it’s blood then homemade black pudding is one of the most rewarding things to make – for the simple reason that most of the commercial stuff is radically over-spiced and loses all its subtlety. Excerpt taken from Charcuterie from Scratch by Tim Hayward
Mix the blood with the rest of the ingredients apart from the casings and pour or spoon into the skins. Don’t overfill, as the filling will expand as it cooks. Try to leave some slack in the skin before tying off, but also ensure there are no air pockets. A centimetre or so of ski, squeezed flat and empty, before the knot should do the trick.
Gently poach the puddings in water just short of a full simmer for 90 minutes, at the end of which time they should be firm and cooked through. Allow the cool in the poaching liquid.
The puddings should be sliced cold and fried before serving. They can be stored under refrigeration for a day or two but should be vacuum-packed or plastic-wrapped and frozen if you want to store them for longer. If you freeze the pudding in slices you will find they defrost quickly.
You can serve your black pudding in the classic manner, fried crisp of the outside and surrounded by the supportive elements of a “Full English Breakfast.” Profoundly unpatriotic as it may seem, I like mine crumbled and fried with equal quantities of cubed chorizo, stirred into lightly scrambled eggs and served rolled in a burrito. To be really elegant, slice thinly ad serve fried with slices of sharp, acidic apple, such as Cox’s Orange Pippin (Early Windsor, Fiesta or Kidd’s Orange Red).
This recipe and it’s contents are an excerpt taken from Charcuterie from Scratch by Tim Hayward Purchase the book here.
Note on Blood Sausage; There are places where you can get into a three-month debate on seasonings and a stand-up fight over serving blood pudding. It’s regarded as a national dish in parts if Ireland, Spain, rural France and the North of England…all places where the finer points of culinary debate can be ferociously defended. I tend towards a Morcilla style but only because my friend Rachel McCormack, an expert of Catalan food, scares me so much that I follow her advice.
Morcilla is often made in smaller-gauge skins and twisted to form small, almost spherical puddings which are fried whole after poaching. If you fancy this, reduce the poaching time accordingly; 45 minutes as a starting point.
You can vary your flavourings to reflect your preferences.
Note on pig’s blood; (if not using your own from harvesting); Your butcher may be able to supply pig’s blood if you ask nicely and well in advance. Traders dealing with pork at farmers’ markets are always a good bet to. They usually have some sort of relationship with the abattoir and may well be sympathetic to your experiments.
In order to prevent clotting, the blood should have a little vinegar added and preferably be stirred regularly. If you can’t get your hands on fresh blood, you should be able to buy the pasteurized and dried variety from a butcher’s supply house. There’s no shame in this. Food hygiene regulations mean that many artisanal manufacturers are now using the dried product.