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JAZ

The unpredictability of marrow bones

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I love marrow bones. I used to get them at my butcher in San Francisco, but when I moved to Atlanta, I couldn't find them at my usual market. Now, they've started to carry them pretty regularly, so I've been buying them again. But the ones I get now don't always have much actual marrow in them. Instead, the center is calcified (no, I don't know if that's what actually happened, but that's what it seems like). For instance, of the six I bought recently, two were filled with marrow, two had some marrow and a lot of hard stuff, and one had no marrow at all. With this bunch, it seemed that the smaller bones -- that is, the bone segments with the smallest diameter -- had the most marrow. Is this a rule I can go by? Is there some other clue I'm missing?

(I don't remember as much variability in my previous experience, but maybe I was just lucky.)

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I've found this, too, and always just assumed that the wider sections, with the least marrow and the most bone, were from the section toward the ends of the femur. I always look for packages that have a bunch of the smaller-diameter (centre-cut?) bones. Fortunately for me, marrow bones are also really cheap around here, so if I have to buy several packages in order to get the right amount of marrow, it's not too expensive.


Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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In the "olden" days, I usually could get the small bones with easily scoopable marrow with no problem. I agree, it's harder to find those now.

I've also seen references to marrow appearing "dark colored":

http://www.westonaprice.org/Bone-Marrow.html

What's up with that? Has anyone seen it, as I haven't.


V

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I assume that high turnover and large soup-making clientele or serious homecooks means the likelihood of fresher bones, and not frozen. Berkeley Bowl seems to handle the marrow bone situation in a smart fashion: they will sell you a whole fresh femur, then cut it for you into about five or six pieces, so you get the two bony ends and several middle chunks full of marrow. All are useful. It's fair this way, and you don't have to pick through a bunch of hard-to-see frozen pieces or try to determine whether or not you are getting more ends or more middles; the ratio is always the same, and the whole bone is weighed before cutting. I've never even seen packs of frozen marrow bones at the Bowl; they typically sell out of femurs before the next shipment. Perhaps if you shop at a butcher's you could order fresh marrow bones ahead?

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I've found this, too, and always just assumed that the wider sections, with the least marrow and the most bone, were from the section toward the ends of the femur. I always look for packages that have a bunch of the smaller-diameter (centre-cut?) bones.

Me too. I look for ones that are as straight and wide as possible, since the ends are where the cancellous, spongy bone is--which doesn't work. Because of that, I usually go to butcher shops where I can actually choose my bones vs. a place where I have to just grab a bag of bones without being able to inspect them.

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Thanks, all. Now that I think about it, it makes sense that the center sections of the leg bones would have the most marrow. Duh!

Unfortunately, going to a butcher who will cut bones for me is not an option. I don't think the bones suffer much from being frozen, though, and now that I know what to look for, I'm sure I can improve on the quantity of marrow from the packages of bones I buy. They're cheap, and since I can always use the end pieces for stock, I don't mind buying extra.

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I think the main issue is that it is made by nature. Each bone is different. Each animal may have a different life, different diet, killed at different ages and so on and so forth. It's not made in a factory; it doesn't consist of this many grams of this, this many milliliters of that, cooked for this amount of time at this temperature etc.

Now, there isn't much marrow in a bone. You may be able to order the marrow separate from the bone. This might be quite expensive though. So I guess it depends. It's really luck of the draw.

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One thing that does help, I've found, is having your butcher (assuming you can find one who's willing) cut the bone vertically and then into sections, rather than round cross sections.

Like this (not my photo)

It's much easier to both ensure the marrow is properly cooked AND scoop it out this way.

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Like this (not my photo)

It's much easier to both ensure the marrow is properly cooked AND scoop it out this way.

That's how my veal marrow bone appetizer was served last week at Cooper's Tavern, Madison, Wi.

Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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That (great) photo makes me think about the ideal size of the bones for roasting, my 5-year-old daughter's preferred preparation. I've been aiming for 3" pieces max but keep finding bigger ones. Maybe that longways cut would solve the problem....


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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It turns out I've been cooking and eating my marrow the wrong way for years.

I'd been roasting it for the 45 minutes that's best for browning the bones for stock. After all, I first learned about marrow when my best friend phoned me as I doing just that, and she asked me what I was doing at the moment. She HUNG UP on me, rushed over with a loaf of fresh bread, and showed me how to scoop out the marrow and eat it. Though plain.

It'd been good but greasy. Only this past weekend, when I had a unexpected surplus of thawed bones after a canceled party, did I look at marrow recipes and learn I should roast it for much less time, and that there was a rationale for the garnish served with marrow in restaurants -- that it wasn't useless like the cocktail sauce or mignonette served with oysters that are best eaten plain, if they're good oysters.

So: Only 15-20 minutes of roasting left my marrow with a perfect custardy texture. And the easily made parsley-salad garnish with capers, shallots, lemon did indeed give, as another Web site had promised, "the nice deep flavor of the marrow, the bite and slight salty burst of the sea salt, and the

tart and flavorful balancing effect of the salad."

marrow.jpg

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