Updated: Jul 3
Stock is an essential ingredient in any kitchen. It is the basis of every good soup, sauce, roast and a myriad of other preparations. As a Chef, I judge the quality of a kitchen by the quality of the stock that is used. In the Aortic Kitchen we look for ways to enhance flavor without adding salt, and stock being naturally salt free is a key ingredient in our toolbox.
Preparing stock in our home kitchens is not all that difficult. It just takes quality ingredients, time and patience. Every stock has the same ingredient recipe:
Mirepoix (Onion, carrot, celery)
Let's take a closer look at each ingredient.
Bones - Meat stocks depend on good quality bones that contain a high amount of cartilage. This mean bones that are from the joints, neck, back and feet. Cartilage is where gelatin comes from and gelatin is what gives stock body. Bones from younger animals are better than older, as the cartilage is not yet fully formed and is softer. A vegetable stock also requires good "bones", quality flavorful vegetables such as cabbage, fennel, carrots, parsnips, leeks, onions and tomatoes.
Mirepoix - Mirepoix is made of three vegetables and is used throughout the kitchen. Mirepoix consists of 50% onion, 25% carrot and 25% celery. Onions can include white or yellow varieties and leeks; carrots can also include parsnips; celery can also include celery root (celeriac).
Aromatics - Aromatics are the herbs and spices used to flavor stocks. Stocks are an ingredient in the kitchen so they are not strongly flavored. The basic aromatics used are bay leaf, thyme, parsley stems and sometimes black peppercorns. Salt is never added to a stock.
Acid - Acid is used to help breakdown the cartilage into gelatin. The common acids used are tomato, red or white wine, vinegar and lemon juice.
Water - Cold water is always used to start a stock, as it will allow the gelatin in the cartilage to begin to dissolve. Never use hot water to start a stock.
When preparing a stock there is an easy formula to use for measuring the ingredients: 4-1-1. For every 4 pounds of bones use 1 pound of mirepoix and 1 gallon of water. As an example, you would use 2 pounds of bones, 1/2 pound of mirepoix (4 ounces onion, 2 ounces carrot, 2 ounces celery) and 2 quarts (1/2 gallon) of cold water.
Last, there are two types of stock - brown or white. It does not matter which type of bones or vegetables are used, it is how you prepare the stock. When making a brown stock all of the bones and mirepoix are browned before adding the water. When making a white stock all of the bones and mirepoix are covered without any precooking. It is the roasting of the bones and vegetables that turn the stock brown, not the type of bone.
Notes for preparing vegetable stocks
Vegetable stocks, made without any animal products, play an important role in vegetarian cooking and are also used for light, healthful dishes. The basic ingredients for vegetable stocks are vegetables, herbs and spices, water, and, sometimes, wine. Ingredients and proportions can vary greatly. If you want a particular flavor to predominate, use a larger quantity of that vegetable. For example, if you want a broth tasting primarily of carrot, use a large quantity of carrot to make it, with smaller quantities of more neutral vegetables (like onion and celery) to round out the flavor. For a more neutral, all-purpose vegetable stock, avoid strong-flavored vegetables and use more balanced proportions of the various ingredients. Vegetable stock is a great place to use all your vegetable trimmings. Do not throw them away, save them in a bag or container in your refrigerator or freezer until you have enough for the stock pot. Here is a list of vegetables and their trimmings you can use, as well as some you should not use:
Carrots, including the ends (but not the leafy green part
Onions, including the ends and skins
If you have them on hand, the following vegetables and aromatics can add extra flavor to stock:
Alliums, including skin-on garlic cloves, leek greens and roots, scallion greens and roots, and skin-on shallots
Tomatoes, including their cores, or tomato paste
Fennel bulbs, including their cores
Mushrooms, including the stems, fresh or dried
Small amounts of fresh herbs (and their stems) including fresh thyme, parsley, basil, and bay leaves
Whole black peppercorns
Here are a few additional guidelines for making vegetable stocks or broths:
1. Starchy vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, and winter squash make a stock cloudy. Use them only if clarity is not important.
2. Some vegetables, especially strong-flavored ones, are best avoided. Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and artichokes can overwhelm a stock with a strong flavor or odor. Dark green leafy vegetables, especially spinach, develop an unpleasant flavor when cooked for a long time. Beets turn a stock red.
3. Cook long enough to extract flavors but not so long that flavors are lost. Best cooking times are 30 to 45 minutes.
4. Sweating the vegetables in a small amount of oil before adding water gives them a mellower flavor, but this step can be omitted.
5. For a brown vegetable stock, roast all the vegetables in the oven before simmering in water. Roasting the vegetables will caramelize the sugars bringing out a deeper, richer flavor.
Below are basic recipes for brown, white and vegetable stock for you to use in your Aortic Kitchen.