Stocks are great for adding flavor or color to a dish. It is time-consuming to make it yourself, but you will be richly rewarded with a depth of flavor that simply cannot be compared to those ones you find on a supermarket shelf. To make a stock like a pro, there are a few basic ingredients you will need. Read on to find out what they are!
Often times, home cooks are left wanting more, being disappointed with their flat-tasting homemade attempt. Selecting the right ingredients for your stock means you will get the richness of flavor that stocks are so well-known for.
Besides water, bones make up the bulk of the ingredients that go into a stock. The flavor of a stock comes from animal bones, such as beef, veal, chicken, fish, pork, and more. It goes without saying that the bones you need will depend on the type of stock you are making (chicken for chicken stock, beef for a brown stock, etc.). Fish stock is mostly made from bones of lean white fish, as this gives the best flavor. The connective tissue in the bones breaks down during the cooking process, forming gelatin, which ultimately contributes to the body of the stock.
Since prime cuts of meat are an expensive ingredient, they are not a preferred ingredient for stock. However, some ‘off-cut’ meats (such as gizzards or chicken hearts) can still be used and are usually much cheaper than prime cuts.
Mirepoix is the culinary term we use to refer to a combination of onions, carrots, and celery. It’s not only essential to create a flavor base for stocks, but also for other sauces, soups, and stews. The usual ratio of onions to celery to carrots are 2:1:1.
Adding an acid to a stock helps to dissolve the connective tissue inside the bones, giving the stock a fuller body. Tomato-based products are sometimes used, as they add an additional flavor as well. However, for light-colored stocks they aren’t suitable, and can quickly cause a stock to become cloudy. Wine is also used, and is especially popular in fish stocks.
It might come as a surprise, but salt is not actually used in stock. This is because the liquid is cooked down and reduced, which means it eventually becomes very concentrated. Adding salt to the stock will make it become too concentrated. Herbs and other spices are only used sparingly. The most popular is the bouquet garni, a sachet containing herbs such as parsley, thyme, and bay leave. A sachet is preferred, as it can be removed at any point during the cooking process, preventing the herbs from overpowering the flavor of the stock.
While you might be tempted to treat a stock as your waste bin, it’s important to remember that your stock is only as good as your lowest quality ingredient. Save your trimmings if you plan to use them in a stock, but don’t just add them to a stock because you have it on hand.
Look out for future articles where we will show you how to create the perfect stock!