What is Brown Stock and How is it Made?
Brown stock has long been recognised as one of the 4 most important basic household stocks. (In French the word for stock is fond-which means foundation.) Good stock is the foundation for numerous dishes because home-made stock provides extra flavour and colour, without the salt and additives found in some ready-made stock cubes. Cooks once relied upon their stock-pots to use unwanted food materials productively. It takes a few hours to make but the difference in taste is definitely worth it - and brown stock freezes well! When you’re going to make this, pre-heat the oven first to 200C to save unnecessary waiting.
What is in Brown Stock?The simplest and most versatile brown stock is made with fresh bones, butter, certain types of vegetable, water, herbs, salt and pepper. Marrow bones and shin of beef are especially important for brown stock because they release gelatine during the cooking process, which gives the stock depth and substance. (White stock is made the same way but with veal bones and trimmings instead.)
Suggested Ingredients for Foundation Brown Stock
- 2.25 kg of marrow bones-ask the butcher to chop these into manageable pieces.
- 225g approx. shin of beef or other beef trimmings.
- 50g butter or dripping.
- 1-2 sticks of celery.
- 1-2 leeks.
- 1 large onion
- 225g carrots
- 1 bay leaf, 1 sprig fresh thyme
These quantities make about 5 litres of fantastic home-made stock. Before you start make sure you have a pot big enough!
Avoid using potatoes in stock-they turn it cloudy. Turnips and other strong-flavoured vegetables can be used but in very small quantities or their flavours will overpower the stock. Some people like to add a clove of garlic and a glass of red wine to their stock. Try it if you fancy but remember they can always be added, to go with the dish you are creating, but they can’t be taken out!
How to Make the Stock
Put all the bones and meaty bits in a roasting tin with the butter (or dripping) and place the tray in the pre-heated oven for around 30 minutes, turning the bones now and again so that they brown evenly all over.
While the bones are browning, wash and slice (or chop if you prefer) the vegetables.
Remove bones and meat from roasting tray when browned and put in a large stock-pan, with the vegetables, herbs and about 5 litres of cold water-enough to cover the contents. Add 1tsp salt and a few black peppercorns.
Bring the liquid-slowly-to the boil. Remove the layer of frothy scum that forms on the surface then put the lid on your pot and gently simmer the stock for at least 4 hours, preferably 6-8, to get the best out of your ingredients. If the water level falls below the other contents just top it up with hot water. Taste the stock now and then and add a little salt or pepper if required.
At the end of the simmer time, strain the stock into a large bowl and discard all the other ingredients. (I was so engrossed the first time I made this stock I drained all the good stuff into the sink and was left with a pot full of scummy lumps! What a waste...) Give the shimmering liquid a few minutes to settle. If you need to use the stock straight away and a layer of fat covers the surface use absorbent kitchen paper in a sweeping action across the top to remove it, otherwise leave it to cool and the layer of fat can be lifted out more easily. Your home-made Foundation Stock can now be used or frozen in quantities that suit you for up to 2 months. (Ice cube trays are great for this. The frozen cubes can then be stored in freezer bags if preferred.)
Uses for Brown Stock
Now that you have made this delicious foundation stock, what can it be used for? The answer is: any recipe you fancy that needs a good brown stock to start with! This is an especially good base for home-made sauces and soups, but is one of the most versatile and cheaply made basics to prepare at home.