Ingredients for stock bases

The very best first stocks are made from fresh meaty bones (or fish and fish bones) and vegetables bought specifically for the purpose. But there is no need to buy special ingredients for an economic stock for everyday use. Household stock is made by using leftovers which might otherwise go to waste - a cooked joint bone or chicken carcass and vegetable peelings (wrapped and refrigerated these scraps will keep for up to five days).

Do not, however, be tempted to treat your stockpot like a dustbin- throwing all your scraps into it indiscriminately will only produce poor results.

When choosing ingredients for stock, bear in mind the final dishes you plan to use it in. If, for instance you are planning a chicken casserole, there is no point in including Beef bones or cabbage - these distinctive flavors will not harmonize with or complement a chicken dish. stock-based-ingredients-01.jpg" align="left" alt="Choosing ingredients for stock" title="Choosing ingredients for stock">

meat and bones

There is great scope here for obtaining ingredients very cheaply, or even free. When you visit your butcher look out for large bones and odd pieces of meat (often left lying on the slab behind the counter). Most butchers are only too glad to sell them very cheaply and may even give them to you free of charge. Remember when buying bones that they have to fit into a pan so ask for them to be cut up. And, if you buy meat and ask the butcher to bone and trim it for you remember to take bones and trimmings home with you - useful additions for the stockpot.

What kind of meat and bones can you use? All sorts of bones can be used. Those with meat attached give extra flavour and make. your stock more nutritious.

stock-based-ingredients-02.jpg" align="left" alt="Choosing ingredients for stock" title="Choosing ingredients for stock"> Beef bones and trimmings are excellent. Ham, gammon, mutton and lamb bones have distinctive flavour but they are useful for some specific purposes (see Types of Stock and their Uses). Pork bones and meat should be used sparingly as they give stock a slightly sweet flavour. veal bones, pigs trotters and calves heads are excellent if you want a really gelatinous stock, so always include one of these if you want to make aspics or jellied soup. chicken carcasses and game birds are also good for flavour, particularly if scraps of meat are attached. Bones must always be washed before use and veal must be blanched (plunged into boiling water) for five minutes and then rinsed before use because it release a mass of gray scum which makes the stock cloudy.


The bones, heads and trimmings of all raw white fish can be used to make stock. Do not use oily fish (eg.mackerel or herring) it is too strong in flavour. Bones and scraps from cooked fish are unsuitable as they have very little flavour to give. stock-based-ingredients-03.jpg" align="left" alt="Choosing ingredients for stock" title="Choosing ingredients for stock">


The most commonly used vegetables are onions or leeks, carrots and celery. Always use fresh vegetables or vegetable peelings, never leftover cooked vegetables as these will make stock cloudy. Potatoes and other starchy vegetables, such as peas and beans, may also make stock cloudy and are best avoided.

Mushroom peelings add color as well as flavour, as do tomatoes, but the latter may sour the stock if kept for more than a day, so it is better to add them only to the final dish. Turnips and members of the cabbage family can be used for vegetable stock but their flavors are too pronounced for meat or fish stock.

herbs and seasonings

Aromatic and full of flavour, herbs are an essential ingredient of good home-made stock. Salt and peppercorns are also used and, occasionally, mace. herbs are usually added to stock in the form of a bouquet garni - a little collection of complementary herbs tied together in a bunch if fresh, in a little muslin bag if dried or powdered.

stock-based-ingredients-04.jpg" align="left" alt="Choosing ingredients for stock" title="Choosing ingredients for stock"> The classic bouquet garni which is suitable for use in all stocks is made up of a sprig of fresh or dried thyme, a dried bay leaf and a few sprigs of fresh parsley. If using powdered herbs, use 5 ml (1 teaspoon) of each. Use a whole dried bay leaf and try to avoid using dried parsley - it is musty and poor in flavour compared to fresh.

You can vary the herbs in a bouquet garni to suit the ingredients in the stock. Do not be tempted to use too many different herbs - their flavors simply cancel each other out and mask rather than enhance the main ingredients.

Rosemary added to a classic bouquet garni is excellent for stocks containing mutton or lamb.
Tarragon either alone or with the classic bouquet garni is good in chicken stock.
Marjoram adds a distinctive flavour to game stocks. A few juniper belies can also be added.
lemon balm or lemon verbena add pungency for mild chicken or fish stocks.
Fennel is also good for bolstering mild fish stock. Use alone or add it to the classic bouquet garni.
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