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The Joys of Stock


Article Topics
raw dairy
grass fed meat

Stock or broth begins with bones, some pieces of meat and fat, vegetables and good water. For beef and lamb broth, the meat is browned in a hot oven to form compounds that give flavour and colour-the result of a fusion of amino acids with sugars, called the Maillard reaction. Then all goes in the pot-meat, bones, vegetables and water. The water should be cold, because slow heating helps bring out flavours. Add vinegar to the broth to help extract calcium--remember those egg shells you soaked in vinegar until they turned rubbery.
Broth is Beautiful


Medieval Wisdom
In the 12th century, the famed physician to ancient kings, Maimonides wrote extensively of broth, recommending it for colds, asthma, haemorrhoids, convalescence and even leprosy. "The meat taken should be that of hens or roosters and their broth should also be taken because this sort of fowl has virtue in rectifying corrupted humours," the ancient healer wrote.


Fish head broth contributes to virility
A traditional belief is that fish head broth contributes to virility. Fish stock, made from the carcasses and heads of fish, is especially rich in minerals including all-important iodine. Even more important, stock made from the heads, and therefore the thyroid glands of the fish, supplies thyroid hormone and other substances that nourish the thyroid gland. Four thousand years ago, Chinese doctors rejuvenated aging patients with a soup made from the thyroid glands of animals. According to ancient texts, this treatment helped patients feel younger, gave them more energy and often restored mental abilities.
Nourishing Traditions: by Sally Fallon with Mary G. Enig, PhD.


16th Century Stock Cubes
Soup Squares were made by highly condensing stock until it was thick enough to cut into squares. They were used for long sea voyages.
"Take the poultry legs and any skin or bones of veal or beef. Break all up and put to stew for 8 hours in 4 gallons of water. After 8 hours, try the liquid, and if a little of it sets on cooling, strain off the stock and let it grow cold. Next day skim off fat and sediment and boil again till reduced to glue consistency. Pour out into small cups, and when set turn out onto a strip of flannel; keep turning them on to dry flannel over a warm dry place till the cakes of jelly become quite hard. Put them into a canister. When broth is required, the squares are broken, and a piece the size of a walnut dissolved in hot water and seasoned with pepper and salt, making 1 pint of broth to be served with dry biscuits".
Dorothy Hartley, "The Food in England" 1954


Pottenger also pioneered the use of gelatin-rich meat bone broth for the treatment of disease and the maintenance of good health. His seminal article "Hydrophilic Colloid Diet," stated the case for traditional stock, rich in minerals and hydrophilic gelatin, as an aid to digestion and a source of minerals in easily assimilated form. He often stated that the stock pot was the most important piece of kitchen equipment a family could own.

by D Laurent

Ah! The wonderful smell of stock simmering on the stove! It perfumes the house with such wonderful rich, golden, savoury aromas. It makes you long for dinnertime.

I grew up with those wonderful smells. Both my mother and my grandmother made their own stocks and those pots of glorious nectar were always bubbling on the back of the stove (or the Raeburn in my Grandmother’s case), ready to be turned into soups, stews and hot pots.

There is truly nothing better than soup made with homemade stock. Shop bought stock just can’t compare and those terrible stock cubes are an abomination. Homemade stock is rich in flavour and goodness, a healthy and wonderfully versatile ingredient in so many dishes. If you do nothing else for your family’s health, make your own stock. It’s full of nourishment; the slow simmering process extracts the goodness from the bones and vegetables and creates a delicious mineral rich broth, full of bio-available calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and trace minerals. If you don’t think the bones give up their minerals then try squeezing a chicken bone from a stockpot that’s been simmering over a two day period. You’ll find the bone crumbles away in your hand.

Making Stock

Stock is easy to make, all you need are bones and vegetables, add some salt and a little vinegar or sour wine and top up with cold water. Now simmer for several hours. That’s it. At least that’s the basics. Of course you’ll find fancy recipes that call for particular ingredients and certain cuts of meat that make a very fine stock, but the basics of stock making are bones and vegetables.

There are two types of stock, white and brown. White stock is made from uncooked bones that are put straight into the stockpot and brown stock is made from bones that have been roasted first. White stocks are lighter in taste and colour than brown stocks and are more suitable to light delicate soups. Brown stocks are wonderful for winter soups recipes.

Choosing bones

You can use poultry like chicken, duck or turkey, or larger animals like beef, lamb, venison, and pork or even ham bones. Each gives it’s own unique flavour. Use the bones left over from a roast or buy cheap cuts with a lot of bone in them, like shin, knuckle or neck. Marrow bones are excellent and so are tough cuts of meat, which will give up their goodness to the stock just the bones will. Chicken wings and necks are cheap and make a great stock.

To roast or not to roast

Roasting the bones gives the stock a different flavour and a darker colour. I love stocks made from roasted poultry. They’re rich and delicious! But if you are planning to make light, delicate soups from your stock then you shouldn’t roast your bones because the stronger flavour and colour might overpower your soup.

It’s economical too

Stock making is very economical. Making stock from the leftover bones from the family’s roast chicken gives you an extra meal from the bird. Chicken wings and chicken necks can be bought very cheaply from your butcher and they’ll make a good stock. Even cheaper (in fact sometimes completely free) are the carcasses of chickens left over after the butcher has cut the joints off. Two carcasses will make an excellent stock. If you can’t afford organic chicken but you have an organic chicken producer at your local farmers market it’s worth asking him if he could do you a couple of chicken carcasses. He probably won’t charge you very much for a carcass and might even give you them free. Ham bones make a lovely stock. Some supermarkets will sell you the ham bones when the ham is finished. It's worth asking.


My mother would use all the peelings from the vegetables in the stockpot. A sensible idea as so much of the vitamin and mineral content is in the skin. There were a couple of rules on vegetables for stock;

  • She would never use sulphurous vegetables like cabbage or broccoli which can cause digestive upsets nor would she use beans of any kind for the stock (although she'd use them in the soup).
  • No vegetables your family might be allergic too, for us that meant no pepper or beetroot.
  • And any green vegetables like celery or leeks should only be simmered for an hour or so, otherwise they may go bitter.

Her stockpot would be simmering away all week, giving out a steady supply of heavenly smells and fabulous soups. On Sunday morning she’d add green veg like celery to the stock for an hour or so, then she’d strain off the stock, throw out the remains and wash the stockpot out ready for the next batch. As she prepared the veg for the Sunday lunch the peelings would go in the stockpot along with an onion, garlic and some bay leaves. Once we’d eaten our lunch the bones, skin and the juices from around the meat (if there were any left of course) would go into the stockpot and the whole process would start again.

One thing I love about stocks; they’re a great way of eating your vegetables without having to eat your vegetables! Because the stock takes all the flavour and goodness from the vegetables, when you add stock to a dish you’re adding that flavour and goodness. A great way to get kids to eat their vegetables without having to fight world war three! Now, I love onions, but they always make me cry when I chop them, but all I need to do is add some stock and I have all the flavour of onions and none of the tears. So it’s worth thinking about the flavours you want in your stock.

The Basics

  • 1 poultry carcass (chicken or duck)
  • 1 large onion or a couple of small ones
  • 2 or 3 carrots
  • some cloves of garlic
  • 2 or 3 bay leaves

My favourite stock is from either a roast duck or a roast chicken. So first roast your bird and enjoy an excellent meal. But you could easily use an uncooked carcass after taking the joints off, or half a dozen chicken wings and chicken necks would do too.

Put the bones, skin and any scrapings from the roasting pan into the stockpot or a large saucepan. Add a large onion cut into quarters (you can leave the skin on), some cloves of garlic (none if you hate garlic, half a dozen if you love it or somewhere in-between according to taste). Add some root vegetables; I add a couple of carrots and maybe a parsnip when I have them, or some celeriac, which adds a lovely flavour and doesn’t go bitter as celery does.

Add a couple of bay leaves then top up with water. Add a splash of wine or kombucha or a tablespoon or two of vinegar or lemon juice (you add an acid to help draw the minerals from the bone) and a large pinch of salt (to help draw the juices from the veg).

Now put the lid on and simmer very gently for around 3-12 hours, depending on your preference and your available time. Check regularly to make sure your stock isn’t running out of water and skim off any scum that rises to the surface.

Once it’s done, strain the stock through a sieve and discard the remains of the bones and vegetables.

A note on timing

If you work from home having stock simmering on the hob over a couple of days is easy to do. If you are out at work all day, put the stock on when you come home and simmer it for the evening.

Don’t beat yourself up over the time it takes to cook. If it smells fantastic after 3 hours and you want to eat it, then eat it! Basically the longer it simmers the stronger and richer the taste. It’s up to you to decide what you like. Some people like to simmer for a long time and make a traditional rich stock, others like to pour off their stock after only two or three hours, add some more water and make a second batch. Two lighter batches for the price of one stronger one. Some people prefer poultry stocks and others prefer beef or lamb stocks. Some like their bones roasted others prefer them raw. Experiment and find a style that suits you.


You can make stock in large batches and freeze it for convenience. In fact if you have enough space in your freezer you can save your bones and vegetable peelings in the freezer until you have the time to turn them into stock. To freeze stock first reduce it down; after straining the stock simmer it again until the stock is reduced to half its volume or even a third of its volume. You’ll have a very concentrated stock that will take up far less room in your freezer. When you use it add water to it to make up the volume.

Or store your stock in jars in the fridge. If you have plenty of fat in your stock it will set on the surface. This is an excellent way of preserving stock, as the fat layer doesn’t allow air through, it forms a seal. The stock will keep for quite some time as long as the seal isn’t broken. I’ve had stock keep like this for a couple of months in the fridge. If you break the seal to use some of the stock you’ll need to reseal it or use all the stock within a couple of days. To reseal, reheat the stock and let it simmer for half an hour or so, allow it to cool then put it back in a clean jar in the fridge. Make sure you have enough fat to make a good seal. You can always add some fat to your stock to make sure you have enough for a seal. It must be saturated fats that set hard in the fridge. Try butter, lard or coconut oil.


  • To de-fat stock; let it go cold in the fridge and you'll be able to lift of the fat layer from the top of the stock.
  • To clarify stock; whip up an egg white and briskly stir it into your stock while it's simmering on the hob. Keep stirring well until the egg sets. By whisking the egg through the stock you’re letting it pick up the small particles left in the stock after straining. Let the egg sit a minute to set properly then lift it out of the stock.
  • For fast food; freeze portions of stock or store them with a fat seal in the fridge. When you come home from work put your stock in a saucepan with your favourite ingredients and just simmer until the soups done.