Ingredients for Bone Broth and Soup Stock
When making stock, you’re typically dealing with vegetables, herbs, and some sort of meat, fish, and/or bones. Whatever type of stock you’re making, make sure to source responsibly. Use meat from source you trust, like Champoeg Creamery or Marion Acres, and make sure to use organic produce to ensure that your stock doesn’t get adulterated with ‘off’ chemical flavors. When making meat or fish-based stock, you can make the cut go the extra mile by preparing a dish with it and then using the leftover carcass or unwanted bits (fish heads, roast chicken carcass, steak bones, etc) to make stock afterwards.
You can choose to simmer ingredients that are raw, or you can roast or saute them beforehand to impart a more caramelized and richer flavor, whereas raw vegetables in particular will give the stock a fresher, brighter flavor than their cooked counterparts. The reason for this is something called the maillard reaction, which is basically a chemical reaction between the amino acids and sugars in food that creates a golden hue and appealing flavor. When we bake bread and the top turns gold, that’s the maillard reaction, as is the seared brown parts of a steak. The best example of this is caramelized onions, which are used to create the rich stock of French onion soup.So for example, if you want to use ham hocks as a soup base, you could roast them prior, or just boil as-is. With some ingredients, though, you want to do a pre-boil to get any impurities off of them, almost like a deep cleanse. This especially applies to dirty parts of the animal, like pigs or chicken feet, which might have some unsavory bits deep in them that a little boiling will release.
After you boil them for about 5 minutes, then you dump all the liquid in the sink to discard it, and then you can use the feet to make the stock accordingly.When you’re using herbs, though, you definitely don’t want to roast them prior since they’re so delicate they can burn very easily and then impart an unpleasant burnt flavor to the stock. You can use either dried or fresh herbs. Dried herbs will be more potent and you’ll need large ingredients that you don’t want to stay in the stock later, you can either place them in a cheesecloth or mesh food-safe bag and simmer them in the stock, or just toss everything in there and strain it all out later. (Over the sink mesh colander)Rehydrating dried ingredients is a great method for making a deeply flavorful stock.
Dried shiitake mushrooms can be placed in a bowl of warm water and left to sit at room temperature for an hour or two. As the mushrooms absorbs the liquid and become soft again, they impart their distinct umami flavor to the liquid which can they be used to make an amazing stock base. And if you apply heat to this with the dried mushrooms still in the broth, it will intensify the flavor further.And don’t be afraid to put a little booze in there. Some wine or liquor can add a nice depth and acidity to stocks and soups. Vinegar or citrus elements like fresh squeezed lemon juice also create a wonderful brightness that can cut through richer soups like clam chowder and make them a little more palatable. And save those cheese rinds, because a good hard rind that may seem inedible can actually add a wonderfully salty and earthy flavor to soups.
The Soup Ratio:
50% Bones or Carcass
If you’re not sure where to start in terms of the ingredient quantities of your stock, you can use the soup ratio above. But if you’re making a vegetarian stock this doesn’t really apply. And with fish broth the ratio would be changed, because fish bones and carcasses impart their flavor very quickly so you need half the amount of bones. The above is just meant to help, but feel free to experiment with quantities and ingredients however you’d like!
The Pot Thickens…
There are many ways to adjust the viscosity of your stock. If you want it to have a thicker mouthfeel, use a cut of meat with a lot of cartilage to make your stock. Beef knuckles, chicken wings, and pork heads all have a large amount of natural gelatin and cartilage in them and will help provide your stock with a thick rich texture. You can also add a packet of gelatin if you don’t have a natural source handy.If you want it to be more gravy-like in consistency, you can always create a roux by melting butter and then adding flour at a ratio of 1 part butter to 2 parts flour to create a paste. Then you can begin ladling in some of your stock to the pan with the roux, whisking constantly, until a thick sauce forms, which you can then empty into the stock pot and whisk to combine with the remaining stock.
For a velvety texture, you can also incorporate eggs into the stock. The recipe in the booklet for avgolemono soup is an excellent example of this. Whisking egg yolks into a stock makes it richer, fattier, and a little more slippery on the tongue, whereas beating egg whites until slightly foamy and then incorporating that into the stock creates a lighter and airier mouthfeel. Avgolemono soup uses both of these for a soup that is both rich but silky at the same time.
Pace It Out
Ingredients that take the longest to break down should be added first, so begin with the meat that you’re using for your stock and any hearty vegetables. Ingredients with delicate flavors like fresh cilantro or oregano should be added during the last 15 minutes of cooking, otherwise their flavor will be muddled by stewing in the stock for too long instead of leaving a bright and clear flavor.
Your mouth can taste 5 basic types of flavors, and those are sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami. With stocks, you’re aiming to hit on the umami and salty senses, but also using a little bit of a sour substance like a dry white wine, vinegar, or a little lemon juice can add a lot of depth and complexity to the stock.
If you’re not sure what herbs go with what vegetables go with what meats, I really recommend checking out the Flavor Bible by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen A. Page. It’s basically an encyclopedia of ingredients and next to each ingredient it lists out what flavors go really well with it. Super helpful if you have random ingredients in your house and aren’t sure what else to put in the pot with them for making a stock.