While I am including a basic recipe for veal stock below, it’s worth noting that this should serve more as a guideline. The most important element in making really good veal stock is getting really good veal bones and preparing them correctly.
The best veal bones for stock generally come from the joints. The ends of the bones and joints are rich in collagen and cartilage. These are the compounds that contribute the velvety, rich texture to your finished stock or demi-glace, so make sure your bones have as much as possible. It’s also a good idea to ask your butcher to saw your bones open so that you can extract as much as possible from each piece during your cooking process.
Roasting the bones is what gives your stock unusual depth of flavor and sweetness. I have found that roasting the bones to within a few minutes of burning, while tricky, really delivers superior results. It also may cause the bones to crack, allowing for even further extraction of flavor. I tend to make a rather bland stock as far as herbs and spices goes, making for a slightly more neutral yet flexible base. Many recipes call for roasted vegetables as well as the bones, but I have found that that tends to produce a stock that is a bit too sweet for my tastes.
I almost always make veal stock in tandem with other dishes, such as beef stew. All the scraps from cleaning the vegetables for any other dish can, and should, be added to your stock.
5 lbs veal bones
2 large onions, rough dice
3 large carrots, rough dice
4 stalks of celery, rough dice
Other vegetables that I typically use include peelings from celery roots, shallots and parsnips.
Tip 1: You may frequently find onions with what appears to be black mold or powdery mildew between the dried layers of onion skin. This stuff has a strong smell and flavor, and even a little can ruin your stock. Make sure to pay attention when adding onion scraps!
1) Preheat your oven to 400F.
2) Arrange your veal bones in a single layer on a baking pan.
3) Roast the bones for about 40 minutes, then remove the tray from oven and flip the bones. The surface of the bones that are in contact with the pan will cook, and begin to fry as fat is released from the bones.
4) Return the pan to the oven and roast for another 40 minutes or so. Remove them again and flip the bones one last time. Roast for an additional 30 minutes or until the bones are very well browned.
5) Once your bones are well browned, remove them from the oven and place the bones in a large stockpot that will hold them comfortably. Discard the fat from the pan.
6) Take the roasting pan and if the pan drippings have not burnt, deglaze it with 2 cups of water. Add the scraped pan dripping to the stockpot.
7) Add the vegetable to the stockpot and cover with cold water.
8) Bring the stock to a rapid boil and then reduce to a bare simmer. Allow your stock to simmer for a minimum of 4 hours, though I generally allow 8 hours or so. Make sure that all your ingredients remain covered with water during this process. Many recipes will tell you to skim the foam from the stock as it cooks, but by cooking the stock at a bare simmer you are generating less debris than if you simmer it more vigorously. If you are planning to chill your stock before reuse you’ll be able to remove all debris once the stock has cooled. If you are planning on using the stock immediately, then skimming will be required.
9) Once your stock has finished cooking, strain the liquid into a clean pot, making sure to extract as much liquid as you can from the remaining solids. Discard the solids, rinse the stockpot well and return the stock to the stockpot.
10) Simmer the stock until you have 1 ½ quarts of stock. If you wish to make a demi-glace, reduce until you have ¾ quart. Pour into your storage containers. Refrigerate.
Tip 2: Once your stock is refrigerated, it will congeal and you will be able to remove a disk of fat and debris from the top of the stock. You will also be able to see sediment at the bottom. You can simply spoon off the stock and leave the sediment in the container, or if the stock is firm enough, dump it out on a clean surface and slice away the sediment.
I like to fill an ice cube tray with my stock for easy future use. Be careful though, as the stock will absorb off odors in your freezer. After filling my ice cube tray, I cover the top with clear wrap and then put it into a Ziploc bag before placing it in the freezer. Your stock or demi-glace will return to liquid at room temperature.Photography: Mel Hill Photograpy