5 kgs veal bones – many butchers give them away. This is easy to say, but the idea of asking for something like this may frighten you. Don’t be frightened. Most good butchers – all good butchers – like customers who like interesting bits of dead animal. They literally throw away tens of kilos of bones every day, and they’ll be interested that you want to do something interesting with them. So don’t be afraid to ask. You want the good, thick, meaty ones from legs, about 5 cms long – do get the butcher to cut them on her bandsaw for you, it’s impossible to do this on your own at home and there’s no way you’ll fit a 70 cm leg bone into the average kitchen’s biggest saucepan.
500 grammes carrots, scrubbed or peeled – your choice. Gordon Ramsay and Anthony Bourdain say you’re lazy if you don’t peel your carrots. Me? Meh. Scrub them clean, which was the original purpose of peeling, and you’ll waste less. Tough skins? Nope. And – especially in potatoes – lots of the good stuff is just under the skin.
1 kg onions – Two or three big ones – peeled and quartered
500g of celery – a couple of sticks – roughly chopped
Any other bits of root vegetables you have lying around like turnips or parsnips but no potatoes. Potatoes thicken your stock but not in a good way, they’ll also make it cloudy. The total should be around a third to half of the weight of the bones.
Some herb stalks. When you use parsley or thyme or whatever, use the leaves as normal and then put the stems in a plastic bag in the freezer, pulling them out by the handful when you want to make a stock.
Couple of bay leaves
A few peppercorns, whole
Wash the veal bones – some boil them, but this is an exaggeration. You’re going to be boiling them for many hours so a quick rinse to get the worst of the muck and blood off is just fine. If you want brown veal stock, roast them in the oven at 180C for half an hour or so with half the above quantities of vegetables cut into a mirepoix – pieces about the size of the tip of your little finger. If you want white stock, don’t roast them. Bourdain adds tomato paste to his roasting bones, at school we didn’t. It adds a bit of umami (look it up, it’s the good stuff).
Put the bones in your biggest pan and cover with cold water. Add in the roughly chopped vegetables and herbs. Bring it almost but not quite to the boil and allow it to simmer very gently. By gently I mean, with a half dozen bubbles popping the surface every minute or two. This is a slow cooking process, if you boil your stock it will emulsify the blood and proteins in the water and give you grey goo.
Every 30 − 60 minutes skim off the layer of fat and scum floating on the surface. Do this with a BIG spoon or a ladle – press it gently onto the surface of the stock until the lip just goes under the surface, allowing the scum to float into the ladle. Repeat across the surface until it’s clean again.
Top up with water as necessary to keep the bones covered. Stir a bit once or twice to change the order the bones are stacked in. Leave it as long as you can – 4 hours is a very strict minimum, 8 is much better, 10 is best.
When you can’t stand it any longer, remove the bones and then strain the liquid through a sieve, a colander or, best, a muslin cloth. Do this at least twice, more if you like doing this. 5 times won’t hurt. 10 times if you have a stagiaire in your kitchen.
Store it in small batches in the freezer. You may have 3 − 5 litres of liquid. You can also reduce some of it down by half or three quarters and store it in ice cube containers and then plastic bags in the freezer to give an instant lift to your packet soups (only joking, if you’re caught eating packet soups I will be round to cut off your fingers). It’s a great lift for sauces, gravies and soups.