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How to make brown veal stock

How to make brown veal stock

Veal stock, though it may not be a household staple, is a common sight in professional kitchens across Europe and crucial to classical French cookery. Veal bones naturally contain more gelatine than beef bones, which gives the stock body. The resulting stock has a milder flavour than beef (which can sometimes be overpowering) and is absolutely packed with umami, making it a great base for many dishes.

Professional kitchens have the capability to make tens of litres of veal stock at a time, which would usually be simmering away for no less than twelve hours. The recipe below has been adapted for a smaller quantity suitable for a home kitchen, and therefore only takes 4–6 hours to create a top-quality stock.

There are two types of veal stock; brown and white. White veal stock sees the bones and vegetables simmered without any pre-roasting, giving it a more delicate flavoured stock and paler colour. Brown veal stock, on the other hand, sees the bones and vegetables roasted first before simmering down with water for a deeper flavour and colour.

As it takes a good few hours to prepare, it is a good idea to make up a large batch of stock and freeze in portions, so you always have some to hand.

Bones

Veal has garnered a bad reputation due to the cruel veal-farming processes found across Europe, but British-reared or rose veal (which means the animal has had a varied diet) is sustainable and approved by the RSPCA, so it should be used as much as possible. The bones can be tricky to get hold of, but your butcher can usually order them in for you if you ask. There are also some online butchers which sell them if your local butcher can’t help.

Thicker bones such as knuckles contain the most collagen, which breaks down into gelatine and gives the stock body, so select them if you can. Bones should be mostly free of meat and as fresh as possible; white with bright red blood rather than grey with dark blood. They will often arrive frozen, which is perfectly fine, and are usually chopped into smaller manageable pieces, but double check that your butcher can do this for you if not as you need a bandsaw to get through them.

Roast the bones for a good long time to get as much caramelised flavour on them as possible. Sometimes the bones are smothered in tomato purée as well as a drizzle of olive oil before roasting for a deeper colour. Be sure to deglaze the roasting tray with a splash of wine and scrape off all of the caramelised bits to add to the stock pot– don’t waste this extra flavour!

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Fresh veal bones should be white and bright, rather than grey
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Roast the bones for a long time to get as much caramelisation (which equals flavour) as possible

Vegetables and aromatics

The traditional vegetables added to brown veal stock are a mirepoix of onion, celery, leek and carrot. The vegetables are finely sliced to provide a greater surface area, helping to extract maximum flavour. You can either caramelise slowly in a pan as the bones are roasting, or if you want a slightly more hands-off approach, roast the vegetables in the oven. Whilst classical methods say a single sliver of burnt onion can turn an entire pot of stock bitter, some chefs will add halved onions and carrots which have been completely blackened on one side to get a really deep, almost smoky flavour into their stock.

Garlic is added (no need to peel), along with thyme, peppercorns, bay leaves (fresh or dried) and sometimes cloves. Tomato purée is added for its umami flavour and it also helps you achieve a rich, deep colour. As a rule, the higher quality vegetables you use in your stock, the higher quality stock you will end up with. Having said that, stocks can be a good way of preventing food waste by using up trimmings and peel. Just ensure skins have been washed first, and that they are used in conjunction with fresh vegetables.

Water and seasoning

Never salt a veal stock while it's cooking, as it reduces down for such a long time and can easily become too salty. As the stock is never used as a standalone product, it is safer to leave it completely unseasoned until it becomes part of a finished sauce or dish.

Always use cold water when making brown veal stock, as this encourages the fat and impurities to rise to the surface. This makes it easier to skim them away, giving you a nice clear stock.

The recipe below makes around 2 litres of stock, but feel free to scale up if you have a big enough stockpot.

1
Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6
2
Start by massaging the bones with a little oil and roasting in the hot oven for about an hour. The bones should have turned a deep golden brown – don’t be too afraid of burning them as the darker the colour, the deeper the flavour, so a little bit of charring is fine
3
In a large stockpot, pour in a good glug of oil and add your onions, celery, leek, carrot and garlic (cut-side down). Sweat down until nicely caramelised, about 15 minutes
4
Once the vegetables are nicely caramelised, add the herbs and spices, stir in the tomato purée and cook out for a further 5 minutes
5
Add the roasted bones to the pot and deglaze the roasting tray with some of the wine. Scrape all the flavour from the bottom of the pan using a wooden spoon or spatula. Pour the delicious juices into the stock pot and add the rest of the wine. Bring to a simmer
6
When the wine has reduced by three-quarters, top up the pan with cold water, just enough to cover the bones. As a rule of thumb, you will need roughly the same weight of water as bones – just ensure the bones are completely submerged in liquid
7
If you're using them, add the pig's trotter and/or the sheet of kombu
8
Bring the stock to the boil, skim off the scum with a ladle and turn down the heat to a low simmer. Simmer away for 4–6 hours, regularly skimming the rising impurities from the top. It is important to slowly simmer and not rapidly boil, as you need the time to build up flavour
9
Strain the liquid through a muslin cloth or fine sieve, then transfer to a storage container and chill down as quickly as possible. Alternatively, return to the pan and reduce down further to create a thicker, glossier sauce known as demi-glace, which is good for gravies or using as a concentrated stock

How to use brown veal stock in cooking

Veal stock is rarely used in home kitchens and is mainly known for its use in classical French sauces. However, it really is worth making if you have the time and access to veal bones, as it transforms things like stews and sauces thanks to its incredibly intense flavour. The high gelatine content in veal bones gives the stock a lot of body, meaning you don’t have to use alternative thickening agents such as a roux or cornflour.

Espagnole is one of the French ‘mother sauces’ and is made from brown veal stock. It is the base for many of the French classic sauces such as sauce au poivre (peppercorn sauce), Bordelaise sauce and chasseur sauce.

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Veal demi-glace
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Veal glace

Veal stocks are often reduced right down to intensify flavour. This has the happy bonus of saving you space while you store it – adding water back to the concentrated will provide you with stock again (much like a stock cube).

A stock reduced by half is known as a demi-glace and is used as a base for many classic sauces. Reduce the stock further (by ninety percent) and you have a veal glace. This glace is often stored in ice-cube trays and frozen, meaning a lot of time and effort can actually produce enough concentrated stock to last you months, even if it may not look like much.

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