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Back to Basics Taking Stock in Soup

soup-cropDuring our Canadian winters, there is nothing more comforting than homemade soup, especially with your own homemade stock. It’s easy to make, inexpensive, very nutritious and gives you a flavourful base for any soups you wish. It may take some time to make, but once you’re done, you will have stock to use for a long time, when properly stored.

Stocks for your acquired taste

  • The most traditionally made soup stock is from bones of chicken, ham, beef, and fish. Today, vegetable stock is also a favourite.

Stock has four main ingredients:

  1. Bones (ham, beef, poultry), fish head, or just vegetables.
  2. Water (wine often added to fish and vegetable stocks as well)
  3. Basic vegetables: onions, carrots and celery. Others as you like.
  4. Seasoning: best are thyme, bay leaves, peppercorns and parsley, fresh or dried.

Note: Most experts don’t salt stock because stocks are intended to be used as a base for soup.


  • Meat stocks consist of 100% water, 50% bones and 10% vegetables (4 lbs. of bones to 8 quarts water). Fish and vegetable stocks cook quickly so less water is required (4 lbs. of bones or vegetables to 2 quarts of water).

Cooking Method

Ham, beef and poultry: Some people “roast” beef bones first for 45 minutes to add a richer flavour. Then cover the bones with fresh, cold water. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Skim off residue that rises to the top. Add vegetables and seasonings. Simmer and add more water as needed to keep the bones covered. Cook until water is reduced by one third, which can take about 3 hrs or longer. Remove pot from heat and strain.

Chill the stock and remove the solidified fat at the top before using or freezing.

Vegetable stock: Chop up vegetables in 1-inch chunks. Cook in 1 tablespoon of olive oil to release flavours then add water and herbs. For a more neutral flavour, use onions, celery and carrots. Strong vegetables (fennel, cauliflower, cabbage, garlic) produce a stock flavoured with those vegetables. Avoid starchy vegetables such as potatoes because they turn the stock cloudy. The best herbs are parsley, bay leaves and peppercorns. Simmer in water for 1 hour and strain.

Fish stock: Use fish bones from lean white fish like sole, flounder, halibut or sea bass, cut into 2-inch pieces and rinsed well. Many chefs opt for the traditional Chinese method of using a fish head.  Fish heads are inexpensive and have strong nutritional benefits. They make stock rich in fat-soluble vitamins as well as thyroid hormones, essential for good metabolism.

Combine fish bones or head, water and white wine, bring to a boil and simmer. Add the same vegetables and herbs noted above and cook on low about 30 minutes. Remove the stock from the stove, stir it again, and allow it to steep for 10 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer.

Storing and Using

  • Stocks can be easily frozen until needed. Freeze in portions and use as a base for soup or sauce.

What will be your next bowl of soup?