Investing is a constant balancing act between risks and potential rewards. Generally speaking, the stocks that have the most potential for growth also face the most risks, while the ones that look to have a more certain future are often priced to already reflect the hope of that future.

That often makes it challenging to find stocks that are worth enough of an investment that they become the core of your portfolio. Every once in a while, though, the market presents opportunities that have the right combination of growth prospects and reasonable values to be worth a substantial investment. With that balance in mind, here are three stocks to consider building your portfolio around.

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Imagine life without this company's services

Canadian pipeline giant Enbridge (NYSE:ENB) operates the world's largest crude oil and liquids pipeline system, as well as a huge natural gas distribution system. Oil and natural gas are fundamental to power generation, manufacturing, and transportation: basically much of what makes modern life comfortable. Moving those resources from where they're found to where they're processed and used is how Enbridge makes its money, and that makes it fundamental to broad swaths of the economy.

In addition to being so essential, Enbridge also benefits from being involved in an industry that few people want around their neighborhoods. That opposition makes it harder and costlier for new pipeline capacity to be built, which provides an incredible competitive advantage for existing large players.

That combination adds up to a business that has generated around $9.5 billion in operating cash flows over the past four reported quarters. That cash flow easily covered the approximately $6.8 billion in dividends it handed out to shareholders, while still leaving a generous amount for covering maintenance and expansion. With a market capitalization around $66 billion, it trades at about seven times that operating cash flow, making it reasonably valued for a cash-generating machine.

Note that since Enbridge is a Canadian company, U.S. based investors will see some fluctuation in its quarterly dividend due to exchange rates. In addition, U.S. investors who own Enbridge outside of their retirement accounts will face an automatic withholding tax on those dividends. Still, with a yield around 8% (and a dividend that recently was increased), it's a powerhouse worthy of consideration.

A mini economy on its own

Insurance behemoth Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRKA)(NYSE:BRKB) is perhaps best known for being the vehicle by which Warren Buffett amassed his billions. Under his guidance, the company has morphed from being a struggling textile manufacturer to being somewhat of a miniature economy all on its own.

In addition to its insurance businesses, Berkshire Hathaway is the outright owner of real estate, energy, railroad, food, clothing, furniture, and jewelry businesses. And it is a significant shareholder in several large financial and technology companies. That broad diversification helps make Berkshire Hathaway an incredibly resilient company.

Add to that its conservative financial management with over $140 billion in cash and U.S. Treasury bills on its balance sheet, and you have one of the most solid companies in the world. Trading at around 1.3 times its book value, investors are paying a reasonable price for investing in a business that will certainly last well beyond Buffett's tenure at the helm. Although Berkshire Hathaway currently pays no dividend, it's a bedrock company that is worthy of consideration as part of a portfolio's core.

You (and your pets) have to eat, right?

peanut butter and jelly sandwich

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J.M. Smucker (NYSE:SJM) may be famous for its namesake jams and jellies, but the food titan has grown beyond that core to be a powerhouse in coffee, peanut butter, snacks, and pet food. The thing about Smucker's food business is that while it may not be the fastest-growing one out there, it is pretty well recession-resistant.

If times get tough, you are more likely to focus on the basics like home-cooked meals and your family than spend your money lavishly. And one of the biggest positive surprises of the COVID-19 economy was the surge in pet adoptions during lockdowns, a trend that bodes well for Smucker's brands like Meow Mix and Kibbles 'N Bits. 

Although investors shouldn't expect rapid growth from Smucker, its shares are priced at around 15 times earnings with a slightly better than 3% yield. With that, it offers shareholders a reasonable combination of income and value. When linked up with a business that should survive almost any economic circumstances, it makes Smucker worth considering for a core part of an investor's portfolio.

Solid businesses make solid investments

Although Enbridge, Berkshire Hathaway, and J.M. Smucker largely operate in different primary business lines, they are all solid businesses that are built to last. That makes them worthwhile as potential core parts of a portfolio for investors looking for business sustainability. The market offers no guarantees, but in today's crazy world, you could do worse than these three if you're looking for long-term prospects and the ability to sleep at night as a shareholder.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.