Well, it took me a bit longer than expected to cross off the first item on my culinary to-do list, but the time has come, and vegetable stock is a great one to start with. Stocks are easier to make than you might think, and these staples will prove their value every time you reach for them in the freezer. I’ve gotten in the habit of making chicken stock once a month, and hope to do the same with vegetable stock.
Homemade stocks deliver big benefits in your cooking: they contain no preservatives, so your food immediately tastes better; they provide a solid foundation of flavor; and they are tasty substitutes for water when preparing couscous, quinoa, or bulghur wheat. Veggie stock is a great choice when you don’t want to use chicken stock and veal stock may be too rich. And it works well in soups (try it in butternut squash or potato leek), a hearty mushroom or asparagus risotto, and can dress up pan sauces and stews.
One tip I learned from the chef-instructors I work with has served me very well: Don’t salt the stock. Why, you say? Because it frees you to use the stock in any recipe without the worry of adding unnecessary salt or worse, over-salting your dish.
For today’s stock, I pulled out a bag of frozen leek trimmings, carrot peels, and onion skins and added fresh onions, carrots, mushrooms, parsnips, and turnips (and their trimmings) to beef up the flavor.
I hope you like this stock as much as I do. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different veggies you may have and see how the stock turns out. Enjoy!
(approximate yield: 4 quarts)
3 medium carrots (unpeeled), large dice
2 celery stalks (with leaves), large dice
2 medium onions (with skins), large dice
1 turnip (unpeeled), large dice
1 parsnip (unpeeled), large dice
cleaned button or cremini mushrooms, whole (if they are small) or quartered, with trimmings
2 or 3 garlic cloves, with skins
bouquet garni: 2 bay leaves, 2 or 3 sprigs of fresh thyme, a handful of fresh parsley with stems, about 10 whole black peppercorns
1. Fill a large stock pot about three-quarters full with water and turn heat to high. (Remember, no salt.) Add the vegetables and garlic.
2. Assemble the bouquet garni by gathering up the thyme and parsley, placing the bay leaves on top, and tucking in the peppercorns. Wrap the herbs several times with kitchen string, tie a knot, and place it into the water. Don’t worry if the peppercorns drop out; you’ll catch them when you strain the stock.
3. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Stir occasionally, leaving the pot uncovered, and cook until the vegetables are tender. (This should take about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.)
4. In batches, pour the stock through a fine mesh strainer into large, clean bowl.
5. Let the stock cool to room temperature and skim with a small ladle to catch any fat.
6. Portion into quart-size zip bags and store in the freezer.
- Label and date the bags for easy identification. They’ll be ready to go whenever you need them. Or if you’re out of zip bags, use quart-size containers. I’m still using pint and quart containers my brother-in-law brought me in the fall from many nights of take-out wonton soup.
- I usually use up the stock within a month or two, and I don’t thaw it until I need it. I cut the plastic bag from the frozen block of stock and heat it on low in a saucepan.
- Keep skins and other trimmings from veggies you cook with and add them to a plastic zip bag in the freezer. Before you know it, you’ll have a good amount to use to make stock.