So, as I delve further into the culinary world, I’ve noticed that most chefs differ on their ideas of preparations, ingredients, methods, tools, etc. However, I have also noticed that every single one of them harp on this one point: you need to make your own stock. All of them. They all say that home-made stock is infinitely better than store-bought stock. It has more flavor, zero preservatives, and it tastes real (as opposed to tasting like a tin can). With the amount of recipes I make these days that use any number of stocks (veal, fish, chicken, beef, vegetarian, etc) I couldn’t ignore this advice any longer. I knew I had to start making my own stock.
Since I didn’t have any chicken or beef bones laying around, I decided to make vegetable stock. I already had a couple of old potatoes, garlic, and onions in the pantry, and so I just needed to pick up celery, carrots, and parsley. This is all you need for vegetable stock! Now that I’ve made it once, I plan to keep veggie scraps on hand (or freeze them) so I don’t have to use whole vegetables (it feels slightly wasteful).
There are many variations and methods for cooking vegetable stock. For my first round of stock-making, I used a recipe from Mark Bittman’s new book, Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating. I just picked the book up last week and am loving it (Its like the Michael Pollan books, but with practical solutions, recipes, meal plans, etc.). Bittman basically says that there is no one exact way to make vegetable stock. You can add any variety of veggies (mushrooms, red peppers, shallots, parsnips, etc). Canned tomatoes add color and flavor, sauteed mushrooms add and earthy flavor, etc.
For this time, I went with the very simple and classic veggie stock recipe. I did take Mark Bittman’s advice, however, and I browned my veggies in olive oil before adding in the water. This gives the stock a darker color (and richer flavor). Also note, that the longer you cook the stock – the more flavorful it will be.
Home Made Vegetable Stock
Adapted from Mark Bittman’s “Food Matters“
12 cups of water
2 potatoes, washed and cut into large cubes
2 onions, rinse and quartered (no need to peel)
3-4 stalks of celery, roughly cut
3-4 carrots, roughly cut
20 stems of parsley
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large stock pot, heat olive oil (enough to coat the bottom of the pot). Brown onions, garlic, carrots and celery on med-high for 10 minutes (until just starting to brown). Add in potatoes, parsley, and bay leaf. Add in 12 cups of water, and a pinch of salt and pepper (be careful not to over-salt. You can always add more salt later!)
Bring to a boil, and turn the heat down and let simmer gently for an hour (or more). Take off the heat and strain the liquid into a large container. Taste the stock and adjust seasonings. Let the stock cool before refrigerating or freezing.
Stock does not last very long in the fridge, so unless you plan to use in a couple days – I would recommend freezing. I have been saving various plastic yogurt containers for the freezing and storing of stock. It is much easier to thaw if you freeze in small batches/containers. I have also seen people recommend ice cube trays for freezing stock (just pop a few cubes out into a pan to thaw!). According to Martha Stewart (who also has a great-looking stock recipe with Swiss Chard), the stock lasts in the fridge for 3-4 days, and in the freezer for 3 months.