Monday, October 8, 2012

Vegetable Stock

For those of us who like to cook and eat well, homemade stocks are wonderful to have on hand because they're better than anything that comes from the store.  Making a flavorful vegetable stock at home is simple if you happen to have plenty of vegetables.  There is no exact formula for vegetable stock since it's very forgiving, but there are certain vegetables one should stay away from when making a batch.  Any of the cruciferous vegetables should be avoided because they are much too strong and will overpower a pot of stock no matter how little you add of them (think cauliflower, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, etc.). 

In my version of this stock I like to use a variety of great tasting vegetables I enjoy eating, making sure that I always include the basic trio of onions, celery & carrots.  Although it's a nice step to sweat the vegetables in a little bit of olive oil beforehand, I don't always do so because I get excellent results starting everything in cold water.  Having said this, however, it is very important to let the vegetable stock simmer for a good 2 hours to 2 1/2 hours in order to extract every ounce of flavor & essence from each of the vegetables.  It's imperative to use mature vegetables that are flavorful and never any that are past their prime or else you will end up with unsuitable, bitter-tasting stock.  

Vegetable stock is perfect for vegans and vegetarians who can't have anything prepared with chicken, veal or beef stock, but it's also good for anyone wanting to add flavor to a dish.  I love using this type of stock instead of plain water whenever I make rice dishes.  Add some depth to steamed Jasmine rice or brown rice the next time you want something delicious to accompany a great stew.  A wonderful vegetable stock simmering on your stovetop is going to fill your entire kitchen with a great aroma and make you think of ways to use it in your favorite dish.  Make some today.


A melange of flavorful, organic vegetables.


Vegetable Stock Ingredients
  • 1 large yellow/white onion or 2-3 medium ones (leave the skins)
  • 1 large leek or 2 medium-sized ones, cleaned
  • 2 parsnips, scrubbed & rinsed
  • 1 medium turnip, scrubbed, rinsed & peeled
  • 4 celery stalks, rinsed
  • 4 carrots, rinsed
  • 2 - 4 oz. cremini/baby bella mushrooms (optional), scrubbed
  • 6 sprigs flat leaf parsley, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup celery leaves, rinsed
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 liters cold water
Yield: approximately 4 quarts stock.

Note:  If using fresh mushrooms, don't add too many or else they may overpower the stock.  If using dried mushrooms, use a very small amount (these are very pungent & flavorful, so be careful).

I use organic vegetables and don't peel them for stocks.  If you don't have organic, make sure you peel them.


Cleaning leeks thoroughly is imperative before using in any recipe.  Trim the root end & green parts off; discard.  Slice the leek in half lengthwise to expose the inner leaves.  Under cold water, rinse each half making sure to open the leaves to let water run through them.  Dirt often hides in between them so be thorough.  Proceed with the recipe.

Quarter the onion(s) and leave the skins intact.  Slice the leek(s), parsnips, the turnip, celery, carrots into 1/2" pieces.  If using the mushrooms, quarter them.  Place the garlic, peppercorns & bay leaf in a piece of cheesecloth & tie with a piece of kitchen twine.  Place the celery leaves & parsley sprigs along with the rest of the ingredients into a large 8 quart stockpot and fill with the 5 liters of cold water. 


Set the pot over medium-high flame and bring it just to the boiling point.  Lower the heat to low, cover the pot with the lid and simmer on the stove for 2 to 2 1/2 hours.  You can also leave the lid slightly ajar throughout the simmering.  Don't let the vegetable stock be at a rolling boil at any time.


When done, remove from the heat and set on a cooling rack.  It's best to strain the stock once it's cooled to tepid (to speed up the process, set the pot in a sink filled with ice water).  Straining it while it's still hot can be dangerous

Line a fine mesh sieve with cheesecloth and clamp it down with some clips to keep it from slipping.  Set the sieve over a heatproof bowl that has at least a 5 quart capacity.


Carefully strain the stock through the sieve.  You can see how wonderfully clear the stock is when you strain through cheesecloth.


A flavorful vegetable stock with a great color is what you'll end up with.  Much better than store bought. 

Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or freeze in containers for up to 6 months.  I always ladle the stock into BPA-free containers in 2 cup quantities & freeze for future use.  To thaw, simply run hot water on the outside of the container and drop the frozen block into a saucepan. 



Although I do keep a box or two of stocks (low or no-sodium only!) in my pantry for those days when I happen to be out of mine, I much prefer the homemade.  There is just no comparison between something made with care using the freshest vegetables possible to something mass produced that comes in a carton.  I guarantee that once you get your palate trained to the flavors of homemade stocks in your dishes, you will certainly become a more discerning cook in the future.  A wide variety of delicious recipes that have depth will be at your fingertips if you make it a habit of keeping these stocks in your refrigerator or freezer like any reputable restaurant.  Make this good thing a part of your good life.  Enjoy!

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