Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Home Made Vegetable Stock

Making your own stock sounds fussy, but I promise, it isn't. It's satisfying (both the process and the end result) and so flavorful, and does wonders for your food. It is also a great way to use vegetables that are a bit passed their prime, but that you would rather not throw away. Boxed stock is ok, I used it for a while, but it really doesn't compare to stocks made from scratch. Michael Ruhlman wrote that your home made soup will taste better made with water, rather than from canned or boxed stock. Zing. He's a smart man, he knows.

Basically, stock is several ingredients, usually vegetables, bones, and aromatics, simmered in water until the water is infused with their flavor. Each batch of stock will have it's own flavor, based on what ingredients you use and in what quantities. You can also tailor your stock to the dish you are cooking, but I have found that this versatile vegetable stock works with everything.

The stock recipe I use is Deborah Madison's Quick Stock from
Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. This woman knows vegetables, so naturally her vegetable stock is the best I've tried. This is a basic one, and she provides much helpful information on how to adjust and tailor it, along with several accompanying stock recipes.

Below is Deborah Madison's Recipe as I have come to use it.

A few notes:

While most vegetables work in stock, some do not, as they will make the stock bitter. Vegetables to avoid are:
  • Turnips and Rutabagas
  • Cabbages and Brussels sprouts
  • Broccoli and cauliflower
  • Red beets
  • Any things ground or very small (spices and seeds) that cheesecloth will not catch
  • Onion skins
  • Artichoke trimmings
  • Lots of dark, leafy greens (some are ok)
Vegetable peelings and scraps are put to good use in stocks. I often throw in bell pepper trimmings, leek trimmings, potato trimmings, squash peels, and any lettuce that I know won't be making it into any salads soon enough. I also tend to adjust my quantities depending on what I have in the fridge--extra herbs, not so many carrots, etc.

So, how about some stock, hmm?

Quick Vegetable Stock
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
1 celery rib, coarsely chopped
2 bay leaves
4 or more garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
8 or more parsley branches

Heat oil over high heat and add the onion, carrot, and celery. Then add any other vegetables and trimmings that you are using, along with garlic and herbs. Brown vegetables over medium to medium high heat for about 10 minutes. Scrape up and incorporate any brown bits that stick to the bottom of the pan. When vegetables are browned, add 2 teaspoons salt and 2 quarts cold water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer 30-40 minutes. Strain stock through cheese cloth lined colander.

Stock will keep frozen for a while, and in the fridge for a few days. I freeze mine in one and two cup amounts so that I can always have some on hand. I use it in soups, but my other favorite use for it is cooking rice. Substitute stock for water the next time you make rice. You may never go back.

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