written by Brooke Porch, customer service associate
There are many good reasons for making stock from scratch. Nutritionally, homemade stock is superior to what you buy off the shelf, containing less sodium than the over-salted canned and boxed stocks. Financially, saving vegetable trimmings – onion peels are wonderful in stocks – and leftover bones – chicken carcasses, rib bones, etc. – makes stock a cheap household staple.
But, the best reason to make stock from scratch is because of the taste. Recipes with homemade stock will always taste richer than even the “best” off-the-shelf stock. In my opinion, you may be better off using water over boxed stock.
Stock is great for soups and stews, but you can also cook rice and other grains in stock. Just about any recipe that calls for water can be substituted for stock. One tip I offer is to freeze stock in convenient portions and use as needed.
Personally, I use my homemade stock to make soups. I’m often asked why my vegan mushroom soup is so good. The answer – I always use homemade stock.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED:
This is a fundamental piece of kitchenware. If I could only have five few items in my kitchen I would choose to have a good chef’s knife, a big cutting board, an 8-inch cast iron skillet, a roasting pan, and a stock pot. I can make nearly anything with those pieces of equipment. And I fear I can’t make much without them.
A cutting board
A good, sharp chef’s knife.
A roasting pan (optional)
INGREDIENTS (makes 6 oz. serving):
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tsp salt
2 quarts of water
1 large onion
2 stalks celery
2 large carrots
½ head of garlic
6-8 sprigs (each) of parsley and thyme
1 bay leaf
Other things to consider adding are bell peppers, other herbs, whole peppercorns, allspice, cloves (2-4 pieces each), and mushrooms (my personal favorite – the stalks are perfect for flavoring stock). Basically, almost any non-leafy green vegetable is perfect.
AVOID using potatoes as they will soak up all of the flavor. Instead, boil your potatoes in stock rather than water – my oh my is that good.
LIMIT or avoid any cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, kale, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, etc. They can make your stock taste bitter.
When I make stock, I usually make a big portion, which is easy because I have a very large stockpot, about 20 quarts. Most people probably don’t have such a large pot. But, then again, most people don’t write articles about how much they love stock.
Once you’ve figured out how much stock you need to make and have gathered all your ingredients, it is time to start cooking. Chop the vegetables into 1-inch pieces. This is a total Goldilocks situation – cut the veggies too small, they disintegrate into the stock, but if you cut them too big, there isn’t enough surface area to extract the flavor. But it really doesn’t matter. This isn’t baking, after all, and there are no hard-and-fast rules.
In the stockpot, sauté the vegetables in olive oil for 5-10 minutes. The longer you sauté, the richer the stock will be. But, be sure to not cook the veggies. Add the salt and water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a low simmer for about 30 minutes.
When the stock is done simmering, strain the stock and discard the vegetables. You can use cheesecloth, a fine-mesh strainer, or a “gold” coffee filter – I have one just for this purpose. The vegetables no longer have any flavor — all of the flavor is now in the stock. Compost the veggies, feed them to your pigs, but don’t eat them. I’ve tried it and they are terrible.
OPTIONS, ENDLESS OPTIONS
Some folks cover their stock. Others simmer uncovered. I suggest simmering uncovered, as the flavor will be concentrated.
Another variant is time. Vegetable stock can be cooked for up to about an hour before it becomes overcooked and “flat”. Longer cooking time gives richer flavor.
As for ingredients, I almost always put things like onion peels and garlic peels in the stock. It adds a ton of flavor and helps produce a richer product. Other ingredients are dependent on your taste.
Remember that roasting pan I mentioned? You can roast the vegetables for about 30 minutes at 350F instead of sautéing them. Make sure to use salt to bring out the flavor.
The recipe that I have laid out is just a framework. I’ve thrown in chicken bones with great success. Another favorite ingredient is beef bone. First, roast the bones for about an hour. Then boil the bones in water for 2-3 hours. Add the vegetables for the last hour. Yes, it certainly takes a long time, but the result is well worth the effort.