You probably already know the importance of a good stock or broth when called for. I, on the other hand, just couldn’t get myself to believe it. Now that I know how easy it is to prepare and store homemade stock I just had to share this with you.
I had a “stock-block“ that kept me from even considering making my own vegetable stock. Store bought stock is too sweet and salty for my taste and bouillon cubes remind me of a salt lick, something deer might be attracted to and not at all suitable for cooking. To top it all off, I felt like simmering perfectly good vegetables just to discard or compost them was a waste. I also figured if I was going to go through the trouble of making a stock it was going to be a large portion and I wondered how long it would keep in the refrigerator. I envisioned myself having to create the next fad diet, maybe call it, “The Stock Detox”, just to be able to use up six quarts of stock before it went bad. I can see the copy now…”Look out 30 bananas a day, try the 6-Quarts-of-stock a day diet, packed with essential vitamins and nutrients and sure to do a number, on your number two”. Thankfully, before I got too carried away, I realized that the stock can be frozen in portion sizes of my liking for easy use in the future. Whew!
I must point out that I like knowing exactly what’s in the stock I’m using. I get to decide how much, if any, salt and oil goes into my stock. I also get to choose which vegetables to use and my stock can change with the seasons.
How I Recovered From My Stock-Block
I like to work my way through a few cookbooks simultaneously so that the menu is varied and I am still able to get a feel for a certain style or author. Currently I am working with Best Ever Indian Cookbook: 325 Famous Step-By-Step Recipes for The Greatest Spicy and Aromatic Dishes by Mridula Beljekar, Rafi Fernandez, Shezhad Husain and Manisha Kanani; The Inspired Vegan by Bryant Terry; Vedge: 100 Plates Large and Small that Redefine Vegetable Cooking by Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby. In the latter two cookbooks the very first pages discuss vegetable broths or stocks. At first I thought, I would just add water since I didn’t want to buy stock. Then, after reading about the flavor enhancing aspects of stocks and broths and reading the recipes I decided to give it a shot.
For a few days I kept all of the trimmings from vegetables like onion skins, carrot tops, broccoli stems, and stems from parsley and cilantro. When it came time to prepare the stock I purchased a few vegetable like carrots, celery, mushrooms, and a turnip. In the book, Vedge, Landau & Jacoby shared this helpful advice , “The stock pot is not a garbage pail…Don’t throw anything in the stockpot you wouldn’t eat.” BUT, this is followed by a note on onion skins saying that they add great flavor and nice color. Landau & Jacoby also suggest browning the vegetables for extra flavor. Between the two books that discuss stocks, the suggested cooking time varies from just under 30 minutes to up to two hours. I was somewhere in between cooking the vegetables until they were soft.
I have enjoyed making the stock and using it. The first recipe I used calling for vegetable stock was from Vedge, page 125, “Hearts of Palm Cakes on Curried Lentils”. I simply removed a 4 cup frozen portion of vegetable stock from the freezer and defrosted it on the stove top then added the lentils. They were the best lentils I have ever made. The hearts of palm cakes were delicious as well, reminding me of crab cakes.
When I prepared Bryant Terry’s, “Jerk Tempeh with Cilantro Sauce” and “Double Garlic Rice” from pages 132-134 of The Inspired Vegan, I grabbed a 2 cup portion of stock from the freezer. Once again I defrosted the stock and added it as directed. In this recipe, vegetable stock is blended with onion, garlic, habanero chile, and other ingredients including spices and herbs to make a marinade for the tempeh. It’s been a month since I made this dish and I can still recall with vivid detail the jerk spice and wonderfully bright cilantro sauce. Tonight I will prepare Terry’s, “Roasted Winter Vegetable Jambalaya” from page 179 (The Inspired Vegan) and once again I will head to the freezer for a portion of vegetable stock.
There are so many wonderful uses for stock. I even discovered that a simple bowl of stock with mushrooms really hit the spot a few weeks ago when I had the flu.
Recipe notes: Save trimmings from vegetables you use during the week in an airtight container in the refrigerator. You want to have enough water for the amount of vegetables you are using. The stock pot was about a quarter of the way full of vegetables before I added the water. To freeze portions sizes of the vegetable stock you can use ice cube trays (designated for this use as they may retain the flavor) or, 2 cup-4 cup plastic containers. Once the stock is frozen you can remove it from the ice cube trays or containers and store it in a freezer bag.
Basic Vegetable Stock Recipe
½ tablespoon vegetable oil
2 onions with skin, quartered
1 carrot, chopped
3 ribs of celery, chopped
5 mushrooms of your choice, chopped
“Everything BUT the kitchen sink”…ends from garlic, garlic skin, chopped broccoli stems, a few outer leaves of cabbage…all of your saved trimmings. (See recipe note above)
A few sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon salt
6 Quarts of water
- Heat the oil over medium- high heat in a large stock pot. When oil is up to temperature add all the vegetables, thyme, and bay leaves. Sauté the vegetables for about 5 minutes, until they soften, stirring frequently.
- Add salt and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes or until vegetables have softened.
- Strain and discard the vegetables. I squeezed the vegetables in cheesecloth to expel as much liquid as possible.
- Portion out the stock and freeze or refrigerate. (see recipe note above)
Stock up and enjoy!