One of my goals for 2015 (I don’t like the word “resolution”) is to keep up with my stock making. So, in the spirit of that goal, I’m sharing with you my own stock recipes.
I’ve already posted (some time ago) a recipe for Chicken Stock, so I am moving on to the next one on my list, Vegetable Stock. Next to chicken, it’s the stock I use the most.
As a kind of reminder from my Chicken Stock post, here is a little reiteration:
While a good sauce or gravy can cover up many sins in the kitchen, the sauce or gravy needs to taste just that much better. So, if you’re using bad stock, there is nothing you can do to hide that.
The words “stock” and “broth” are generally used interchangeably. Because, well, they’re almost exactly the same thing.
According to “The New Food Lover’s Companion, 4th Ed.” (Herbst & Herbst, 2007):
“Stock is the strained liquid that comes from cooking meat or fish (with bones), vegetables, and other seasonings in water to extract their flavors.”
“Broth a liquid that comes from cooking vegetables, meat or fish, and seasonings in water.”
Basically, the difference between the two is one of use or intent. “Broth” is what you end up with at the end of cooking the ingredients; “Stock” is what you use to cook with. Other definitions will say that a “Stock” is always made with bones while a “Broth” isn’t. And, indeed, there is a very different “mouth feel “(a technical term used by chefs to describe taste and texture of an ingredient) between the two.
But, again, whatever you term it, a stock or broth can make or break a recipe. A good stock will enhance; a bad stock will ruin. There’s no hiding it.
There are a few rules when making vegetable stock:
1. Don’t use potatoes. They will make the stock starchy and cloudy.
2. Don’t use cruciferous vegetables (i.e. cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts). They will be too strong.
3. Don’t use artichokes or rosemary. See above.
4. Don’t use bitter greens (i.e. dandelion, mustard). Again, see above.
5. Don’t use vegetables where the color can leach out (i.e. beets). They will, of course, color the stock.
6. Do use seasonal vegetables. Depending on the season, you can have a stock that is more savory or sweet.
7. You can use scraps. Just save them in a large zip bag and keep them in the refrigerator or freezer (depending on how quickly you think you’ll fill the bag).
8. Make sure your produce, whether you use fresh or scraps, is clean. This should be common sense, but, sometimes, common sense tends to take a vacation.
9. You don’t need to peel your vegetables. You’d be surprised how much flavor they add.
10. Always be sure to add some extra seasonings. The most common is a “Bouquet Garni”: parsley, thyme, bay leaves.
11. If you can, use filtered water. If not, at least make sure you start with cold water from the tap.
This stock recipe is a very basic stock that I use frequently. Depending on the season, or my mood, I’ll add different vegetables like corn, kale, fennel, or tomatillo (yes, I know, it’s technically a fruit). Instead of leeks, I’ll add onions instead.
While I don’t add salt to my recipe, many people do. If you decide to add salt, be careful with the quantity. I’ve seen some recipes where people will also add wine and/or Parmesan rinds. It is completely up to you what you’d like to add.
If you like, you can also brown your vegetables either by roasting or sauteing with a little pure olive oil (not extra virgin – too strong) or an unflavored oil (canola, grapeseed) before adding the water. I’ve done this a few times, and it’s great. It gives the stock a deeper, almost sweeter, flavor. However, I didn’t brown the vegetables for this post.
Again, here is what I typically use as a base stock. You can add, substitute, or subtract as you prefer.
2 large leeks, white and green parts
1 lb. tomatoes, seeded
1 lb. carrots
1 lb. parsnips or turnips (if you do use turnips, be sure to peel them; the peels can be bitter)
3 stalks celery (leaves and all)
1 green bell pepper, seeded
2 red bell peppers, seeded
6 cloves garlic, crushed
15 whole black peppercorns
3 bay leaves, either fresh or dried
6 – 8 sprigs thyme
1/2 bunch parsley, curly or flat
1. Prepare the vegetables by cleaning, peeling (if needed), seeding, and cutting down into large pieces. (If you are using scraps, skip this step; except for the cleaning part).
2. Put the vegetables in a large stockpot (at least 3-gallon), add the bouquet garni ingredients and the peppercorns, and 2 gallons (32 cups) water.
3. Cover the stockpot and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Then, remove the lid, turn the heat down to low, and let the stock simmer for 3 – 4 hours. Add water as needed if it gets too low. (Generally with 2 gallons starting volume, I almost never need to add water; but, it does depend on your preference and how fast your stove cooks.)
4. After 3 – 4 hours, take the stockpot off the heat and let it cool a bit before straining. Alternately, if you have the space (my husband and I have a refrigerator in our outbuilding), cover the stockpot and place it in your refrigerator overnight. The stock will get cold and the vegetables will steep a little longer. Then, you can strain it the next day.
5. Place a large colander over a larger bowl (or a large saucepan or stockpot). Very carefully pour the stock and vegetables out of the stockpot into the colander (pour carefully and slowly; you don’t want to lose any stock through spillage or overflow). Use a second bowl if necessary.
Press down on the vegetables to extract as much of the liquid as possible. However, don’t press so hard that you end up pressing vegetables through the colander (they’ll be very soft) and making the stock cloudy.
At this point, you can strain the stock a second time by passing it though a fine strainer to catch anything that passed through the colander. (I always do so I can have as clear a stock as possible.)
You can (and I generally do) place the stock back on the stove and cook it down even more to concentrate the flavors. So, for example, I start off with 2 gallons of water and end up with 1 gallon of finished stock.
I will store/freeze the stock in quart-sized zip bags (I usually use 4 cups at a time). However, use whatever size bag or storage container you prefer. Remember, however, do not fill your storage container or bag to the brim. Liquid expands as it freezes; so, if you fill it to the brim, either the bag will burst or the lid will come off the container and you’ll end up with a mess.
Oh yeah, be sure that the bags are completely zipped closed and/or the lids are tight on the storage containers. I’ve made that mistake before.