Back To Basics: Vegetable Stock

Vegetable Stock

Vegetable Stock

While bread may be the staff of life, a good stock is the foundation of a great many vegetarian recipes.  It’s the little black dress of cooking (sorry men – I’m not sure if there’s a male equivalent): every woman should have at least one and you can accessorize it many ways, depending on the occasion.

Yes, it’s true, you can buy vegetable stock in cans and cartons.  In a pinch, that’s a reasonable way to go.  But making your own can save you money (which you should know by now is something I love), AND you can customize it to suit your own taste.  I’ve found the kind you buy are a little heavy handed with the flavor.  Vegetable stock should just add a little flavor to your dish, not overpower it.  Finally, when you make your own, you don’t have to worry about the potential heath concern of BPA in canned foods.

Before going any further, let me point out to those of you who may not know this:  ‘stock’ and ‘broth’ are NOT the same thing.  I used to use those words interchangeably.  Then when I was prepping for my radio cooking show episode on soups, it occurred to me that I should really look those words up so I didn’t give out misinformation.  Low and behold, there was a difference.  A broth takes a stock and goes one step further by seasoning it. Broth would be something you would actually drink, while stock is an ingredient in something such as a soup, casserole, or sauce.

I got this Vegetable Stock recipe from the New Recipes From Moosewood Restaurant cookbook and am quite happy with it as is.  But, of course, you can adjust as you wish.  I ALWAYS double this recipe and freeze it in ½ and 1 cup portions.  By freezing it in the smaller amounts, I can thaw out just what I need.  As you can imagine, I have a LOT of freezer containers.

VEGETABLE STOCK – makes about 8 cups

  • 10 cups water
  • 2 russet potatoes, unpeeled and quartered
  • 2 large carrots, sliced into 2″ pieces (I throw the green stems in, too)
  • 1 large onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1 celery stalk, sliced into 2″ pieces
  • 1 red apple, cored and quartered
  • 12 peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf

NOTE:  Make sure you wash your vegetables thoroughly – get in all the nooks and crannies!

Put the water into a large stockpot and begin heating it to a boil as you prepare the veggies. Just throw them in as you go.  Once everything is in the pot and it’s at a full boil, cover and lower flame to keep it at a simmer.  Simmer for 1 hour.

I want to stress the importance of this next step so I will use caps:  Strain the stock by pouring it into a colander THAT’S SITTING ON A CONTAINER.  The veggies will stay in the colander while the stock will drain into the container.  You may be wondering why I emphasized this.  I’m embarrassed to admit this, but one time (possibly twice) I was doing ten things at once and when the time came to strain the stock, I put the colander in the sink and emptied my stockpot of Vegetable Stock into it.  I watched in horror as my precious Vegetable Stock rushed down the drain.  I’m sure you must have heard the scream!  Anyone who’s drained a pot of cooked pasta in the sink will probably understand how this happened.

Actually, I found a way to prevent that from ever happening again:  I bought a large stockpot that has a colander insert.  Now I just put the veggies in the colander as it sits in the boiling water.  When it’s done simmering, I lift up the colander and let it sit askew on the pot to drain.

The only problem I have with this recipe is what to do with the cooked veggies.  Currently, I put them in the green waste for composting, but I always wonder if there’s something edible I can do with them.  If anyone has a solution to this dilemma, I’d love to hear your thoughts.