I’ll be the first to admit that, ever since the late 1990s, when commercial stocks made the quantum leap from those wicked, dessicated cubes to liquid packed in cartons, I have kept my pantry shelves filled with them. These newfangled “stock-boxes” might not have been as flavorful or rich as my homemade stocks, but they certainly were good enough to use in even my most delicate recipes, not to mention incredibly convenient.
What freedom! The monthly task of making four quarts of stock, with all the prepping, simmering and straining, was fortunately no longer a necessity — the more so since the appearance of those gourmet stocks on the market shelves happened to coincide with a move to New York City and the inevitable shrinking of my living quarters. (There was no room in my tiny freezer for my monthly stock production: if I wanted fresh stock, I had to make it every single time I cooked.)
So I succumbed; and even after I’d moved into a roomier kitchen, I still reached for that convenient carton every time I needed to cook with a stock.
Then one day, out of the blue, I got an incredible craving to make those four quarts of stock again. It was a deep yearning to smell the rich broth simmering on the stove and filling the house with its comforting aroma.
So I got my giant stockpot out of the pantry.
What a revelation! How could I have been so easily fooled by those fancy cartons? The flavor of my homemade stock was so deep, so rich, so nuanced… It simply could not compare to the boxed kind.
Needless to say I’m back to making my own stocks again, and feel a twinge of guilt at having abandoned my practice over those last few years. I can’t say that I’ll never buy stock in cartons again (after all, it’s hard to give up the convenience). But at least, I can confidently say that once a month the house will be filled with the earthy smells of simmering stock.
makes 4 quarts (16 cups)
active time: 30 min
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large Vidalia, Spanish or red onion – skinned and cut in 1/2″ cubes
- 4 large garlic cloves – skinned and halved
- 4 medium carrots – peeled and cut in 1/2″ slices
- 2 celery ribs – trimmed and cut in 1/2″ slices
- 1 leek (including green parts) – trimmed, halved lengthwise, thoroughly washed and cut in 1” slices
- 2 plum tomatoes – cut in 1″ pieces
- 1 medium white potato – peeled and cut in 1/2″ cubes
- 4 cups vegetable scraps cut in 1″ pieces (stems of mushrooms, asparagus, chard, kale, broccoli or artichokes; corn cobs, fennel tops, etc… )
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 bunch fresh Italian parsley
- 6 thyme sprigs
- 2 teaspoons sea salt or to taste
- 2 teaspoons whole peppercorns
- 5 quarts (20 cups) spring or filtered water
- Step 1: Heat a large heavy-bottomed soup pot at medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and onions and sauté for 5 to 6 minutes until pale-golden. Add the garlic sauté and for an additional 1 minute. Add the balance of the ingredients including the water. Stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium to medium-low, partially cover and simmer for 45 minutes.
- Step 2: Strain stock through a fine sieve. Discard the vegetables and cool stock to room temperature. Refrigerate up to 2 days or freeze up to 1 month.
- The vegetables should be cut in small pieces (1/2″ to 1″ pieces) so that they render their flavor more easily.
- The stock should not simmer for more than 45 minutes. In that time the vegetables have given all their flavor to the water. Simmering them longer will only turn the vegetables into mush.
- Whenever you cook, remember to save the stems of flavorful vegetables like mushrooms, asparagus, broccoli, artichokes, etc… Cut the vegetables scraps in 1″ pieces and freeze them until you are ready to make stock. There’s no need to thaw them before using them.
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Tonight, for the 3rd time, I am making a batch of this stock, it’s simmering now … the aroma of it is an elixir in itself. Using my bag of frozen veg discards and picking some fresh herbs from the garden helps make this stock a quick process. I’ll use up this batch in about 3-4 weeks and have found that it keeps tasting as fresh in a month as it will tomorrow. I love love love this stock, it’s just right for so many dishes.
Hi Bev! I am so delighted you love this stock… just made my day! And I’m even more thrilled you freeze bits of veggies to make it (always happy to know when things don’t go to waste). I freeze the stems of kale and other leafy greens, the stalks of mushrooms, the dark green leaves of leeks etc… And when I end up with 2 big bags in the freezer I know it’s time to make this stock. In fact, I’m making one tonight! Thank you for your comment, dear Bev. And enjoy your stock! I know you’ll create many wonderful dishes with it.
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I always prefer to use my own home-made stocks. Veggie stock is always good cause it makes use of any extra veggies you have on hand.
Today is my first day of holiday vacation – perfect day to stay home and make stock – can’t stand the taste of the canned vegetable broths! But now I really want to go out and find some of those cardoons! Norhtvale is not too far.
i like to keep vegi stock in the freezer. its simple to warm up, and gose great with chicken dishes. If you dont have chicken stock around. But i also like to Reduce the stock to, brings out more flavor in the soups i make. its a little unconventional but hey
it taste great.
excellent stock recipe, I use vegetable stock often in cooking and this would be nice to have on hand opposed to buying store bought vegetable stock
Scott & Jay, You know vegetable stock is very versatile and you can use them for more than just your vegetarian friends. There are many delicate soups for example that taste better with a veggie stock… I’ll be posting one in a few days – so stay tuned… 🙂
Jay, Thank you so, so much for your support with the Bon Appetit Bake-Off… You are just awesome!
Thanks for this! I’m in the same boat as Scott there. Just in time for the really rough part of winter. And congrats on the bake off! I’ve got my fingers crossed!
Thanks for posting this. I’ve done meat stocks, but wanted to find a good recipe for a vegetable stock so I could cook for my vegetarian friends!
I keep a zip top bag or container in the freezer for those mushroom stems, parsley stems, etc. that have vitamins, minerals and Umami. Great in stock. I have used recipes that keep the skins on the onions, too.
I always wonder why I too put so much money into buying those boxed stocks – I know the homemade tastes better! I’m just so lazy – shame on me! This does sound lovely. Maybe I’ll make some this weekend.
As I prep vegetables for meals, all the peelings, onion ‘ends’, etc. go into a bag in the freezer. When it is full, I put it in the crockpot along with some garlic, seasonings, and water, and cook on low overnight.
Carton stock does not compare to home made! I made chicken stock this weekend.
It’s so true! Homemade really is always better, and it’s good to be reminded of that. Thanks!
A new era! When I was young, my mother used the dehydrated stock cubes and like daughter I purchased them when I first moved out on my own. I actually have one gold-foiled cube left in our spice drawer!
I use store bought stock, which by the way College Inn is not stock, frequently.
Whenever I have the chance, I boil shrimp shells or chicken bones with whatever’s around. I never use a recipe, but figure that the essence of the real has to be better than anything I could by manufactured.
I love the convenience of those boxed stocks but I think they all taste tinny. I have really learned to like Rapunzel brand and I love that they come in cube or powder form. But of course, homemade is best.
Keeping vegetable scraps in the freezer for stock is a great idea.
There’s nothing like homemade stock. Your post is a great reminder. Merci beaucoup Viviane et a bientot 🙂