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Homemade vegetable stock

For me, cooking always makes the house smell wonderful and “homey.” There are few things I love more than making big batch recipes, tackling a culinary project like making homemade pasta, or baking something special on the weekend.

Making homemade stock is a tradition I love around Thanksgiving, when I make stock from leftover turkey bones plus aromatics (different vegetables and herbs) in an attempt to use every part of the turkey after our family meal is finished, freezing a few quarts to use later in the winter for warming, flavorful soups. I just let it simmer as I cook other things, do chores, or other activities around the house and it turns into a golden, flavorful liquid.

Homemade stock is definitely like a culinary perfume for the house and really useful to have, at any time. It is a relaxing cooking project for any time of the year, like on a lazy Sunday morning or afternoon in the middle of winter.

Stock is a basic recipe that every homecook should know, and there are a few ways that it can be done.

The basic vegetable stock

For this post, I’m focusing on vegetable stock, because it is the most versatile for what I make in my kitchen, leaning to more pescatarian and vegetarian cooking the majority of the time. When I make a basic vegetable stock, whether from fresh vegetables or frozen scraps and pieces, it all starts with a nice, large stockpot or soup pot. To that, I add:

  • Carrots, celery, onions, and garlic. You can add other vegetables, like parsnips (or the peels from them), fennel, and broccoli stems.
  • I usually don’t add any starchy vegetables, like a potato, at this point. Also, no brown spots or moldy bits that were chopped off of any veggies should ever be used; just throw those away.
  • Herbs such as parsley, thyme, rosemary, and sage are always nice as are whole black peppercorns, fennel seed, and fresh or dry bay leaves. If I have some fresh dill that I need to use, I’ll add it, too, but whole oregano, fresh or dried, is one that never typically makes it into my stock. I keep any spices and herbs whole since they’re removed in the straining at the end.
  • I don’t add any salt until the very end of the cooking process.
  • Sometimes, I like to add a half lemon, especially if I previously cut a lemon for use in a cocktail or just to have with ice water and have an extra half lying around that I don’t plan to use right away. The whole thing, seeds and all, go in.
  • Finally, water is added. Use cold water from the tap for better results.

If you have extra time: Roast vegetables first to add more flavor

When using fresh vegetables to make stock, sometimes I’ll roast the vegetables first so they get a caramelized flavor. Everything gets chopped up into larger pieces, tossed with a small amount of oil, and thrown into the oven to roast until golden and tender. I usually leave the skins on the onions and garlic, since it all gets strained out in the end. Once finished cooking, all of the carmelized bits and vegetables get scraped into a pot with cold water, herbs, and spices added, and cook.

To buy yourself time: Use your freezer and make stock next month

Other times, I’ll make stock from scraps that I’ve collected from vegetables and frozen. Trimmings from vegetables that would otherwise go to waste are great to save and freeze, so long as they are not spoiled.

I love to freeze vegetable trimmings in a freezer-safe, gallon food container from the past couple of months of cooking. Every so often, I’ll remove the bag and add to it from whatever veggies I cooked that night for dinner. When I have a full bag, it’s time to make stock by tossing the frozen contents into a pot with cold water, herbs, and spices.

You can do the same with bones, even lobster and shrimp shells, but in thise case, I would suggest saving those in a separate bag from your vegetable scraps.

But what if you have no time?

I get it: committing to saving your scraps takes space in the freezer, sometimes too much, even if it is just a gallon sized bag. In the past, it was hard to make space in my freezer, too; the one at our old house was small, and we had a full-sized refrigerator. In an apartment-sized refrigerator, it would’ve been more of a challenge.

In these cases, skip the freezing, if you have to. Consider composting your vegetable scraps, whether using a countertop compost bin, one in your back yard, or collect them and provide. toa service that does a community pickup.

Enter stock concentrates. Bouillon has been around for years in the cubed, dried or slightly pasty format that you can find near the prepared, canned soup. I like the concentrated paste, which I’ve seen in both jars and squeezable tubes, for their convenience.