Vegetable Stock

vegetable stock
Vegetable stock, ready to use in a recipe.

Some years ago, I discovered Craftsy—an online site that offers a variety of classes featuring—no surprise here—arts and crafts. At the time, I was not there for cooking, but art. Craftsy eventually became rebranded as Bluprint.  I found myself exploring other options, like photography, drawing, crochet, and more … including Celeste Rogers’ Start-up Cooking Library. It was in the Start-up Cooking Library that I picked up the basis for my Vegetable Stock recipe. 

Recently, Bluprint announced they were shutting their doors. Even more recently, Craftsy announced it was bringing the brand back. Craftsy is dead. Long live Craftsy. And long live this vegetable stock, which I reinvent almost every time I make it. Here’s why and how.

The basic elements of the stock are vegetable scraps and water. There are a few items I use every time, so if I don’t have scraps on hand, they go in the stock: onion, carrot, celery and parsley. I also avoid items like broccoli or cabbage, or fennel, because their strong flavor overpowers the stock. (I have made a fennel stock on purpose, but that’s another story and recipe….) 

I could rave about the economies of making your own vegetable stock … using scraps instead of tossing them, not buying stock. Or I could rave about the health benefits and dietary control … you choose what goes into it and how much sodium is in it. Or I could simply rave about the rich flavor the stock imparts to a number of foods. And, stock freezes well.

Celeste’s advice for stock: equal parts celery and carrot, with onion equal the amount of combined celery and carrot. The rest can be whatever scraps you have on hand, subject to the guidance about strongly flavored vegetables. Some say it’s not good to use the shavings of carrots and such, but I’ve tried both ways and it made little—if any difference in taste … maybe a slightly darker stock, but I don’t care about that so much.

I’ve made many variations and photographed very few of them. The bottom line: your ingredients don’t need to look good for this recipe, because it’s what inside that counts. You’re going to cook every ounce of flavor out of those scraps. Don’t use anything that’s overripe or gone bad, but feel free to use plenty of ugly. And if all you have is fresh, beautiful ingredients on hand, that’s just fine, too.

It’s easy: as you make other recipes, place scraps in a container or bag and store them in the refrigerator or freezer. Yes—you can freeze your scraps until you are ready to make stock. How convenient!

I like to add portobello mushroom stems because they add a really nice flavor. I’ve used scraps of green beans, garlic, scallions, and green onions. Onion and carrot tops and bottoms and a few bits of bell pepper rounded out a recent scrap pile. I’ve used fresh and frozen parsley; I even stuck some stems right in the freezer instead of prepping them in ice cube trays—and they worked fine. I subbed cilantro in a batch and it was nice, too.

If you can get your hands on some kombu, that will create an umami bomb. Umami, with all its rich savoriness, rounds out the five basic tastes (the other four are sweet, sour, bitter, and salty). Kombu is edible kelp and you can usually find it at an Asian market. Whether you use kombu or not, this stock is a wonderfully flavorful addition to your cooking. Kombu does add something magical, though, and is worth the investment.

Don’t add salt to the stock. After all, you’re going to use it in another recipe, and you can control the sodium in that recipe better if you use sodium-free stock. Vegetable stock is vegan, gluten-free and oh, so versatile. I have used it in place of water to add flavor to rice. I’ve used it in soups, sauces, and as a base to cook vegetables, meats, and plant-based proteins. 

If you’ve got time or like to multi-task, make it old school on the stove top. My favorite part about this method is how the aroma fills the room. If you need to go fast, then try making it with an Instant Pot. 

“Umami is the quasi-secret heart and soul of almost every braise, stew and soup.”

—Michael Pollan

Ingredients

1 C (scrap or diced) onion

1/2 C (scrap or diced) chopped or sliced carrot (including tops, bottoms, and peels)

1/2  C (scrap or diced) celery (avoid tops)

2 – 4 C  additional vegetable scraps, (avoid those that might be too strong; e.g., cruciferous veggies like broccoli or cabbage)  

TIP: you can repeat the onion/carrot/celery if needed); portobello mushroom stems are an excellent addition

1 TSBP grapeseed or canola oil

1/4 tsp peppercorns (whole)

1 large bay leaf (or 2 small)

10 sprigs of parsley or parsley stems

12 C water

Optional:

1 TBSP tomato paste

Small piece of kombu 

Prep time: about 90 minutes (Instant Pot, about an hour with kombu steep)

Yields: about 10-12 cups

vegetable stock variations and preparation at a glance.
Vegetable stock variations and preparation at a glance.

Directions

Prep the vegetables listed above the oil: chop and dice into large to medium-sized pieces. 

Pour grapeseed or other vegetable oil into a stock pot and heat to medium.

Sauté vegetables until the they soften a bit and onions are translucent.

(If using the optional tomato paste, include it with these vegetables and sauté until the paste darkens.)

Add all remaining ingredients EXCEPT the kombu and bring to boil.

Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered about an hour, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat and add kombu. Steep about 15 to 30 minutes.

Strain the stock through strainer and discard solids. Cool and store or use in a recipe. 

Instant Pot Recipe Adjustments

Instead of using a pot on the stovetop, select the sauté function on your Instant Pot. Add oil and sauté ingredients until veggies soften and onions become translucent. Turn off sauté function and add remaining ingredients except for kombu.

Ensure water does not go over the max line of your cooker. Select stock setting on Instant Pot and follow instructions for your version. After the pot beeps complete, turn off Instant Pot. Use recommended pressure release, open the lid and add Kombu. Steep 15-30 minutes. Strain stock and discard solids. Stock is ready to use or store.

Storage and Use

Store in an airtight container. Stock will store in refrigerator about a week and in the freezer about 3 months.

TIP: pour stock into ice cube trays and keep ice cubes in plastic bag or other sealable container.

Use as a base for numerous sauces and soups, such as Creamy Tomato Soup, Creamy Broccoli Soup, Baked Potato Soup, and Cauliflower Soup. Also use it in place of water to infuse flavor in rice and grains.

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