For those who have been regular readers of our blog, you will know that Tony has made a couple of significant contributions as a guest contributor. Each time that he has published here, our reading numbers go through the roof. Now, I know that Tony is a likable guy, but nothing seems to justify the huge following that he has. We have been mightily impressed and have invited Tony to become our very first “Regular Contributor”. Welcome aboard, sir. We are pleased to have you with us. Your next promotion will be Associate Regular Contributor. After that it is only a short hop, skip and a jump to Senior Regular Contributor. Same pay, but one helluva title!
What follows is a thoughtful walk through the hows and whys of making your own vegetable stock. I can smell the fresh produce roasting and then offering up its flavors and aromas as it simmers for hours. You will quickly understand why Tony is a regular here. It was a natural fit.
What follows is 100% Tony!
I have decided that homemade vegetable stock is one of the most versatile ingredients that you can have on hand. It’s one of the few things I cook that transcends many of the modern food allergies and food lifestyles. This isn’t the reason I value the precious liquid. If you are adding liquid to any food that you are cooking, then it is should taste good. Its precious quality comes from both the ease that it can be prepared, the very low cost to prepare it and how well it is stored and ready to use.
Here in Lunenburg, Massachusetts we have an embarrassment of riches. Local farms yield amazing produce. We have farm stands and farmer’s markets from late spring to late fall, some open daily and some a couple of times a week. We also have a dairy farm, and nearby butchers that raise their own meat and fresh eggs at almost every turn.
The seasonal goods are the most exciting. I have access to English peas, blueberries and tender greens and lettuces in the spring. Early summer yields small, salad tomatoes, early potatoes, spinach, chard, fresh, spicy garlic and amazing raspberries, blueberries and strawberries. As the summer drags along, peppers, carrots, beets, heirloom tomatoes and a bounty of herbs start to appear.
The fall brings winter squash of wide variety, onions, apples, celery, the sweetest corn, and a large variety of beans such as green string beans, yellow wax beans and even fave beans. We also start to see heartier greens like various types of kale, and one one of my new favorite vegetables, Kale sprouts. It’s a leafy hybrid of brussel sprouts and kale that is a milder version of both parents. I hope to share this gem with you if and when it surfaces this season.
I have also decided that beef stock (unless you expel the energy to make it yourself—which sucks, frankly) is pointless. The store bought stuff is loaded with salt and caramel coloring and God knows what else. The brown paste referred to as “base” is highly questionable. Just don’t use it. It isn’t needed. You can sub this veg stock in place of beef broth, stock or water with better results. Hell, store bought chicken stock is better than beef stock, in my opinion.
Right now the leeks, celery, several varieties of onions, parsley and carrots are at their peak here in lovely Lunenburg. It’s the perfect time to make a mess of vegetable stock. The recipe is simple. The time and patience required to produce this stock is now your problem.
Here’s what you need:
• 4 to 6 carrots, depending on size
• 1 large onion
• 2 to 4 leeks (my leeks were very small and had almost no green atop, so I used four)
• 3 ribs of celery (save the leafy tops of a couple of ribs)
• 4 or 5 sprigs of parsley
• 2 cloves of garlic (optional)
• 2 bay leaves
• 1 Tbs of whole black peppercorns
• 4 quarts of water
• time and patience
Thoroughly clean the carrots, celery, leeks and onions. Toss them in olive or canola oil and spread them out on a sheet pan.
Roast for 30 minutes at 425 degrees.
The time and high heat creates some caramelized bits on the pan that will be beneficial to the final product.
Combine the roasted veg to a stock pot or dutch oven and add the bay leaf, garlic, celery tops and the parsley.
Pour hot water over the sheet pan and scrape the caramelized bits and add that to the pot.
Add the four quarts of water.
Bring the mixture to a boil and drop the heat until the liquid is just barely boiling and cook for at least three hours.
You want about 12 cups of liquid after reduction.
When it’s finished, strain with a fine mesh strainer and store in containers that suit your needs, e.g, freezer safe or fridge safe. It could also be used immediately to make risotto, for example. This liquid gold stores in the freezer for at least six months and in the fridge for 7-10 days.
A couple of cook’s notes:
First and foremost, DO NOT ADD SALT! Adding salt increases the likelihood that the recipe in which you ultimately use this stock will be too salty and rendered revolting.
Secondly, my recipe produces a product that is both onion-y and heavy in celery flavor. I do this because it offers the freedom to water down the stock for some recipes and leave as is for others. If either of the flavors offend, then simply omit the onion (leeks are usually more mild) or the celery tops.
Finally, to taste the finished product, I ladle a small portion into a mug, sprinkle in some salt and force my children to tell me how great I am. Soup’s on!