Easy Vegetable Stock
Vegetable stock is a pantry staple for me. I think I use it almost daily, actually. It’s so much more useful than just a base for soups. Cook quinoa, farro and rice in it for extra flavor; sauté vegetables in it; add it to mashed potatoes; use it to braise meats. Basically, you can replace water with vegetable stock in nearly any savory recipe to give the final dish extra flavor and oomph.
I have a major issue with store bought, pre-made stocks, though: they are full of allergens! Many use mushrooms to add a depth of flavor and umami quality. Others use yeast extract to do basically the same thing. On top of that, you’ll often see “natural flavors” listed in the ingredients which is a red flag on any packaged food.
“Natural flavors” are typically used to trick your taste buds into thinking something is better than it is by making food seem fresher or more flavorful, even adding in a hint of a food that isn’t present at all. I do one of two things when this ingredient is in a product I want to buy: 1, walk away because it’s not worth the risk, or 2, call the customer service number on the label and request to know what is included in their “natural flavors.” I usually end up being allergic to whatever is in it and can’t buy the product so option 1 is my norm these days.
My quest to find a pre-packaged stock has ended because I simply can’t find one that works with my allergies. After making my own stock, I really don’t know why I resisted it for so long. It’s seriously mindless, takes next to no prep work and the vegetables you need are probably already in your fridge.
Another plus, you can make the flavor profile whatever you want. I love celery, so I add more celery. I also love fennel so I use a full bulb. If you like leeks, add leeks! Go crazy!
Once you gather all the vegetables and herbs you want, roughly chop them up and sweat them out for a few minutes to help sweeten and release their flavor. Some people advocate cutting the vegetables more finely so more flavor is released into the stock but I’m lazy. I also peel the onion, garlic, carrots and parsnip, because their skins can hold mold even after a good scrubbing, which some would say is a big no-no. If you’re not concerned, leave the skins on!
The amount of water you add will determine how concentrated your flavor is. I add about 4 quarts of water which reduces to roughly 12 cups of stock after an hour. The flavor doesn’t hit you in the face but it’s also not subtle. If you want it stronger I’d suggest adding less water.
After an hour, give or take, scoop out all the vegetables with a slotted spoon or a fine mesh strainer. There’s not much you can do with the vegetables because they’ll be pretty bland at this point. Either discard them or save the carrots and celery as a treat for your dog. Pour the stock through a fine mesh strainer into storage jars, cooling completely before freezing, or store in the refrigerator. The stock will last 3 days in the fridge or up to 3 months in the freezer.
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 carrots, peeled
- 2 parsnip, peeled
- 3 celery stalks
- 1 bulb fennel
- 1 large onion, peeled
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled
- 6 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 small bunch parsley
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp whole black peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 quarts water
- Roughly chop all vegetables. Heat olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add in all ingredients except water and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 1 hour.
- Remove vegetables with a slotted spoon or fine mesh strainer and discard. Pour stock through a fine mesh strainer into storage containers. Let cool completely before freezing.