Vegetable stock has so many uses and can elevate just about anything it’s added to; it’s become essential to my kitchen setup. It’s also really cheap to make a ton of it, so I find myself making it quite often. I used to prepare it according to the free recipe online that has “5 Stars” (if you trust the pedestrian masses and their derivative “star system”, go ahead and use that recipe (but it’s a blunder, I say!)). That recipe was fine until I started shopping around and trying other recipes.
I’ve adapted Mark Bittman’s recipe from his great book How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. This is the best vegetable stock I’ve tried. Once prepared, you can use this surprisingly hearty stock to build a soup (I’ve made everything from vegetarian chili to tortilla soup with this stock), sauce, to fortify grains like quinoa (use stock in place of water), or you can just sip it on a hot summer day (if you’re into that).
I like to make about two quarts (1/2 gallon) at any given time—you can cut this recipe in half or double it depending on how much you want to make, but bear in mind that it only takes a few more minutes of prep to double or triple this recipe. (Storage information follows):
Bittman’s One-Hour Vegetable Stock:
You’ll need a stock pot (or at least a pot large enough to hold about a gallon) and a mesh strainer.
2 tablespoons of olive oil (don’t use your best stuff—this is just for frying the veggies)
4 sliced carrots
2 quartered onions (don’t bother peeling)
2 sliced potatoes
2 chopped celery stalks
4-6 cloves of garlic (don’t bother peeling)
10 halved mushrooms (I go for the cheap stuff here)
(Optional) 10-20 sprigs of parsley (I haven’t used this because I never have parsley on-hand)
4 tablespoons soy sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
1. After washing your celery, potatoes, carrots, etc. chop all the vegetables. You don’t have to be precise here; keep the skins on the onions and garlic—you’ll be straining the stock, so don’t worry about it. Don’t use frozen vegetables for this recipe; these hold too much excess water which will prevent browning in step 3. And besides, fresh vegetables are purty.
2. Put the olive oil in a deep pot (I recommend using a stock pot so not to dirty every dish in the house) over medium high heat.
3. Add the vegetables and let them cook undisturbed for 3-5 minutes (you’re trying to brown the veggies here, so don’t freak out if they start caramelizing; that’s flavor country, friend). Add some salt here to draw out moisture, stir once or twice and cook until vegetables start to brown.
4. Add parsley, 12 cups of water, the soy sauce, and some pepper (it’ll hiss at you and steam up; I use a pitcher to keep my hand out of the heat). Bring to a boil, then lower heat so it simmers steadily, but gently.
5. Cook about 30 minutes to an hour (longer is better, but don’t go much over an hour or the veggies will break down).
6. Strain (I use a mesh strainer and a second pot thusly). From here, you are supposed to discard the vegetables (the carrots/celery are a flavorless but can be used to thicken a soup down the line). But I’ve found that you can definitely repurpose the potatoes (which having absorbed the flavors of onion and garlic, are pretty tasty) and the mushrooms (though I found that the stalks were a bit chewy).
7. Taste and adjust seasoning. I added a bit more salt and soy sauce when I made this recipe (bear in mind that this isn’t meant to be a completed soup—it’s not meant to stand on its own).
8. Good job. You now have a ton of stock.
So you’ll probably run into the practical concern of storing the stuff.
Luckily, storing stock is easy and you have a few options:
Long-term condensed version: Once you’re done with the recipe above (having properly seasoned your stock) and have discarded (or repurposed) your veggies, continue boiling it down to about half its original volume then store it in the freezer (I use gallon Ziploc freezer bags (you can reuse ‘em too!)). When you’re ready to use the stock, remember to add water to the stock concentrate.
Note: Some people store their condensed stock in ice cube trays for ease of use in making sauces, stir-frys, etc. We don’t talk about those people. If you meet any of these people, remember that they are (presumably) unwholesome and untrustworthy (they’re probably lizard owners).
Long-term regular version: Let it cool, pour it into a massive Tupperware or a Ziploc freezer bag). Now sit back and watch as your roommates/partner reacts to the sudden loss of freezer space. Remember to write down notes in your copybook*.
*Try drawing a picture of their reaction and email it to me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Short-term: Refrigerate that; make a soup out of it (like a trustworthy non-lizard owner).
I hope that this recipe becomes essential to your kitchen too. It’s cheap, easy, hands-off, completely vegetarian (vegan even), and it’s delicious. Enjoy.
Next Time: The weird world of homemade “wheat meat,” or “HAIL SEITAN!”