Sometimes we want more stock than we can get from our weekly tub of vegetable trimmings. We might need it for risotto, but more likely soup, specifically when we want to make up more than just a couple of bowls. Of course, we could just head out to the store and buy a can or a box of stock off the shelf, but we’ve found that commercial stocks are often too sweet, or cloudy, which is a problem if you’re trying to make a clear soup. So, instead of hitting the canned-food aisle, we hit the produce section.
Simple vegetable stock really only needs a few ingredients, so it’s a quick in and out when you’re at the store; plus, they’re about the cheapest items you can buy, so making stock yourself can be a money saver. We will say that it takes a bit of time, but, fortunately, relatively little effort.
In addition to bay leaves, you can add other herbs depending on what you like, and what you’ll be making from the stock. Tarragon, thyme, even rosemary could be good additions. We tend to go with the simplest additions so we can use the stock anywhere. You can also add other vegetables, of course; just make sure that you’re using vegetable pieces that you could or would eat, as vegetables that are going bad will make bad-tasting stock. And, you do want to use the stock within a day or two; failing that, get it into the freezer.
Procedure in detail:
Preheat oven to 400°F. We like to line a baking sheet with parchment for easy cleanup. It’s not necessary, but you may end up scrubbing the pan a bit more, otherwise.
Chop vegetables. Trim off the desiccated ends of the carrots and celery, then cut into 1-2 inch chunks. Cut the onion into pieces of roughly the same size. No need to peel the onion provided it’s clean, as that contains flavor, too. We just trim off the root portion, and chop away. If you wish, you can cut the garlic cloves in half, but it’s not necessary.
Drizzle with oil. Place the carrots, celery, onion, and garlic on the prepared baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle everything with about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt to help draw out the moisture while baking, concentrating the flavor.
Roast. Slide into the oven and bake until the vegetables are soft and beginning to brown in places. Those brown spots add flavor, so you want those.
Simmer. Remove the vegetables from the oven and transfer to a large stock pot. Add the bay leaves and about 2 quarts of water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat and simmer until the vegetables are very soft, but not falling apart, about 45 minutes.
Cool. Let the stock cool until you can handle it safely. Depending on your ability and equipment, you might not have to cool the stock at all.
Strain. You can do this several ways. We line a funnel with a coffee filter for straining broth, but a fine mesh sieve will work, or a colander lined with butter muslin or several layers of cheesecloth; you want something that will allow the stock to go through, but keep the vegetable particles in place. Once you have your set-up ready, start straining stock.
That’s it! A couple of hours of cooking, a few minutes of working, about $2-3 worth of vegetables, and you have several quarts of fresh, home-scratched stock. The best part is that you control all the flavors. The amount of salt, whether you want lots of garlic and onion or very little. And, after you’ve done this once or twice, you find that it’s pretty easy, and anything you make using stock will be better, because it’ll truly be your dish. That’s always worth five stars in our book.