Making vegetable stock is so easy, yet I’m guessing that not all of you have homemade stock on hand. By the time I remember to make some stock, I only have half an onion or a single celery stalk to work with and something about buying a whole basket of fresh veggies just to boil them down into stock is sacrilege to me. To remedy the situation, here is an easy, why-haven’t-I-done-this-before tip for making your own vegetable stock: save veggie scraps, peels & extras in the freezer throughout the week and once the bag fills up, you’ve got your stock ingredients!
That’s the great part about stock– you can use the leftover parts of veggies that would otherwise go to waste. In addition to cutting up a few extra chunks of whatever vegetable I’m working with, I also save onion peels, carrot ends, leek greens and other scraps. I keep a gallon-size freezer bag at the ready and just toss in whatever I have leftover. I try to gauge the balance of veggies in there so I don’t end up with a freezer bag of just onion. Alternatively, you could have a few different bags going so you can spread our your veggie scraps, but freezer space is at a premium in my kitchen so I just keep one bag of stock-ready vegetables.
A few tips for building your stockpile:
- As you chop and prepare veggies throughout the week, remember to slice up a few extras to throw in your stockpile.
- If you know you won’t go through all of a certain vegetable, save a few pieces of it and put them in the freezer right when you buy them. For instance, I rarely use up an entire head of celery so when I always break apart a few stalks as soon as I bring them home and throw them in my freezer bag.
- You don’t need to peel the veggies! Scrub and wash them like you normally would, but you can save the peeling for another recipe. So easy, right? Speaking of easy…
- Cut your veggies into large chunks. Small pieces can get mushed up and disintegrate into the stock; plus they are harder to strain out. So you can keep your veggies in really large chunks for stock– think an entire medium-sized carrot or half of a celery stalk.
- Post a list on your fridge of the veggies to save for the stockpile. I tend to save celery, leeks, onions, carrots, garlic and tomatoes the most. I’ll toss in a few mushrooms or broccoli florets every once and awhile for a darker stock, but I generally avoid using much asparagus, bell peppers, cabbage, Brussels sprouts or cauliflower in my stocks. Starchy vegetables like peas and potatoes can make your stock a bit cloudy, but feel free to throw a few in if you’d like.
- Fresh herbs can also be frozen in your stockpile, but I tend to go easy on them so that the stock remains neutral enough to use in various recipes.
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion (or its equivalent; think onion skins, and various chunks of onion equalling about 1 cup)
- 1 tomato (or a few cherry tomatoes)
- 2-3 carrots
- 2-3 celery stalks
- leek greens (or whatever you have leftover)
- 3 cloves garlic, sliced in half or crushed (you can use the skins too)
- 8 cups of water, or enough to cover veggies in a large stockpot
- fresh herbs, if desired
- black pepper & sea salt
Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat. Add in the vegetables and cook for about 15 minutes or until they are all tender. (You could also roast the veggies first, which yields a great-tasting broth but adds in a little bit more work and more dishes.)
Add enough water to fully cover the vegetables and any fresh herbs you’d like to use. Grind a few twists of black peppercorn into the stock and a pinch or two of sea salt if desired. Reduce the heat to a low simmer, cover and let cook for at least one hour.
Remove the stock from heat and let cool a bit. Strain out the veggies with a mesh strainer, pressing those wilted, boiled veggies to extract every last bit of liquid. Discard the veggies and transfer the stock into a storage container. If I’ll be using it within the next few days, I pour it into a large glass jar or several smaller ones. If I’m freezing it for later, I let it cool completely before pouring it into smaller freezer bags. Then I lay them down horizontally on a baking sheet and put them in the freezer. Once frozen, you can stack the flat bags of stock on top of each other to save room in the freezer.