Saturday, October 15, 2011

Vegetable Stock

I got the basics of this recipe from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone but have made it my own as a staple since. Since it is fairly quick and easy to make, I tend not to store it but just make as needed, for soups or a vegetarian dish.
Vegetables prepared for the stock

Stockpot with oil

Just after adding the vegetables to the pot

Halfway through the cooking

Caramelized just prior to adding the water

Stock simmering after the straining

Even though the recipe calls for a stockpot, you can make it in any large pot but make sure it has a thick heavy bottom. 
I don't see many recipes for vegetable stocks call for this, but I try to get a caramelization from the vegetables prior to adding the water, almost but not quite to the point of scorching them. I find that this imparts quite a bit more flavor to the stock. Just be careful not to burn the vegetables.

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion peeled and quartered
2 carrots cut into chunks
2 celery ribs cut into chunks
1 leek (optional) - roots and all cut into chunks
1 bunch parsley whole
3 cloves garlic peeled and smashed
Handful thyme twigs whole
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
3 bay leaves

2 quarts cold water

Put a large stockpot over high heat and add the oil.

When the oil is hot, add all of the vegetables and spices, stirring to get them all coated with the oil.

Keep an eye on the pot as the vegetables heat up and stir occasionally to distribute the heat evenly among them. I look for some browning on the vegetables and for them to shrink fairly significantly, the idea being to release the water in them allowing the inherent sugars to remain. I find this takes about 10-15 minutes.

Once I've gotten them to a caramelized state, I add the cold water and bring to a boil then reduce to a steady simmer, leaving the top partially on. Allow to cook at this rate for about 25-30 minutes but no longer as this is just about enough time to infuse the water with all of the flavors that the vegetables can impart to the stock.

Remove from heat and remove the vegetables from the stock. I tend to use tongs to lift out as many as possible then drain the remaining contents of the pot into a colander over another large pot. I then put a strainer over the original pot and drain the contents of the second pot back in that one.

If you are going to be using it right away for a soup or a recipe, keep the pot on the stove and bring it back up to just short of boiling before adding to whatever you're making. 

This also freezes very well. I'd recommend storing in amounts that you're likely to need for a recipe, like 1 or 2 cup plastic containers that can be put into a microwave to thaw and empty into a pot to bring back to a simmer.

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