Taking Stock

One of the basics of every kitchen has to be stock. I use a lot of it every week for all kinds of dishes from soup to rice or quinoa pilaf. For years I was totally intimidated by the idea of making my own stock, but I recently had a request for how to make homemade stock and I’m happy to share that vegetable stock can be a pretty effortless process. One suggestion is when you prepare vegetables, instead of discarding the peels, ends and other throwaway pieces, stick them in a plastic bag and put in the freezer. When you want to make stock, add any leftover vegetables such as peas or green beans and you have the beginning of a great stock.
Vegetable Stock
I generally eat a vegetarian diet, so mostly I use vegetable stock. It’s quick, easy, and a great base for almost any dish. I don’t add salt because it’s easier to control the taste in my other dishes. Here is my recipe for a quick veggie stock.
2 medium onions, cut in half
2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, smashed with skins left on
Tablespoon of tomato paste

You can also use any tomato sauce you’ve got. I’ve even used leftover spaghetti sauce (without the spaghetti). Just don’t get carried away. Keep the amount to less than ¼ cup.

1 bay leaf
Tbsp. chopped parsley, if you have it.
1 tsp dried thyme
Ground black pepper to taste
Red bell pepper discards (optional)
Cup of Mushroom stock (optional)

Place ½ cup dried mushrooms in a bowl and pour boiling water over them to cover. Let them steep for about half an hour, while the vegetables roast, until the liquid is a nice rich brown. Add the liquid from the mushrooms to your stock base.

Directions:Put the vegetables in a shallow pan, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, and roast in the oven at 400 degrees for about 15-20 minutes.

Roasted Vegetables for Stock

Remove from the oven and place in a large pot, add the liquid from the mushrooms, and water until the vegetables are covered. Add the herbs and seasonings.   Bring to a simmer, cover and slowly simmer for about 20 minutes.

Stock Pot

Squish the vegetables just a little for a richer stock. Let cool and strain through a fine sieve or colander. Discard the vegetables or put them in the compost bin.

Vegetable Stock

Pour stock into glass jars or other containers and keep in the refrigerator for up to a week. You can also freeze for future use. I friend of mine pours the stock into ice cube trays and once frozen places them in freezer bags.

Meat Stock

Meat stock takes longer but is well worth the effort and I recommend you make a larger batch for convenience.  Here are the additional steps.

For beef stock, use meaty soup bones or leg bones from the supermarket.  They’re inexpensive and easy to work with (the dog, of course, will be very disappointed).  For chicken stock use that leftover chicken carcass or a package of wings and backs.  Place the bones and the same kind of vegetables you would use to make veggie stock in a shallow pan and roast in a 400 degree oven for about 45 minutes. If you already have vegetable stock on hand, just roast the bones, being careful not to char them.

Place the roasted bones, along with all the yummy bits from the roasting pan and the vegetables or vegetable stock in the slow cooker or stock pot.  I like to use my slow cooker for this because it doesn’t require as much supervision. Make sure the bones and vegetables are covered by about 2 inches of vegetable stock or water.  Simmer over a low heat, just below boiling, for 4-8 hours.  Check periodically to make sure the liquid is still covering the bones and veggies.  The trick is low and slow and it’s better if you don’t stir the stock.   The fats that are released from the bones will come to the top.  Gently skim away the fat and discard (not in the sink).  When the stock has simmered for at least 4 hours, you can stop the cooking process (but longer is better).  Remove the large bones and vegetable chunks and strain the stock through a fine sieve or colander covered with cheese cloth.  You want the stock to be rich but not cloudy.  In a bowl, chill the stock in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.  The remaining fat will solidify on the top and you can skim it off.

Beef Stock

Pour the stock into glass jars or other containers and store in the refrigerator for up to a week, or freeze for future use.  You can use this process for venison stock also.