A Better Vegetable Stock
Vegetable stocks frequently come out dull and flavorless. This recipe attempts to remedy some of the missteps that prevent these veggies from reaching their full potential. Unlike a meat based stock that would be covered and cooked for hours, this recipe is cooked much quicker as the volume of liquid reduces to concentrate the flavor. The most important ingredient in a vegetable stock is anything from the onion (allium) family as this is where much of the flavor will come from. Vegetable stock is frequently made with leftover vegetable parts of all kinds but the addition of onions is crucial. Feel free to use any variety of onion and as much garlic as you like and about half the total vegetable volume coming from the allium family is a good guideline. The next important consideration is to create more surface area. Big chunks of carrots and onions render much less flavor than when they are in smaller pieces. Using a cheese grater to grate the carrot for example renders much more flavor and color than simply chopping it with a knife. Finally, cooking the vegetables in a little vegetable fat renders far more flavor than simply adding them to water. Dried mushrooms add a lot of depth of flavor however they are not always at hand and can be expensive. This stock will work out either with or without the mushrooms and I suggest trying it both ways. The use of dried mushrooms will render a stock on par with those created with meat. If not using dried mushrooms however, just eliminate the first step. The stock’s future usage can dictate what direction (additions) you may want to build it up with – see end of recipe for ideas.
1/2 oz dried porcini mushrooms
1 tsp whole peppercorns
2 tbsps Olive oil
head of garlic roughly chopped
2 large carrots shredded with cheese grater
a few sprigs fresh parsley
2 bay leaves
1 tsp salt
16 cups water (4 quarts)
Begin by placing the dried mushrooms in a bowl, and pour 2 cups of boiling water over them, set aside.
Next, prepare all vegetables as indicated and don’t be too concerned with uniformity. Keep carrot tops and onion butts off to the side, we will throw them in as well.
Bring a stockpot to medium heat and add peppercorns. Cook for a few minutes, until they become fragrant then remove peppercorns and set aside in a small bowl.
Add olive oil to the stockpot, increase heat to med-high and add chopped onion.
When onion begins to brown, add the copped garlic and reduce heat to med-low.
Continue to cook and reduce heat as needed to allow the onion to cook slowly and become well-browned (caramelized).
Next, add the grated carrot and any extra pieces of vegetables as well such as onion butts and carrot tops.
Add peppercorns back to pot as well as bay leaf and parsley.
Next add mushrooms and their juices (if using) and salt.
Add the remaining 14 cups of water to the stockpot and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat as needed to maintain gentle simmer and cook until water level is reduced by roughly 1/3. This should take about 60 minutes.
If the broth does not have enough flavor continue to cook down until it does. Also, add more salt if needed.
Let sit to cool before straining through a metal strainer, which can be lined with cheesecloth if you desire to get all the tiniest remnants removed.
Now you can throw those vegetables in the compost now that they have done their job.
other worthy stock additions:
fresh or dried herbs
fresh mushrooms, kombu seaweed, ginger, turmeric root
vegetables that do not work well for stock:
broccoli, spinach, kale, other leafy greens
potatoes, beets, zucchini, squash