Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Secret to Great Vegetable Stock

The last time my mother-in-law, Marilyn, came for dinner we served a homemade barley stew. She thought it was great and said to my vegetarian wife, Suzy, "But you used beef stock!" 

"No, its vegetable stock!" Suzy replied. 

The best news of all is that it is easy to make stock that will keep everyone guessing. Start to finish a batch of vegetable stock takes two hours. Meat and bone broths can take the better part of a day. The secret to giving your vegetable stock the same richness as its meaty counterparts is roasting the vegetables. A little bit of oven imbued caramelization is all it takes. It is also important to make a big batch. Eight liters of stock takes just as long to make as one, so go big!

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Take:
24 stalks of celery (about 2 stalks)
24 medium carrots 
24 small onions, skin on
2 heads of garlic, skin on
and chop into roughly equally sized chunks. Toss in a large bowl with
1/4 cup of olive oil
Fresh ground pepper
Spread the vegetables on two 3/4 sheet pans and roast in the oven for 20 minutes. Stir and swap the sheet pans and roast for approximately another 20 minutes. The vegetables will be fragrant and brown at the edges, and the onion and garlic skins crispy when they are ready. Transfer the vegetables from the pans to a large stock pot one at a time. Deglaze the sheet pans with some:
Boiling water
And scrape the brown bits from the pan into the stock pot and add:
6 bay leaves
48 peppercorns (or therabouts)
A bunch of parsley or a half cup of dry parsely 
Boiling water to cover
And bring to a simmer (never a boil!) for one hour. Decant the pot through a sturdy strainer into a large bowl.  Mash the vegetables in the strainer to get as much richness into the stock as possible. Decant the stock from the bowl into liter mason jars through a fine mesh strainer to remove any grit. Use immediately or let them cool and you can store the jars in the fridge for up to a month. The jars also make it easy to decant into a one liter freezer bag for long storage!

We also keep a stock bag in the freezer with the trimmings from our day to day cooking and add them to the pot when we make stock. Waste not, want not!

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