is the unsung hero of many a fabulous meal. It is made by gently simmering bones or vegetables to extract their flavour, aroma and colour. By swapping out water for this delicious liquid, you can add tremendous depth of flavour, which takes a simple home cooked meal to another level entirely. I’m not talking about the powdered you buy in tins, cubes or sachets all of which I find mainly tastes of  salt. I’m referring to the liquid gold lovingly made from scratch at home to suit your own tastes and preferences. The other great thing about homemade is that you can knock up a batch for free using vegetable scraps left over from making other meals. Sometimes, there is more flavour, nutrients and colour in the bits of the vegetables you would normally compost or give to animals. Don’t worry about not having the time to make up each time you cook either, just make up big batches when you can and freeze in tubs or ice cube trays for later use.

Some of the main uses for are:

  • as base for sauces and soups
  • as base for curries, casseroles and braises
  • as a cooking liquid for vegetables
  • as a cooking liquid for and grains

Basic Classic stock base ingredients

I always have basic stock on hand as it is very versatile. If I am going to produce a more complex stock I generally build on this combination:

Mirepoix –  a classic combination of roughly cut carrot, celery and onion.  These vegetables are aromatics and when slowly cooked to release their flavours/liquids they produce a stock that enhances the aroma, flavour and balance of other food. Onions add a sweetness that is enhanced by the carrots. Celery adds vegetal notes and a slight bitterness. The proportions for making a classic mirepoix are 50% onions, 25% carrots and 25% celery.

Water – There are no hard and fast rules about water ratio in vegetable stock higher the water to vegetable ratio the stronger the flavour. I tend to opt for a 1: 1 ratio of water to vegetables and then I reduce the water content by half during the simmering process.

Herbs – I commonly use fresh parsley, thyme and bay leaves. Dried herbs can be used, but avoid ground herbs as they will be difficult to strain out.

Spices – I always add whole peppercorns. Crushed can be used, but whole is preferable as it is easier to strain out.

Tips for making stock

Making stock is a very personal thing and you can tweak it to your tastes, the end use of the stock or what vegetables, herbs and spices you have on hand. Different combinations of ingredients can change the flavour and the colour markedly, but remember often with stock less is more. Using too many different herbs, spices and vegetables can lead to a confused and not particularly pleasant stock. Here are some tips for formulating your own stock:

Always use cold water – Cold water should always be added when making stock as some proteins only dissolve in cold water e.g. albumin. Albumin helps clarify the stock.

Salt – A broth is fully seasoned as it can be eaten as a finished product.  Stock is a base and so it’s better to add the salt to the final dish as you may want to further reduce the stock, or add other salty ingredients

Stock colour – Onion skins turn the stock a rich caramel colour, if you prefer a clear stock leave these out and opt for chopped onion. Beetroot will turn the stock red. Tomatoes and Mushrooms will also darken the stock and leek greens can produce a slight greenish tinge. Potato and potato skins contain starch and don’t add much taste but make the stock cloudy so I tend to leave them out.

Roast, sweat or caramelise – Roasting, sweating or caramelising the stock before adding the water can enhance flavour and sweetness. For a light coloured stock simply sweat in oil then add the water before the vegetables start to change colour. For a darker, richer stock,  saute in oil until they are golden brown or roast first in a hot oven.

Herbs and Spices – The choice of herbs and spices depends on personal taste, but avoid using too many different types or the flavours compete and not produce a pleasant stock.

Wine – If you have wine or vermouth to use up you can certainly add this into the mix. Wine adds acidity and depth, but can overpower the subtle vegetable flavours. If using mushrooms and tomatoes, white wine works well. For a darker stock, with roasted or caramelised vegetables, red can be a good choice.

Umami – It can be difficult to incorporate the satisfying, moreish umami taste into vegetable dishes. If you are looking to add some umami flavour to the stock, try incorporating fresh or dried mushrooms (e.g. chanterelle, porcini, or shiitake), miso, parmesan rinds, seaweed or tomatoes (especially sun dried or tomato paste). Vegemite or marmite also add umami and a meaty depth. Star Anise can be used to boost umami flavours when paired with caramelised onions.

Foods to avoid –  I avoid vegetables from the Brassicaceae such as Kale, Turnips, brussel sprouts, cabbage etc. as the sulphur content can make them bitter and overpowering, as can aubergine.

Bad quality ingredients – Whilst you can use veg that has seen better days, and offcuts you must absolutely avoid using mouldy or slimy veg, mouldy old herbs or anything covered in dirt!

Other Additions that work well – Using a range of different alliums e.g scallions, leeks etc. rather than just onion adds complexity. Corn cobs can offer a fabulous buttery mouth feel. Garlic is an excellent addition but has a very detectable taste so if you want your stock to be multi-purpose it can be better to add it at the stage of the finished dish. Fennel, chard, lettuce, green beans, beet greens, parsnip, squash, capsicum and asparagus all work well. Some legumes e.g.chick peas and lentils also can be surprisingly good additions to stock.

Scraps or perfect fresh ingredients?

Some cooks are truly disgusted by the use of scraps and offcuts in stock and think it produces an inferior product. To them if you are going to spend the time to make your own stock, you should use the highest quality ingredients possible. Often these people also use filtered water and also spend a lot of time clarifying their stock. I tend to use both depending on what I have available. I am a home cook and generally cannot tell the difference between stock made with offcuts and that made with better quality cuts of veg…infact sometimes I prefer the stock made using scraps. Maybe it’s just the fact that I am using an otherwise waste product that makes it more special to me.  I use homegrown or organic produce so I have no concerns about using peel, but if using standard shop bought this may be an issue you want to consider this with certain veg. I am however, very careful to only use good quality scraps, if you allow them to sit around they can become slimy. I recommend keeping a large bag or container in the freezer and adding scraps to it every time you have them then cook up large batches of stock when you have plenty. Scraps I often use include:

  • Celery leaves stems and bottom
  • Onion skin tops and bottoms
  • Garlic skin and offcuts (the skin offers no taste but contains antioxidants and pectin)
  • Mushroom stalks, peel and gills
  • Over-ripe tomatoes
  • Leek greens
  • Herb stems
  • Carrot tops, tails and peel – I use them if I have them on hand that day, but less so than other scraps as my pigs and dogs love them. Some people find the addition of carrot peel and offcuts in stock make it bitter. I generally can’t tell the difference, nor can my husband.

My Everyday Stock recipe

This is probably the combination of ingredients I use most often for everyday use. The garlic and herbs are best added to taste so I haven’t listed quantities here. It’s a good idea to regularly taste the stock whilst cooking and modify the herbs as spices to taste.

Equipment 

  • Heavy bottomed pan or Stockpot
  • Strainer
  • Chopping knife
  • Storage containers/giant ice cube trays

Ingredients

Use either whole veg, scraps or a combination depending on what you have available

  • 800g Onion
  • 400g Carrots
  • 400g Celery
  • 200g tomato
  • 200g mushroom
  • Garlic
  • Parsley
  • Thyme
  • Bay
  • Peppercorns
  • 4 litres cold water
  • Olive oil

Methods

Step 1. Roughly chop the vegetables then wash thoroughly. The mirepoix should be cut into approximately one-inch pieces, to allow maximum flavour to be released into the stock. Cut the pieces around the same size will promote even cooking time. Very finely chopped mirepoix can break down too quickly and make the stock cloudy.

Step 2. Add oil to the pan

Step 3. Slowly saute the carrot, celery and onion over medium heat for 5-10 mins

Step 4. Add mushrooms and tomatoes and saute for a further 5 minutes

Step 5. Add garlic cook for about 30 seconds until fragrant, then pour in the cold water

Step 5. Bring the liquid to the boil, then simmer uncovered for about 45 minutes. Taste the vegetables and if they have no taste the stock should be ready, the liquid will have also reduced by about half.  If you simmer any longer than an hour,  the stock will start to lose flavour and the vegetables can break down and make the stock cloudy.  The vegetables must be covered in water at all times. If the water level falls too low at any point during the process simply top up with just enough to cover them.

Step 6. Add herbs and spices 20 minutes before the end of cooking time. These can be added as a bouquet garni (herb bundle tied together with unwaxed string) or sachet (bag made with cheesecloth) tied to the pan handle making them easier to remove when cooking is done. I like to keep things as simple as possible so I often just save the string/cheesecloth and throw them in.

Step 7. Strain the stock through a colander, then line with cheesecloth or coffee filter and strain again

Step 8. Chill quickly, skim off any fat and use immediately or store in a jar and keep in fridge for up to 3 days

Alternatively freeze to use when needed. I pour mine into a giant silicone ice cube mould and just add cubes whenever I need stock.

The rapid chilling and filtering helps to achieve a clear stock, but there are a number of extra steps you can take to fully clarify the liquid. I won’t go into those here, but you can find easily using google. At the end of the day I’m cooking for my family, not looking for Michelin stars so I’m happy with a cloudier stock…just as long as it is jam packed with flavour!

Making Vegetable Stock from Scraps
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Tips, tricks and recipe to make your own delicious vegetable stock at home from scratch
Author:
Recipe type: Vegetable Stock
Serves: 1 litre
Ingredients
  • 800g Onion
  • 400g Carrots
  • 400g Celery
  • 200g tomato
  • 200g mushroom
  • Garlic
  • Parsley
  • Thyme
  • Bay
  • Peppercorns
  • 4 litres cold water
  • Olive oil
Instructions
  1. Roughly chop the vegetables then wash thoroughly. The mirepoix should be cut into approximately one-inch pieces, this will allow maximum flavour to be released into the stock. If possible, try to cut the pieces around the same size to allow even cooking time. Very finely chopped mirepoix can break down too quickly and make the stock cloudy.
  2. Add oil to the pan
  3. Slowly saute the carrot, celery and onion over medium heat for 5-10 mins
  4. Add mushrooms and tomatoes and saute for 5 minutes
  5. Add garlic cook for about 30 seconds until fragrant, then pour in the cold water
  6. Bring the liquid to the boil, then simmer uncovered for about 45 minutes. Taste the vegetables and if they have no taste the stock should be ready, the liquid will have also reduced by about half. If you simmer any longer than an hour, the stock will start to lose flavour and the vegetables can break down and make the stock cloudy. The vegetables must be covered in water at all times. If the water level falls too low at any point during the process simply top up with just enough to cover them
  7. Add herbs and spices 20 minutes before the end of cooking time. These can be added as a bouquet garni (herb bundle tied together with unwaxed string) or sachet (bag made with cheesecloth) tied to the pan handle making them easier to remove when cooking is done. I like to keep things as simple as possible so I often just save the string/cheesecloth and throw them in.
  8. Strain the stock through a colander, then line with cheesecloth or coffee filter and strain again
  9. Chill quickly, skim off any fat and use immediately or store in a jar and keep in fridge for up to 3 days
  10. Alternatively freeze to use when needed. I pour mine into a giant silicone ice cube mould and just add cubes whenever I need stock.

 


Related Posts 

2 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

*

Rate this recipe:  

After you have typed in some text, hit ENTER to start searching...