Date: Sat, 26 Mar 94 22:01:00 PST
From: J. Ari Kornfeld (email@example.com)
Making Vegetable Stock
Soup stock is very easy to make - especially if you have a pressure
cooker. Simply throw a bunch of vegetables into the pot, add water,
bring the pressure up to high for 15-30 minutes, turn of the flame and
forget about it for an hour or more. If you don't have a pressure
cooker, the cooking time is much longer but the method is the same.
Soup stock is very versatile. It is an absolute must for cooking
grains (you haven't tasted whole grains until you've cooked them in
stock!), for cooking beans, and for sauteeing vegetables. Oh, and of
course, as the base for making soup. I usually don't eat the stock
plain intentionally. (We store it in the same container we use for
juice and sometimes mix the two up - talk about rude awakenings!)
Many books include recipes for making soup stock. The best one,
however, one that is especially tailored to your own tastes and
kitchen practices. The following discussion explains how I approach
the art of soup stock. This is not a recipe but rather a guide. Once
you have tried home-made vegetable stock you will never want to go
back to the commercial stuff. (NOTE: Technically, this stock is named
"Kitchen Sink Vegetable Stock" ;-)
Soup stock is much like a good painting. A painting consists of a
background which provides the context for the subject matter, a
foreground which presents the subject, and highlighting which makes
the flat picture "come alive." Soup stock also is composed of
background flavors, foreground flavors, and the highlighting which, as
for the painting, make the taste "come alive" in your mouth.
The following ideas are for a recipe that makes 2-3 quarts of stock.
I put the first 64 oz in a juice jar and freeze the remainder as ice
cubes or use it immediately to make soup or grains. Sometimes I
finish the refrigerated portion in less than a week, sometimes it
lasts for several weeks. Stock should keep for at least 2 weeks in a
cold refrigerator. (I set my fridge on the low end of the "normal"
The background flavor is less intense than the other flavors
and generally provides a sweetish taste. I use crunchy root
vegetables, chopped roughly, for the background, and have found
that fresh vegetables work best for this. Use around 3 of these.
- Parsnisp, turnips, rutabagas, celery root
- Carrots (old, wilted ones are fine)
- Corn (old ones. Yes, I know, it's not a root, but it is sweet)
For more exotic flavors try stuff like Daikon Radish.
A second component to the background is onion/garlic-like foods
(pungent?? savory?). Once again, I find that fresh works best.
Add some of each:
- Garlic (use a whole head, unpeeled. After the soup is done the
garlic will be "roasted." Squeeze it out and mix it in the stock or
use for other things.)
- Leeks (my current favorite) - cut the leeks in half, lengthwise,
pull apart and clean thoroughly to remove the mud.
WHAT I DON'T USE:
- potatoes. Potato is a thickener. I prefer keeping the stock
thin. If I want a thick soup I add potatoes when making the
soup rather than when making the stock. I would appreciate hearing
other people's experience with potatoes.
The foreground flavor of vegetable is provided by green leafy vegetables.
The vegetables that you use will give the stock its distinctive flavor.
(For example, I once made stock with beet greens, it came out with an
exquisite beet flavor.) Use the clippings from vegetables you prepared
since your last batch of stock or use old wilted vegetables that you
never got to eating. Rinse clipping and wilted leaves in advance and
then freeze them for the stock.
After adding the background foods, fill an 8 quart pot
to around 3/4 full with the foreground ingredients. Try:
- strong-flavored leaves: chard, beet greens, kale, spinach...
- stems: brocolli, asparagus, celery...
- mushrooms (for a broth with a "meatier" flavor.)
WHAT I DON'T ADD:
- potato peels. I would add these but we never peel potatoes.
The highlights are spices and herbs that both add a flavor of their
own and enhance the flavor of the remaining ingredients. Spicing is
a very personal thing - one person's wonderful is the next person's
horrible spice. Sprinkle liberal doses of each spice - use more than
you normally would add to a recipe. When the stock is reused much of
the flavor is weakened. For example, I add a lot of cayenne pepper
to the stock. The stock is a real mouth burner by itself, but when
used to cook grains or make soup it becomes very dilute and tastes
just right - even to my less heat-oriented SO. Try:
- Cayenne Pepper (lots of it!)
- Mustard powder, cardamom, turmeric, black pepper corns
- Chile pasilla, paprika...
- Whatever's on your spice rack that you like...
- bay leaf
- try some fresh herbs. For a while I always added fresh oregano. It
doesn't taste anything like the dry stuff.
- thyme, basil, oregano...
- parsely, dill, cilantro (fresh or dry)
WHAT I DON'T USE:
- salt. Some things, such as beans, don't cook well in salted liquid.
Add salt when you are making the final recipe rather than at the stock
- sage. I don't like the taste. This is a personal thing, after all.
Fill the pot with water to cover the vegetables (3/4 high), cook at
high pressure for 15-30 minutes. It will take a while for the
pressure to build, especially if you are using frozen veggies. One
trick is to start heating the stock before all the vegetables and/or
spicing is added. (Add water before heating, of course.) This will
give the cooker a head start.
Let the pressure come down naturally to allow the flavors to mingle
even more. In fact, just forget about the pot for an hour or so.
When ready, pour off the liquid into a separate container and
refrigerate or use immediately. A strainer is really handy for this
step to prevent chunks from falling into the stock.
I usually pick out the root vegetables and anything else I want to
save (not much since it's mostly clippings and wilted stuff) and toss
the rest. You can use these to make soup - puree them to make a nice
thick soup or leave them whole for something a little more brothy. I
throw out the rest but perhaps other people could suggest a good use.
Several people have suggested mulching.
One of the wonderful things about stock made this way is that it's
different every time. You'll never get bored with the same old
stock/same old flavor because you never know in advance what it will
taste like. Vary the proportions and types of ingredients and
experiment as much as you like. And if you find an interesting
ingredient (like beet leaves or fresh oregano) or technique share it
Happy stock cooking.
The ideas in this document came from many sources including my own
kitchen experiments and loving friend Teri. Other sources include my
mother, Lorna Sass (in her book "Cooking Under Pressure"), and a whole
bunch of members of the FATFREE group.
Thank you all.