Homemade stocks have become such a staple in my kitchen that I take them for granted, yet they tend to impress people when I share or teach the concept. I like to make stocks in stockpot-size batches and freeze the liquid in easy-to-use portions, especially since I discovered ice trays that make 1-cup cubes. You can instead create a quick stock as you prep a soup or risotto, using the trimmings from the recipe’s ingredients.
Vegetable and shellfish stocks are easiest to make because the ingredients have so little fat. Stocks based on fish, chicken or other meat take a bit more effort because they release fat that needs to be skimmed off before the stock can be used, but these are still simple to master.
All have several advantages over store-bought stocks and broths. Homemade stocks typically use scraps or trimmings that would otherwise be discarded. You can control the thickness and the salt, which both tend to extremes in commercial versions. Even though I give a recipe here to help you get started, you can swap ingredients to use whatever’s already in your kitchen for fresh stocks.
Instead of using whole vegetables to make stock, you can gather and refrigerate peels and trimmings over a few days, or start a scrap bag and keep it in the freezer, until you have about 8 cups of scraps. You can also alter ingredients for a distinct flavor; my standards include mushroom stock featuring the fungi’s tough stems and corncob stock after cutting the kernels from fresh ears.
Homemade Vegetable Stock
Makes 6-8 quarts
4 medium potatoes
2 small onions
2 celery ribs
4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon coarse salt
3/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons fresh or 2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon fresh or 1/3 teaspoon dried dill fronds
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
Make sure the vegetables are clean and free of spoiled areas but don’t peel them. Cut the potatoes and onions in quarters; cut the carrots, celery and lemon in half.
Into a 10-quart stockpot, toss the mushrooms, unpeeled garlic, salt, peppercorns and bay leaf, plus the parsley, dill and marjoram. Add the cut vegetables and lemon. Fill the pot with water to within about 2 inches of the rim.
Bring to just below a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 60 minutes. Use a spider or large slotted spoon to pull the vegetables from the stock, and then strain through a colander lined with cheesecloth to remove the remaining solids, which can be composted. Use as is or, for a more concentrated stock, return the liquid to the stockpot and let simmer for about 30 minutes, until reduced by about one-fourth. Let cool before dividing into containers or cubes and freezing.
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