On the small blackboard in your kitchen, “hearty soup” is scribbled in chalk for tonight’s menu. You have chosen the freshest vegetables, the finest herbs. All that is needed is the vegetable stock. While you could use a carton of store-bought stock, you know that it would mean not only sacrificing flavor, but health, as they are often laden with sodium and preservatives. The bouillon cubes that have been sitting in your cabinet from your home’s previous owners would produce a similar result: an overly salty stock, now boasting ingredients that you can barely pronounce. Instead, you begin the satisfying work of making your own vegetable stock, from the scraps that you have saved over the week just for this moment.
Below are simple instructions for making vegetable stock. Although I advocate making homemade stock whenever possible, I understand that there are times when it is not feasible – you forgot to save scraps this week, you just came home after a vacation, you forgot about the dinner guests arriving in 30 minutes who are anticipating your signature soup…If you do find yourself in a pinch, scroll down to see a list of things to avoid when purchasing store-bought stocks and bouillon, and learn the bouillon that I use with a clear conscience.
This list is quite simple, consisting of three ingredients: water, vegetable scraps, and mirepoix, otherwise known as the holy trinity of cooking (onions, carrots, and celery). The ratios I give are loose, and are contingent upon the amount of vegetable scraps you have been able to save from a week’s worth of cooking.
Water: For a stronger stock, use a 1:1 ratio of cups of water to total cups of vegetables (mirepoix and scraps). To make your vegetable scraps stretch, add up to 4 more cups of water.
Mirepoix: I allow diced mirepoix to account for 1/4-1/3 of my total overall vegetable ratio. The most commonly used ratio within mirepoix is 1/2 onions, 1/4 carrots, 1/4 celery.
Vegetable scraps: Anything that you have saved from the week’s cooking – garlic and onion peels, vegetable ends, mushroom stems, tops and ends of carrots, peppers, etc.
* For a “meatier” stock, add a cup of sliced mushrooms to your stock. Use a mild variety such as crimini or portobello.
Place the mirepoix and vegetable scraps in a stock pot. Cover with cold water, and bring to just a boil before turning the heat to low. To keep the integrity of the stock, simmer for no more than 30 minutes. Unlike meat stocks, overcooking the vegetables can greatly diminish the flavor.
Once finished, strain the stock using a fine sieve and compost the vegetables. Use the stock immediately, or freeze or refrigerate. The stock will keep for up to five days in the refrigerator, up to six months in the freezer.
* A second option is to roast the mirepoix and vegetable scraps for 30 minutes as a first step, creating a more flavorful, slightly smoky stock.
“I want to make n soup and don’t have xyz or time to make stock.”
I have tried several bouillons and stock pastes that looked wonderful on the front side of the label – USDA Organic! No MSG Added! However, upon further inspection and research at home, I have been forced to toss them. Here are the top five ingredients why:
1. Maltodextrin: For those trying to abstain from GMO corn and soy (and government subsidized dent corn in general), this ingredient should be avoided. Unfortunately, even Edward & Sons Natural Garden Veggie Bouillon uses this ingredient.
2 & 3. Sugar and Salt: Not only should white sugar be avoided, but in using store-bought stocks or adding bouillon cubes or pastes that already contain salt lowers the amount of control that you have as a cook. Always opt for “No Salt Added” varieties – remember, it is easier to add more salt to your dish than it is to subtract it.
4. Corn Syrup/Corn Syrup Solids: An unhealthy sweetener, and another misuse of corn created to reduce the subsidized surplus. Unfortunately, corn syrup solids can be found in several of the Better Than Bouillon Vegetarian Bases.
5. MSG (monosodium glutamate) and ingredients that hide processed free glutamic acid (the chemical in MSG that causes adverse reactions): calcium glutamate, monopotassium glutamate, magnesium glutamate, mono-ammonium glutamate, natrium glutamate, and anything that contains the word “hydrolyzed,” such as hydrolyzed soy, hydrolyzed whey protein, and hydrolyzed yeast extract.
As a good rule, avoid anything that you cannot pronounce, or that is not used in everyday conversation. So what store-bought base do I use when I am in a pinch? Rapunzel Vegan Vegetable Bouillon, No Salt Added. This bouillon only contains organic ingredients, all of which I am able to pronounce.
*It should be noted that “stock” is unseasoned, while “broth” is seasoned with herbs and/or spices. Most bouillons and pastes would be considered broth bases, as most contain seasoning.
Need a nudge using your vegetable stock? Give these recipes a try: