Stock can be made from many different ingredients, chicken, beef, fish, shellfish or vegetables but the easiest to make, and the most adaptable, is vegetable stock. When you use it, it’s not so strong that it overpowers other flavours and, frankly, it’s fast to make and economical. Vegetable stock is also acceptable to vegetarians.
This basic recipe is known as a Light Stock – referring to its colour, not to its flavour.
You can use whole, fresh vegetables, but you can also make stock entirely out of vegetable scraps (peelings, stems, etc.) Also toss in anything in your fridge that looks like it’s not so happy any more.
Use the trimmings from your vegetables, including onion skins, herb stems, potato and carrot peelings–just about anything in your kitchen except sulfurous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. You want something with a fairly neutral flavour. I don’t use garlic or other strong spices, I add those kinds of seasonings when I’m actually making a dish. And don’t add salt. As the stock becomes concentrated, it can get unpleasantly salty.
Light Vegetable Stock
1 to 2 onions
2 to 3 carrots
3 to 4 celery stalks
4 to 5 sprigs fresh thyme
1 small bunch parsley
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
Vegetables. Onions, carrots, and celery for the base. Any amount of vegetables that you happen to have on-hand, but keep to a roughly equal portion of each.
Herbs. By all means add a few herbs to the stock, but keep them fairly light. Parsley does really well, especially the stems leftover from picking off the tops. Bay leaf adds a pungent, earthy flavor and thyme gives a nice woody note.
Wash any visible dirt off the vegetables and give them a rough chop. You don’t need to peel them unless you really want to.
Cover the vegetables with enough water that you can easily stir them in the pot. Less water means that your stock will be more concentrated; more water makes a lighter-flavoured stock. Set the pot over medium-high heat and bring it to just under a boil. Once you start to see some bubbling around the edges of the pot and a few wisps of steam on the surface, turn the heat down to medium-low.
Cook for One Hour or So: one hour is generally enough time to infuse the water with vegetable goodness. Give it a stir every now and again to circulate the vegetables.
Take the pot off the stove and remove all the vegetables with a slotted spoon. Set your strainer over a big bowl. Pour the stock through. Divide the stock into storage containers, cool completely, and then freeze.
I keep my stock in plastic containers.