This weekend is it. This is the weekend to go your local farmer’s market and stock up on all the good stuff and make a giant pot of vegetable stock.
Sure, you can make it pretty much any time of year, but right now you can get the last of the greens and the first of the root veggies, allowing you to maximize the nutrients and the flavor of your stock. It’s the simplest thing in the world, and having it on hand in your freezer all winter is going to pay off every time you make soup, risotto, or you need to deglaze a pan with something better than water. Cause in a pinch, um, I’ve done that.
For fans of low and slow, veggie stock can also be done in a crock pot overnight. If you have a pressure cooker, you can make stock quickly; just be sure to brown the vegetables a tiny bit beforehand. A much more intense stock can be made by first roasting your veggies in the oven, deglazing the roasting pan (with water!), and simmering everything together in a stock pot.
Just chop up a collection of vegetables, toss them in a pot of water, and simmer for at least an hour, or until it turns golden. Pour the water into your container through a colander, pressing the vegetables against it with a spatula or wooden spoon to maximize your yield of vegetable juices.
My stock includes leeks, garlic, carrots, kale stems, scallions, celery, and potatoes. Other things you can include are porcini mushrooms, shallots, onions, turnips, parsley, fresh thyme, and bay leaves. Finally, you can get a little fancy by making a little cheesecloth bag to hold black peppercorns.
Trying to abide by the waste-not, want-not rule, I try to find creative uses for the boiled, mushy veggies. Beyond composting, one option is to press them through a food mill (or smash them with a ricer which, frankly, is easier to clean) and use them for a vegetarian gravy. Once you have a nice, even mash of vegetables in your bowl, add to a pot with butter, flour, a little of the stock, salt, and pepper. Whisk everything together until thick and creamy.
It tastes wonderful over chicken, pot roast, but I suggest throwing in a little more butter than usual and using it smother broccoli or cauliflower that’s been roasted in the oven. Along the same lines, you can use them as base for a stew, particularly once cooked in a crock pot. Just as you turn it off, mix in the strained vegetables to thicken the stew and give it one last shot of flavor.
Or you can use Rocco‘s favorite method and remove the garlic and leeks before mixing the veggie mush with cooked oatmeal. It makes a perfect wet dog food to add to your dog’s kibble. Be sure not to use any onions or tomatoes in the mix as they can be toxic for dogs.
No matter what you do with your vegetable stock, make sure you do it this weekend. Come mid-January, you’ll be glad you did.