Vegetarian and vegan options
Homemaking, like really taking some joy and time with the goings-on in your home, can feel daunting sometimes, at least for me. There are people out there who are just so much more involved and better, it seems, at working all day, homeschooling kids, having a dang farm, building a strong marriage, and then making like 28-course meals totally from scratch each night that I have to lie down just reading about their lives.
Let me assure you, this is not one of those blogs.
There are a lot of factors that go into making a home, and so many versions of that as there are people willing to do it. With so many options and ideas, it can be hard to get started. Maybe you have tons of people and things going on in your home. Maybe you work a lot and only have time for a few “extras” in your schedule. Maybe you live alone and feel like a lot of recipes and homemaking things are suited for bigger families. No matter what, I’m here to tell you that making your own vegetable stock is a super simple, almost thoughtless task that brings soooo many rewards and is totally worth it.
First, stock can go into any savory dish where you add water. Yes, seriously! Rice, grains, grits, and pasta take on a richer flavor if cooked in stock over plain water. Soups obviously benefit when stock, not water, is added. This can also be warmed and sipped on its own when you’re sick as it’s nutritious and easy on the stomach.
Second, it takes barely any thought. You just chuck some of your kitchen scraps into a freezer bag until it’s full, then make a big pot that can last for a while.
Third, the equipment it takes you probably already have, and if you don’t it’s cheap and easy to find.
Finally, you and your family, however you define that, are totally worth this effort.
This isn’t a recipe so much as it’s a process, so let’s walk through the components one by one.
You can either slowly collect kitchen scraps, my preferred method, or you can prep your ingredients and make it right when you want. The prep time will vary based on which you choose. If you prep ingredients fresh, just make sure they’re clean and roughly chopped, as in quartering a full onion or smashing a garlic bulb just a bit. Don’t overwork yourself here.
The cook time varies too based on how you like your stock. On the stovetop, you’ll need a minimum of 2 hours, but you can let it simmer (and I mean truly leave it alone as it doesn’t need to be stirred or anything) up to probably 5 or 6 hours. You can adjust based on when you need it, how you like it, and what fits best that day.
Basically, you need a really big pot, something to stir it, and a strainer. You can use either a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth laid in a colander. I’ve done both, and both work just fine. If you use the sieve, you might have some sediment at the bottom of your stock, which you can use or discard as you like.
Now to the fun part – what goes into vegetable stock? Because the vegetables are simmered to let all their nutrients out into the water and then discarded, leaving just the liquid, you can put the weird parts you would normally trash right into the pot. Onion skins and carrot tops are right at home in this pot!
The very best part about this whole thing is that you can personalize this based on what you use in the kitchen! Nothing HAS to go in here, but some things work better than others. For these ingredients, remember that you could put ANY part into your stock.
Awesome for Stock
- Herbs like rosemary, thyme, parsley, dill, chives, basil
- Bay leaves
- Mustard, coriander, celery seeds
Not So Awesome for Stock
- Potatoes: these will get thick and starchy
- Collard, kale, mustard, and other greens: these will get slimy and bitter
- Cauliflower and broccoli: funkytown in a bad way
- Eggplant, bell peppers, tomatoes, and mushrooms: these have too much water in them and will mush apart and be generally gross
- Fruit: any fruit, even lemons, will get weird
- Herbs like sage, tarragon, or others: these can overpower your flavor and limit your usage of your stock
I have seen recipes that will call for some of these Not So Awesome ingredients, so I have included my reasons for not using them. You can, of course, choose to include them, but I don’t recommend these.
Salt is also optional at this point. You can make a totally sodium-free stock, which is awesome if you are watching your salt intake. You can also add however much you like at this stage or wait until later when you are cooking a specific recipe.
- Once you have gathered your ingredients, either from a freezer, fresh from the fridge or countertop, or both, add everything to a big pot.
- Cover your ingredients with water so that the water is just around the top of the pile. Your veg will cook out and shrink down, so don’t go too wild.
- Bring your pot up to barely a boil, then drop it down to low.
- Simmer your stock for as long as you like, remembering to do at least 2 hours.
- Pro Tip: You can make this in smaller batches in the Instant Pot by adding your veg, covering with water not to exceed your maximum fill line, and cooking it on High Pressure for 20-60 minutes.
- Once you have cooked it as long as you like, remove it from the heat and let it cool for a while, even up to an hour if you have the time.
- Discard as much veg as you can with a ladle or spoon right into the trash.
- Strain your stock through a fine mesh sieve or colander lined with cheesecloth into a big bowl.
- Store your stock in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for about 6 months.
I started this habit of putting kitchen scraps into a freezer bag years ago as a college student who had no idea what she was doing, and the habit has stuck around all these years. When the bag gets full, I make some stock. If I don’t have time or a use for it at the moment, the full bag just waits there in the freezer until I do. It’s really a small, simple thing, but it can elevate your recipes, eliminate excess salt and whatevers in store bought stock, and make your home that much more cozy and thoughtful.
How will you use this stock? Do you have any favorite recipes where you could add in homemade stock for a flavor boost? Let your girl know!