vegetable stock good enough to drink straight

It is still true that the single biggest upgrade I’ve ever made in my cooking is when I started making my own stocks. They are easy, much less expensive than buying cans and quarts, better for you with no fat, little salt, and no preservatives, and their flavor is an incredible foundation for soups and sauces. Having posted in the past on chicken stock and beef stock, I had to add my latest craze to the series: vegetable stock.

This recipe owes much to the excellent culinary wisdom of Maxine Clark of Risotto (2011), though I have modified it much (and thus all mistakes are my own). Its genius lies in the inclusion of a lemon, which brightens the whole concoction and brings out all the other flavors. Friends, it’s delicious. I’ve been drinking it in mugs.

As it happens, it does matter what vegetables you choose. Starchy vegetables like potatoes will leave you with a cloudy stock without much flavor, and cabbage will produce an unpleasant smell. Try this list for starters:

IMG_2231Basic Ingredients
1 large onion (can also add a few scallions, 1 shallot, 1-2 leeks–makes it better)
3-4 carrots
1 end of celery and several ribs
3-4 whole cloves garlic
1 large zucchini
1-2 tomatoes
bunch fresh parsley
bunch fresh basil
3 bay leaves
1 lemon
pinch kosher salt
6 black peppercorns

Wash everything well. Peel the onions, shallot, and garlic. Halve the tomato(es) and the lemon. Roughly chunk the onion, carrots, and zucchini. Slice a thin bit off the dirty celery end, cut it open vertically and rinse the dirt out.

IMG_2235Slice the leeks vertically too, so you can rinse the grit out of all those beautiful celadon layers. As dear Julia Child says, “There’s nothing worse than a gritty leek!” (chortle chortle).

IMG_2237Put everything in your biggest pot, float the herbs on top, and fill to the top with fresh, cold water.

IMG_2248Bring to a simmer on the stove for only 1-2 hours. It will look like this and your kitchen will smell like minestrone.

Then strain out the vegetables. I like to use a fine-mesh sieve for this. The stock will be golden and delicious. It can be used immediately if you are cooking for thirty or something, or frozen in zip-lock bags to flavor your vegetarian soups and sauces all month.


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12 Responses to vegetable stock good enough to drink straight

  1. Kay Lynn says:

    That looks delicious! I made veg stock once with leftover bits of veggies, and the flavor combo was not so great. What do you do with the cooked veggies? Make soup? Baby food?

    • betsy says:

      Hi Kay Lynn! I have to admit, the only things I’ve saved are the carrots and the zucchini. Everything else, by the time you’re done cooking it, is mush. They can be added back into a small bit of the stock for a plain soup for lunch. My littlest has been out of baby food for a while, but the vegetables would be perfect for that. I hope this works for you!

  2. A B M says:

    Hi, Bets. I just took a soup class with my mom and 2/3 of my sisters! We were all pondering what to do with the veggies after they are used to make the stock. Do you or any of your culinarily-inclined friends (or your cookbooks) have any suggestions? – Al


    • betsy says:

      Hi Al,
      I’d say baby food, add the usable ones to soup, or smash the carrots for muffins or carrot cake. Otherwise, I pitch ’em. Hope it helps!

  3. betsy says:

    One more thing: I try and only make stock when I have a bunch of odds and ends to use up. The end of the celery, the last onion in the bag, a few carrots that we aren’t going to use, half of a bruised lemon we already zested for something, etc. It is a productive use of “leftovers” in the veg drawer and that way it’s not a big deal to pitch the overcooked remains after making the stock.

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  5. Sarah says:

    How big is your biggest pot? I think mine is a 6 quart. Should I adjust the quantity of veggies/water? Do you simmer covered or uncovered?

    • betsy says:

      Hi Sarah,
      Mine is smaller than six quart, but six quarts would be great and work just fine. It doesn’t really matter as to quantity of vegetables, just fill to the top with water and it will still turn out great. Definitely always simmer uncovered with stock, as you want water to evaporate and the flavors to concentrate in the broth. Hope this helps! I’ve been hearing from people that the recipe is working out well, hope the same is true for you!

  6. Sarah says:

    How big is your biggest pot? I think mine is a 6 quart. Should I adjust the quantity of veggies/water? Do you simmer covered or uncovered?

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