VEGETABLE STOCK

AN ESSENTIAL SKILL FOR MAKING EXCEPTIONAL FOOD

For about 3 litres of stock

EQUIPMENT

1 large cooking pot
Another large cooking pot for reduction (optional, see METHOD) 
A wire strainer
A piece of muslin folded into 4 layers, about 50 x 50 cm
A large soup ladle
A wide mouth measuring jug
Zip lock bags or alternative storage containers for 8 liters of stock

INGREDIENTS

For every 4 litres of water you will need

1 medium onion cut in half, skin on
1/2 leek, white part only
1 whole celery stick, sliced
2 whole carrots, sliced
100g mushrooms, quartered
2 bay leaves
2-3 sprigs of fresh oregano or 1/2 tsp dried oregano
2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried thyme

METHOD

Put all of the ingredients in one of the large pots. Bring to the boil.

Turn down and simmer for 2-3 hours or until the carrots lose some of their colour and have little to no flavour when tasted.

At this point you have two options, you can either store it immediately or strain and reduce it further. I tend to store it at this point because I use it for various preparations. You can strain it and reduce it further if you intend to use it for sauces or want to produce a more concentrated stock.

TO STORE IMMEDIATELY

Allow the pot to cool off a bit. It is too hot to safely handle and store the stock immediately. I normally wait a few hours before straining and storing.

While you are waiting for the stock to cool, prepare your zip lock bags. Write on the bags before filling: what it is, the volume and when you made it. I store them in 1 litre or 500ml bags. 

Place the strainer over the measuring jug and line the strainer with the muslin. Using the ladle, strain the stock into the jug. Then pour into the zip lock bag that corresponds to the volume. Ensure that you seal the bag completely, lay it flat on a surface and continue to bag the rest of the stock. 

To freeze, lay the filled bags flat in the freezer, they’ll be easier to separate later. Use them within six months. The stock will keep in the fridge for 3 – 5 days.

Discard the vegetables, compost them if you can. Rinse off the muslin, place it in a laundry bag and machine wash it.

Tip: When you are ready to use the stock, rinse the bag in warm water and the frozen stock block will just slip out of the zip lock bag.

TO REDUCE FURTHER

Place the strainer over the second large pot and line the strainer with the muslin. Using the ladle, strain the stock into the pot. Then place it back on high heat. Bring to the boil then reduce heat to a simmer until the desired reduction is obtained.

Follow the above instructions for storing. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is vegetable stock the same as vegetable broth?

Essentially yes, because they can be used in the same way. But, the defining difference is that a vegetable stock is used as the base or foundation for another dish, like risotto or minestrone soup. Whereas a broth is served as-is but usually with additional ingredients added to the plate or bowl, for example, tortellini may be served in a vegetable broth. 

Why is there no salt in this recipe?

A stock that is made without salt is easier to use. It allows the seasoning to be adjusted as required per dish. I use this vegetable stock for many different types of dishes and sauces and each one is seasoned differently. That doesn’t mean that you can’t season your vegetables stock if you find it more convenient.

How is this vegetable stock different to stock cubes?

Commercial stock cubes contain dehydrated broth or stock and dehydrated vegetables. They can also have salt, thickeners, fat and MSG. My recipe relies entirely on fresh ingredients, no salt, no thickening agents, no fat and no MSG. I don’t know a thing about the nutritional value of any of these additional ingredients but I do know that when I make my own stock, I can control exactly what goes into the stock and what we eat. I also believe that there is a huge difference in flavour between a dish made with my stock and one made with a stock cube.

Is vegetable stock vegan?

Yes it is. There are no animal products in vegetable stock.

Is vegetable stock healthy?

It is considered very healthy. This particular recipe is salt-free and allows you to adjust the salt to your dietary requirements.

Is vegetable stock gluten free?

Yes it is.

Can vegetable stock be substituted for vegetable broth?

Generally yes, but it depends on the strength of the stock. A broth is generally the equivalent of a light stock. If the stock has been heavily reduced, it may be too strong for your recipe that requires broth. If you do have a very strong stock, consider adding water to reduce the strength and then use it as a broth.

How long can you leave vegetable stock in the refrigerator?

3-5 days. I recommend that if you are not going to use your vegetable stock within a day or two, freeze it as quickly as possible.

Can you freeze vegetable stock?

Yes you can. You can freeze it in airtight containers or zip-lock bags. It can also be useful to freeze some into ice cube trays in case you need small amounts of stock. Once frozen, the stock cubes can be stored in a zip-lock bag. 

How do you use vegetable stock?

Vegetable stock is required in a lot of recipes. Most people will use commercially available stock cubes but in my humble opinion, they are no substitute for home-made stock.

How to make vegetable stock?

The recipe for making vegetable stock is documented above. But essentially, you boil onion, carrot, celery, leek, mushrooms, bay leaves and thyme for between 2-3 hours. Strain it. And the result is vegetable stock.   

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