I’ve talked a bit about making stocks. Mostly from beef bones and chicken or turkey carcasses so far. But here is my latest thing: vegetable stock. I keep a Ziploc bag of ‘cuttings’ in my freezer where I keep vegetable bits that aren’t being used (broccoli stems, wilted cabbage leaves, fennel stalks, cauliflower stems…some use carrot or potato peels but I worry that would add an unwanted bitterness to it).
When I can fill a 20L kettle around halfway with frozen vegetable matter, I’ll fill the rest with water and boil it down over a great number of hours (half a day?) This will end up being a concentrated stock that can be frozen in ice cube trays. I’m still on the look out for those old metal ice cube trays with the metal lever for this purpose. Then I remove the frozen stock cubes and store them once again in a Ziploc bag to be added to any little thing.
It is great in soups and stirfries, casseroles and shepherd’s pie. My new, favourite use, however, is to boil rice in it. Now I know why I like rice so much better in restaurants. It is always tasty and rich with flavour, unlike my water boiled version which is as bland as a cracker at best. I think they boil up their rice in stock! At least that’s my guess because now my rice tastes just as yummy at home.
Homemade soup stock can also be frozen in mason jars and grabbed in a jiff whenever needed. In the past I used to use the little handy, dried cubes out of a box and wondered why my soups had that tinny, shallow, salty flavour. Worse yet, I would find out later that I had added MSG to my organic vegetable soup pot.
Here is the thing about stock made from scratch that like so many things can’t quite be described with words. It is rich, full, round, deep, complimentary, whole, expansive, full of colour, taste, harmony, symphony and much more. A simple vegetable soup with beef stock earns an undercurrent of flavour unmatched by any other addition. Leek and potato soup with chicken stock becomes heavenly, as though kissed by angels. Fish soups with vegetable stock straight from the heart of the divine.
Deep in the belly of any good dish, I now believe, is a basic, simple, easily home made stock.