Making your own stock at home is a great way to save money. In particular, vegetable stock is considered a versatile elixir that can add depth and flavor to countless dishes. Plus, it's super good for you.
But did you know you can whip up a batch of this liquid gold using vegetable scraps that would have otherwise gone to waste? That's right — you can officially say goodbye to store-bought stocks (some of which are chock full of sodium or chemical ingredients) and say hello to this homemade masterpiece that will elevate your cooking to new heights.
While it can seem intimidating to make your own stock, we went down the rabbit hole to find out what frugal cooks suggest doing to create a foolproof veggie stock, including all the essential dos and don'ts to ensure your stock turns out rich, aromatic, and utterly delicious.
What Vegetables Are Good for Stocks?
When it comes to creating a flavorful veggie stock, not all vegetables are created equal. Some veggies, such as onions, carrots, and celery, form the holy trinity of stock-making and can help infuse your stock with a savory and rich base. You can also consider adding scraps from vegetables like mushrooms, leeks, fennel, and even potatoes for added complexity.
However, there are a few veggies to avoid if you want to prevent a bitter-tasting stock. Stay away from cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower, as well as strong-tasting ones like turnips, kale, arugula, and radishes. (I learned this lesson the hard way.)
Once you've gathered all your vegetable peels, trimmings, and ends, store them in an airtight container in the freezer until you've amassed a hearty collection. As a general guideline, aim for a ratio of roughly one part vegetable scraps to two parts water. However, don't worry too much about exact measurements, as you can always adjust the amount of scraps based on the intensity of flavor you desire and the size of your pot. Once you've got enough for a batch, thaw the frozen scraps and prepare them for the next steps.
To Sauté or Not To Sauté
One Redditor suggests sautéing the vegetables before adding them to a stockpot to get even more flavor and caramelization out of them. "I also sometimes roast beforehand, as I would with non-scrap stock, but not always," writes the user. Another user agrees with this technique, sharing how browning the veggies can greatly enhance flavor. "I do roast them before because [in my opinion] that browning really improves the flavor," they write.
"My technique for good veggie stock (I pretty much always use scraps. Which are just off cuts not bad pieces) is as follows: Dice and caramelize onion in butter until it's browned and got bits of browning in the bottom of the pan," writes another user.
Take out your largest stockpot and dump in your thawed (and potentially sautéed) treasure trove of scraps. Toss in a few sprigs of fresh herbs such as thyme, parsley, or bay leaves to impart a fragrant note. Consider adding a dash of fresh peppercorns, salt, and a couple of garlic cloves to elevate the taste profile even more.
Some Redditors suggest adding a more elaborate spice mix. "Add garlic after reducing heat slightly. Get it aromatic to maybe lightly browned. Add water, peeled carrot, celery, leek (never omit the leek!), fresh thyme, couple of Bay leaves, a small thumb of peeled whole Ginger, some whole peppercorns, some salt."
"Important extras to add even if you don't want to add fresh vegetables are spices, Kombu (seaweed) and dried mushrooms, usually shiitake or porcini," says another user.
How Long Does It Take To Simmer Vegetable Stock?
Once everything is in the pot, fill it with enough water until the scraps start to float and bring the water to a simmer. Now comes the tricky part: patience. Allow your stock to simmer on low heat for at least one hour — though Reddit users suggest at least two to three hours. This slow and gentle process ensures that every veggie has the chance to unleash its full depth of flavor.
Skim the Top
As your stock simmers away, a foam or impurities may rise to the surface. Skimming off this unsightly layer using a ladle or spoon every few minutes is an important step to avoid having your stock turn cloudy, and will help the stock maintain a cleaner, clearer appearance. "You need to skim your stock regularly," one user succinctly puts it.
Strain and Savor
After the simmering marathon, your kitchen should now be filled with the tantalizing aroma of your homemade vegetable stock (apologies if you're reading this while you're hungry). Now, it's time to strain the liquid through a fine-mesh sieve or cheesecloth. Press down gently on the vegetables to extract every last drop of goodness. Once strained, you'll (hopefully) be left with a beautiful amber liquid that's ready to be used as a base for soups, stews, and more.
Once your veggie stock has cooled to room temperature, transfer it into airtight containers or freezer-safe bags, and store it in the refrigerator for up to five days or in the freezer for several months.
The Bottom Line
By selecting the right vegetables, embracing the art of simmering, and infusing your stock with carefully chosen seasonings, you'll be able to add a world of flavor to your favorite dishes. The next time you're about to toss those kitchen scraps, think twice — they hold the key to making delicious (and healthy) liquid gold.
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