Making your own homemade stock is just about the easiest thing you can do in the kitchen, and it is so good, once you get into the habit of making your own it is doubtful you will purchase a pre-made, name brand variety. Prepared vegetarian stocks are also often very high in sodium, to make up for a lack of true flavor. Making your own, flavourful broth will greatly cut down on the amount of salt needed.
We love soup, and whenever we make up a batch we use our own stock; chicken for chicken soup, of course, and beef stock for Scotch broth and French onion soup, and whenever possible we like to use a fragrant, hearty vegetable stock. It is incredibly healthy, economical, it allows us to satisfy our vegetarian and vegan friends, and reduces our dependence on the animal kingdom for at least a meal or two. Furthermore veggie stock is chock full of water soluble vitamins like vitamin C and thiamine, and is devoid of animal fats that are typically high in calories.
The usual knock against vegetable stock is that it is too wan, and lacking in flavor, but these criticisms are unfounded; there are plenty of ways to inject a deeper flavor into your veggies stock. Using aromatics, bay leaves, onion, leek, garlic and peppercorns, and roasting the veggies prior to simmering brings out their true flavours. And certain root vegetables like rutabaga, turnip, parsnip and carrot are particularly delicious; if you have ever boiled, simmered or steamed any of these veggies check the taste of the leftover water. It is sweet, and often brightly coloured, and contains much of the nutrient value of the vegetable itself. A great idea is to reduce this broth down to a strong, concentrated essence which you can freeze and add it to your next batch of soup.
Other veggies and legumes like potatoes and beans add starch to soup, and are great to use as is, or pureed, to thicken your favourite recipe; no need to add corn starch or flour, and you get the added flavor, minerals and vitamins to boot! There are some veggies you will want to avoid when making your own broth; asparagus is quite overpowering, both in colour and flavour, and should only be used for asparagus soup. Likewise, broccoli is a bully in the soup pot and will overpower more delicate flavours, so broccoli should only go into broccoli soup.
Vegetable broth is always great to have on hand. We usually make a big batch and freeze it in 750 ml yogurt containers, ready to be popped out of the freezer and into a pot. There are innumerable recipes out there, so the main thing to remember about making veggie stock is, use vegetables that you like. Mushrooms are always a good bet, and roasting them before simmering results in a deep, beautiful colour that adds depth and sophistication to any soup. When prepping your veggies for stock, you don’t have to be too careful, just a rough chop, skins and all will work wonders. Much of the nutritional value of the veggies is in the skins and jackets of the vegetable, so it would be a shame to miss out on this, and simmering releases these water-soluble goodies into your broth.
A Simple Veggie Broth
makes about eight cups
2 onions, quartered
5 cloves garlic, halved
2 large carrots, split
2 parsnips, split
4 or 5 large celery stalks, leaves as well
12 button mushrooms
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup vegetable oi
eight cups water
2 bay leaves
small bunch parsley, stems and all
Put veggies in a roasting pan and toss with vegetable oil, salt and peppercorns. Roast in 400 F oven for twenty minutes. Remove veggies from oven and place in large stockpot. Cover with eight cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour, occasionally skimming foam. Remove from heat, let cool a bit and strain, discarding solids. If you prefer a stronger taste, reduce stock to desired taste.
Note: The stronger broth makes a great vegetarian gravy as well when added to a roux made with flour and butter or your favourite nut oil. You can also save the veggies for other uses, pot pies, or stews, or soup but they will be a rather limp shadow of their former selves.