Years ago, the culinary word 'stock' used to make my eyes glaze over. I think part of the reason was how I first saw stock getting made.
It was at a culinary school where I was attending a session on food safety. On the first day, I got to peek in the professional kitchen. About five students were at their stations, sweating from all the heat and moving frantically, trying to finish the day's test. The very first thing they did was make stock: a big pot was filled with water and chopped vegetables were thrown in, along with a little packet tied with kitchen twine left hanging to the side. (I was later told that the packet contained herbs and spices; it had a fancy name I couldn't pronounce.) They simmered this pot for a while, checking on it only now and again. Their stress was palpable, it really didn't look at all like they were having fun.
So for a while, whenever I saw a recipe that called for stock, I'd move along because there was no way I was making that intimidating ingredient. Until one day, I was forced to make some because I was craving chicken noodle soup.
Turns out, it's not so bad. It really is, quite literally, just boiling bones, herbs and vegetables. These days, there is stock in our freezer most times. Occasionally, we do use bouillon cubes in a pinch, but we always make stock from scratch for baby food.
Using stock vs. plain water really elevates the flavor of simple dishes such as congee and mashed vegetables for babies. I also use stock in our meat sauce. Here's a simple, basic vegetable stock that you can keep in the fridge and use for soups, congee, poaching liquid for fish and chicken, and generally in recipes that call for a simple stock.
Basic Vegetable Stock
- Preparation Time 10 minutes
- Ready in 1 hour 10 minutes
- Difficulty Easy
- Yield about 3 cups
- 4 cups water
- 1 medium red onion
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 1 stalk celery
- 1 large carrot
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 sprigs flat leaf parsley
- 1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
- Pour water into a pot and have it ready by your chopping board.
- Chop onions and celery; chop carrot into small cubes; pick the parsley off the stems. Add all these, the bay leaves and peppercorns to the pot.
- Bring the water and vegetables to a boil and immediately lower the heat to a simmer.
- Simmer for an hour, strain and cool.
- Store in the fridge for no more than 3 days, and in the freezer for no more than a month.
- We normally don't salt our stock as we use them in dishes where they get reduced; salted stock may result in a more salty dish than intended.
- Storage periods are conservative and assumed for use as baby food.
- If freezing, leave space for the liquid to expand, otherwise your container may break.
- If storing in plastic bags, use only freezer-safe bags. We've had stock take on a plasticky taste when frozen in an ordinary sandwich bag.