Posted by: A Part of the Solution | February 26, 2010

Taking Stock

I love to cook. I love to cook from ingredients as opposed to boxes, packages and cans. I love the precision  and finesse it gives to the food I prepare and serve.

No, most people don’t ‘have’ the kind of time I devote to cooking. They might if they wanted to, though. It’s my hobby and my vocation. I do it instead of  watching TV. I do it instead of making scrapbooks or afghans or big money. I do it instead of raising children or prize orchids or consciousness in others.

I learned how to make stock when I worked as a pub cook back in the day. All those bones the butcher included in his deliveries, and my boss just threw them out. I only knew the bones were food because they arrived with other food. I’m not good at watching ‘food’ thrown out.

I grew up in straightened circumstances. We were a family in one of those ‘broken homes’ whose economic status dropped when the marriage fell apart. Mom’s college degree was in Home Ec: she’d always wanted to be a mommy when she grew up. So we ate well on what we had, but we didn’t throw food away.

Hence my horror watching the boss pitch out package after package of bones. So I read up on stock to find out what to do with the bones. Having a commercial kitchen helps. The pots are big enough and there’s plenty of food not rotten, still usable, but not quite ‘right’ for the plate. The boss was delighted when we used the rubbery carrot and peeled away the soft bits of the onions to get at the firm. She was delighted when we served soup with flavor and body both. It was all good.

And I performed the same magic as a vegan chef. I developed roasted winter veg stock, allium stock, spring veg stock, Asian stock &tc. All food tastes better when it’s cooked in a thoughtfully constructed stock.

Start a large baggie, or a tightly lidded container in your freezer. Parsley stems; mushroom stems and peelings; the core of the celery bunch–and those last limp stalks; tops and tails of peeled carrots–carrot and onion peelings  make stock bitter so don’t use ’em; garlic sprouts from the middle of the cloves; tough green leek tops. Nothing rotten, but anything else.

I don’t use starchy veg like potatoes or squash. I don’t use any of the nightshades, they turn bitter or overwhelm the other flavors (tomatoes, okra, peppers, eggplant).

Basic Veg Stock

1 bag of goodies from the freezer


1-2 carrots broken into 3 pieces each

2 stalks of celery, leafy tops included, broken into 3-4 pieces each

1 large or 2 small onions, peeled and stuck with 3 whole cloves

1 whole garlic bulb, papery outer layer rubbed off

1 whole leek (if you didn’t have tops in the stored trimmings), chopped roughly

6 button mushrooms (if they weren’t in your trimming container) and/or a handful of dried mushrooms

1 parsnip (for extra body, but optional if it’s a hassle), broken in two

2 whole shallots, peeled (again, optional)

a bay leaf

10 whole, black peppercorns

3 whole allspice berries (optional)

1 handful of parsley stalks (if they weren’t already in the trimmings)

Put everything in a 3 quart pot. Add water ’til it all floats. Bring the pot just to the boil and reduce the heat immediately, until it seethes a little below the surface. Cook gently until the garlic bulb is completely soft and the carrot falls apart when pierced with a fork. Strain it gently.

Now the stock is ready to use. But you can also cool it, pour it off into ice cube trays (which need to be dedicated to this purpose as the flavor gets into the plastic) and put your frozen stock cubes into a sealable storage container in the freezer for use on an as needed basis. Waste not, live large!



  1. […] 1 bag stock fixin’s from the freezer (see Taking Stock) […]

  2. […] 2 1/2 cups vegetable stock […]

  3. […] quarts of stock, chicken or beef or mushroom all work nicely (I just start a veg stock when I start making the cassoulet, it’s done in 45 minutes–in time to flavor the beans […]

  4. […] 5 oz. vegetable stock (from a box or from here) […]

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