I made a few new years resolutions this year. The first few were the ones that most everyone makes at one point in their lives: exercise more, lose weight, snack less, make time for my creative projects, etc., etc. Most of these resolutions get pushed aside by the rhythms of daily life soon after they are made. However, I made one resolution I didn’t write down or admit to myself and that might be why I am well on the way to keep in it. It was simple. Straightforward. It was this: make my own stock.
Yes, readers I admit it. I have been using store-bought vegetable and chicken stock in my cooking! I can imagine Julia Child turning over in her grave now. I always thought, “It’s too much work,” and “It’s too expensive to use all those fresh ingredients when all you do is mush the juices out of them,” and “It takes too much time.” However, at anywhere between $2 and $4 a box (depending whether one buys it at the Park Slope Food Co-Op or at Whole Foods in desperation) and when one needs 2 boxes of stock (at least) to make a decent amount of soup and one has to haul those from far away to one’s apartment, one starts rethinking one’s economic analysis of stock (of the soup variety).
I also was lucky receive that classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking, as well as I Know How to Cook, for the holidays, two defining tomes of French cooking, both which insist on the wonders of homemade stock. In addition, as I have become more adept and precise as a cook I’ve started to understand why cooking takes a long time and why one does not cut corners. Homemade stock is fresher, more flavorful, and healthier. I also appreciate knowing exactly what goes into the food I’m making and taking a little extra time to ensure that my recipes are just that much better.
Fortunately, I had a neglected ally in my resolution: my crock pot. SMH and I had bought this updated friend of the 1970’s last year with visions of easy, warm, filling, wholesome winter dinners. Of course, that meant we ignored it for a year. In assessing my stock making desires I realized that the crock pot is stock’s natural ally: stock needs to simmer for a long time to maximize the flavor of the ingredients that go into it and that’s exactly what a crock pot does.
I decided to start with the easiest: vegetable stock. St. Julia reminds us: no starchy vegetables like potatoes because they cloud the stock. Cabbage is too strong of a flavor as well. The basics of a stock are: Leeks, carrots, onions, celery, parsley, garlic, pepper and salt.
Here’s how you make it:
Crock Pot Vegetable Stock
Peel and quarter 1 large onion
Wash and roughly chop 1 large leek
Wash and chop 2-3 carrots into 1′ pieces
Wash and chop 2 rips of celery into 1′ pieces
Roughly chop 1/3 cup of flat parsley leaves
Crush (but don’t peel) 3 garlic cloves
Place all ingredients in crock pot. Add salt to taste (2 teaspoons perhaps) and a 1/2 teaspoon of whole, black pepper corns.
Cover with 8 cups of water.
Turn the crock pot on low and let cook for 8 hours. Strain the stock through a colander lined with cheese cloth (honestly, I’ve found this difficult and have ended up with slightly cloudy stock). Press the vegetables with a wooden spoon or potato masher to extract all the flavorful juices.
Throw away or compost the vegetables. Trust me, they won’t taste like much any more as all the flavor has transferred to the stock.
Ta-da! Stock will keep in the fridge up to 3 days or freeze it to use it later. Next up: chicken stock!