Homemade Roasted Vegetable Stock

I finally decided to make some roasted butternut squash soup (seen here), and as I pondered the recipe it occurred to me that I didn't love last year's version. I seem to recall that my Spidey sense picked up a distracting chicken flavor from the stock. Granted, many (if not most) butternut squash soup recipes that aren't vegetarian call for chicken stock. That being said, I wanted to go full veggie this time around to see if I could get a cleaner flavor. Butternut squash soup shines when simply prepared, and since vegetable stock is such a big component it seemed worthwhile to try my hand at the homemade stuff.

Useless Facts

  • Umami isn't just a trendy food word, it's actually the 5th flavor after sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. Umami is often described as imparting a savory or meaty flavor on the palate. Foods such as mushrooms possess this magical power, which makes sense when you think about how a mushroom veggie burger has an almost "meaty" taste. More umami-rich foods can be found here.
  • MSG was the boogeyman when I was younger, and as you've probably noticed packaged food is frequently labeled as having "no MSG". After reading this nerdy bit I came to learn that MSG occurs naturally in foods that have umami. What? I Googled some more and found this site which says, "Though the glutamate in MSG and in umami-rich ingredients is the same, MSG is one of the umami substances that is commercially made using the fermentation method from natural ingredients such as sugar cane. Umami is a savory taste derived from naturally occurring glutamates such as tomatoes, cheese and cured hams." Good to know.
  • Umami was discovered in 1908, but for decades it was argued that the sensation of umami was not its own unique taste but rather a combination of the existing 4 - salty, sweet, bitter, sour. It wasn't until the late 20th century that scientists proved that there are, in fact, taste-bud receptors which respond specifically to umami. The fifth taste finally has some proper street cred.

Recipe

To "beef up" the vegetable stock, I introduced some umami (see notes above) by adding mushrooms and roasted tomatoes. I saw kombu mentioned in a few recipes, but since I haven't cooked with that ingredient it was left off the list.

UPDATE: This is a rich stock. I've made several soups with it and on one occasion toned the flavor down with a 3/1 ratio ( 3 cups stock + 1 cup water) since the ingredients were a little more delicate. Personally I like the "meaty" depth but felt the note was worth mentioning. You might even want to taste this stock next to a store-bought variety to get a feel for the difference.

Tools

Ingredients (makes about 14 cups)

Roasting

  • 5 carrots, peeled, medium chop
  • 2 onions, medium chop
  • 2 tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 small head of garlic

Simmering

  • 7 smashed peppercorns
  • 1 onion, medium chop
  • Light green part of 2 leeks, sliced (about 1 cup)
  • 2 celery stalks, large chop
  • 2 carrots, peeled, medium chop
  • 5 ounces shiitake + 8 ounces white mushrooms, stems left on, quartered
  • 8 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped chives
  • 4 quarts + 2 cups (18 cups) of cold filtered water

Instructions

Roasting

  • Move an oven rack to the middle position and heat to 375.
  • Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and then lay a piece of parchment paper on top of that. Note: The parchment paper is important as roasted tomatoes are delicate and tend to stick.
  • Transfer your chopped roasting vegetables (carrots, onions, and tomatoes) to the baking sheet and arrange in a single layer.
  • Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, gently toss, and then sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Slice about 1/4 inch off the end of your garlic (not the root end) so it looks like this. Leave the skin on to hold the cloves together, rub the garlic with olive oil to prevent burning, and then seal it up in aluminum foil.
  • Roast for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until the onions and carrots start to caramelize.
  • Remove the veggies and set aside.

Simmering

  • While the vegetables are roasting, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a large stock pot over medium heat.
  • Add the onions, leeks, mushrooms, and carrots, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and then saut√© for about 8 minutes.
  • Add the chives, celery, bay leaves, thyme, roasted veggies + all roasting juices, and water.
  • Cover and bring to a gentle simmer over medium-high heat, then lower to medium-low and leave covered. Note: Don't let the mixture boil. Also, it's worthwhile to check on the stock periodically once you've adjusted the temperature to medium-low.
  • Simmer covered for 2 hours
  • Let the stock cool.
  • Using a fine-mesh strainer, press as much liquid out of the vegetables as possible (there's delicious flavor in that mush!), then strain all of the liquid through cheesecloth.

Storage

Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2-3 days or freeze for future cooking.

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