For those of you who’ve been reading this blog and following me on Instagram, you’ll know that I was hit with an awful stomach bug 2-3 weeks ago. I was stuck in bed for a week, for a few days, living off coconut water, saltine crackers, and vegetable broth, which my boyfriend—the sweetheart he is—kindly made for me.
Vegetable broth is something I cook with often: I use it in soups, stews, curries, and lately, have even been sautéing with it. I don’t know about you, but I much prefer making my own stock. While vegetable broth cubes are an easy go-to, I’ve begun to make big batches of vegetable broth to keep in the freezer and fridge for when I need it. Vegetable broth isn’t as intimidating as most people think it is—the only things you need to take into consideration is the balance of flavours. I once used too many onion and garlic peels, which created a broth that was horribly bitter. Broths turn out very differently depending on the ingredients you use: more tomatoes and less of everything else will yield a lovely tomato broth, and a broth using mushrooms and onions only will create a nice mushroom broth. Growing up Chinese, all the soups we drank at home were broths, simmered for hours each day to bring out as much flavour as possible.
Stock vs. Broth: What’s The Difference?
After doing some digging, I’ve discovered that the only difference separating stock from broth is the addition of meat. While stocks are made with bones, broths use both meat and bones for additional flavour. Broths are furthermore flavoured with seasoning, such as sea salt, spices, and maybe even alcohol. Both are simmered for a long time to get as much flavour as possible. My boyfriend is obsessed with making stocks and broths, and will hoard leftover bones and bits of meat from Thanksgiving or Christmas to make broth the next day. His stove even has an amazing simmer function that gives you a flame lower than low! (Yes, I want one too.) Since vegetarian soups don’t have any meat or bones in them, the difference between stock and broth doesn’t really apply to vegetable broths/stocks.
Vegetable Broth: Why Homemade?
Have you ever tasted store-bought vegetable broth and thought: I really want to drink that? I haven’t. Although store-bought vegetable broth is quite handy, I find store-bought vegetable broth to be all sodium and no flavour. Low sodium broth has even less flavour. Vegetable broth made from scratch can be extremely flavourful and nourishing, and while the nutrients of the vegetables will cook off after a while, the broth itself is still nutrient-rich. Storing your broth in the fridge or freezer will help to prolong its shelf life, although you should probably use it within two weeks of making it if you are refrigerating.
Guidelines For A Good, Sturdy Broth
(AKA How To Make The Best Broth Ever… ;) )
- Chop your vegetables small. Mine aren’t tiny, but I like to chop them small enough so that as much of their surface area is exposed, which allows more flavour to seep into the broth.
- Browning your vegetables beforehand. I like to begin the cooking process by lightly sautéing the vegetables to begin coaxing out the flavours. Although I’ve never tried roasting vegetables for a stock, I’ve heard that roast vegetables work really well and are especially great with winter vegetable broths.
- Seasoning. I use sea salt and blacked pepper, along with a few herbs: parsley, rosemary, thyme, and two to three bay leaves usually give me an aromatic broth.
- Give it time. With good stock and broth, patience is key! Bring it to a boil and then lower it to a simmer, and let it do its thing. Vegetable stocks only require 45 minutes to an hour, sometimes I let it go for two. Meat stocks, however, greatly benefit from hours and hours of simmering.
- Make it savoury. Add nutritional yeast while you’re sautéing or a piece of kombu at the beginning for more of a umami flavour. It really helps to enhance the broth! I learned the umami trick from my boyfriend, broth and stock genius, and then later from Amy Chaplin. Adding kombu also provides the stock with extra nutrients: it’s extremely high in iodine and amino acids, and if you’re cooking with beans or making a bean broth, its amino acids will help to break down the beans and make them more digestible.
- Think twice about what you put in your broth… ask yourself: would I eat it? If not, don’t put it in. It’s tempting to dump all your vegetable scraps into a broth, but keep your ingredients edible! Vegetables that have gone a little limp are fine. Just don’t make your broth your compost bin!
- Strain after cooking. Some herbs can turn bitter if they sit too long in the broth. While I love to eat the vegetables that have been cooked in the broth, I keep them in a separate container and strain the broth into jars to keep in my freezer shortly after making it.
This vegetable broth recipe is naturally vegan, and is a basic one adapted from Deborah Madison’s book The New Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone, a book I love and use often as a resource. Other great vegetable broth recipes I love are:
- Homemade Bouillon by 101 Cookbooks – I love her method and I’ve been meaning to try this!
- Vegetable Stock Method by The First Mess – I’m a big fan of Laura’s blog and her stock method is excellent.
- At Home In The Whole Food Kitchen – Amy Chaplin talks a lot about adding kombu and other wonderful ingredients to her broths and stews in her book, and I would recommend checking her book out if you are interested in building strong and complex flavours in your dishes.
BASIC VEGETABLE STOCK – DEBORAH MADISON STYLE
Yields around 6 cups.
- 8 cups water
- 1 large yellow onion
- 2 large carrots
- 2 celery ribs + a few leaves
- 1 leek or 1 bunch of spring onions, or both!
- 8 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
- 8 parsley sprigs
- 6 thyme sprigs
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (she recommends 1 tbsp, but I add 2!)
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
1. Wash and scrub the vegetables. Roughly chop them.
2. Heat up the olive oil in a large pot. Add the vegetables, nutritional yeast, garlic, and herbs. Sauté over high heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent the bottom from burning. Cook until the onion becomes translucent, and allow the vegetables to get as much colour as possible.
3. Season with salt. Add 8 cups of water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30-45 minutes. Strain and store in a sealed container.
So, what’s your favourite thing to make with stock? Do you prefer making your own or using store-bought?
Happy broth making!