A few weeks ago I was out of vegetable stock and feeling pretty cheap... so instead of going to the store to buy some, I researched how to make my own. It really is a fairly simple process and also a great way to use up your leftovers - I'm actually surprised more people don't do this one their own on a regular basis.
Vegetable stock from scratch is also a great way to use odds and ends from your veggies if you don't compost. Rather than tossing out the ends of your onions, the shavings from your carrots, or the stalks of your celery, pop them in the freezer for saving. They're still full of flavor and handy for homemade stocks.
Pretty much all you need to do is save up plenty of vegetable scraps for flavoring. I think it's most efficient to do this over time - whenever you have leftover ends, skins, leaves, and the like from vegetables, pop them in the freezer to save for a nice batch of stock. Any veggies will do - tomatoes, mushrooms, squash, carrots, celery, eggplant, onion, bell peppers. Once you've got a hefty amount of vegetable scraps at your disposal (at least a few cup's worth) you're ready to go.
No matter what type of vegetable make-up you've got in your stock pot, it's important to always add a few essential flavors: garlic, herbs, and salt and pepper. I like to smash at least a few garlic clove and throw them in the mix as well as some herbs, fresh or dried depending upon what I've got on hand. There's really no way to go wrong here as long as you don't use anything too potent or aversely flavorful (ie. I suggest opting for basil, parsley, sage, thyme, and/or rosemary). Then just a few turns of pepper and some salt are all you need to round out the flavors and perfectly season your stock.
The process couldn't be simpler - all your vegetables and seasonings go in the pot with a lot of water. I used about 6-7 cups for this batch and I had probably 4-5 cups of vegetable scraps. I heated the mix up to a boil, then brought it back to a simmer for about an hour after which I allowed it to cool before finely straining out all the solids (which can then be saved and reused for composting!).
This simple and easy stock can be made any time and requires very little effort from the chef. It's a great way to use those odds and ends you hate to throw away and saves you money when it's time to do some grocery shopping (especially come the winter months when soup season is in full swing and veggie stock is in high demand).
Has anyone ever made vegetable stock at home before? What about a chicken or beef or even a fish stock? I'd love to hear your stories of success, horror, or anything in between!