The Secret Ingredient: Smoked Vegetable Stock
Homemade foods and ingredients are always better than the store-bought or processed versions. Some popular examples include bacon, BBQ sauce, pickles, and pasta. You get the idea. Have you ever made homemade vegetable stock? More importantly, have you ever smoked it?
I’m going to explain what vegetable stock is, how to make it, why you should make it, why you should smoke it, and provide some cool ways to use it. Here we go.
Vegetable stock is made by simmering veggies and herbs in a pot of water to extract the flavor from the vegetables. The flavorful stock is drained, saved, complements many different preparations..
Vegetable stock is easy to make, it adds great flavor and it doesn’t come in a can or a box. We are all guilty of using store-bought ingredients, but with some planning, you can have home-made stock ready. Adding home-made stock will be the secret ingredient that sets your dishes apart.
Let’s start with how to make it and then I’ll share some creative ways to use your homemade vegetable stock.
Vegetable Stock Ingredients
The ingredients are simple and are most likely already in your kitchen. Common ingredients include carrots, onions, celery, mushrooms, bay leaf, thyme, and leeks. Avoid starchy items such as potatoes and parsnips since they can make the stock cloudy and gummy. Green beans, cruciferous vegetables, and zucchini become bitter when cooked for extended periods. Avoid any strong flavored ingredients. Beets should be avoided when making vegetable stock due to the strong flavor. They will also turn your stock red. I smoke-roast my beets, but if you experiment with beets in the vegetable stock, there are some unique ways to use the red-tinted stock.
How to Make Smoked Vegetable Stock
Here is one way to make vegetable stock. Yes, I could have made it completely on the stove, but we all know Raichlen’s Rule—it will taste better if it’s grilled or smoked!
Light a chimney starter with ¼ load of charcoal. Once the charcoal is hot and gray, set up your grill for indirect grilling. Place one large wood chunk on each side of the grill. If you are using a gas grill, make a smoker pack out of foil and wood chips or chunks to create smoke.
Place 2 carrots, 4 celery stalks, one quartered onion, 1 cup of cleaned, stemmed mushrooms, 1 bay leaf, and 4 thyme sprigs in a foil pan. Place the pot in the middle of the grill and smoke at 200 degrees for 45-60 mins. The veggies will take on a golden color.
Place all of the veggies in a Dutch oven or a heavy stock pot. Add enough water to cover the veggies. Add a tablespoon of peppercorns and a second bay leaf. Simmer the veggies for an hour. Let the stock cool and strain the liquid. It required 8 cups of water to cover the veggies. I put a total of 10 cups of water in the pot and was left with 8 cups of stock at the end.
Smoking the veggies intensifies the flavor of the stock. Two alternate methods are roasting the veggies in the oven or sweating the veggies in the pot before adding the water.
You might not want to fire up the grill or smoker just to make stock, but you should. This flavorful stock can be made as your charcoals are burning out or as you are getting your smoker up to temperature for a cook.
How to Use Smoked Vegetable Stock
Now that you have all this delicious stock, what can you do with it? Most recipes will not require the 8 cups of stock I produced, so the first thing you can do is freeze some for future uses.
How you use the vegetable stock is only limited by your imagination. Some recipes require several cups of stock like a soup or paella and some will require less stock.
Soups are often the first recipes people think of when you mention stock or broth. But your homemade vegetable stock can be used in many creative ways.
My wife makes a quinoa salad with grilled veggies and fresh herbs and cooks the quinoa in vegetable stock. I make a mushroom risotto and use the vegetable stock instead of chicken broth. I smoke-roast the mushrooms before adding to the risotto and it builds on the mushrooms used in the stock. Sticking with mushrooms, the stock goes great in a mushroom gravy.
There are more vegetarians, vegans, and people who want to eat healthier these days, and we “cooks” need ways to deliver delicious and healthy meals to accommodate all eating preferences. Vegetable stock can be your secret ingredient.
Vegetable stock can be used to cook rice pilaf. It can be worked into salad dressings and vinaigrettes. Vegetable stock can be used as a healthier alternative to chicken and beef broth in recipes. It can be found in chili and vegetable stew recipes.
Homemade pasta can be boiled in vegetable stock and then the starchy stock can be used to thicken a Bolognese sauce. Yum!
I haven’t tried it, but if you are inspired to add beets to your vegetable stock it will have a strong flavor and it will turn red. Here are two ways to utilize the red broth. You can make a red borscht soup (red beet soup) or use the red stock to cook and color sushi rice.
The next time your grill is cooling down or you are getting your smoker up to temperature for a cook, try smoking some veggies and make your own homemade vegetable stock. It’s easy to make, adds another level of flavor, and can be frozen for future uses. Once you experience the results of homemade vegetable stock you wish you had made it sooner.