The Soup Blog
Recipes, Culinary Insights & Humor Spooned Up Fresh Every Week…………………(Now in its Ice Cream Phase)
Less Is Not More: Soup Stocks

Stock Photo

My wife’s style is all about color.

Not that I’m an expert or anything, having failed every single test for color blindness the last time I went to see the eye doctor. But anyone you ask will tell you the same thing: her gift for combining colors from the same palette or from different ones altogether is incredible.

It’s there in her floral arrangements, her gift for creating a garden landscape, even the table she sets for dinner. It’s all about color, color and more color.

Sadly, despite our having been together for over 15 years, none of her talents have rubbed off on me. Not that I haven’t learned anything. Just not in the realm of hues or tints or anything beyond monochrome. So… she sort of has to help dress me for any function above the casual level.

In the kitchen, however, I’ve completely embraced her philosophy— more is better.

In terms of cooking that means always adding flavor. And one of the best ways to add flavor is to use a lot of stock.

When I was first making soups, some of the recipes I made used water as the foundation of the soup. I would never do that now.

What’s the point?

Sure, adding water contributes to the texture of a soup, but it actually takes flavor away by diluting the taste of whatever else you already have in the soup. Stock lets you change the texture of your soup (Okay, it transforms whatever you’re making into a soup.) and gives it more flavor and body as well.

But I don’t stop with soup. I use stock to cook rice, vegetables and just about anything that involves water, except pie crusts and most baked goods. I’m not crazy. The logic doesn’t stop with stock either. Milk, wine, juice or any other flavorful liquid adds more to a dish than water does. But stock is usually my first choice.

All of which segues nicely into to this week’s recipes. (That’s right, this posting is a two for one.)

The first recipe is for a good chicken stock. It’s cheap, easy to make and a great choice for soup or anything else in which you use stock. The second recipe is for a veggie stock (for all my friends and family who don’t eat meat). Personally, I think chicken stock has a little more flavor and body, but the veg. stock is really good too.

With the chicken stock, much of the flavor and body comes from the chicken bones and requires a fair amount of cooking (3-4 hours) to extract it all. In the interest of adding flavor, however, the mirepoix (onions, carrots and celery) and the sachet (literally a bag of herbs and spices: parsley stems, peppercorns, thyme and bay leaf are the classical version) shouldn’t be discounted.  They don’t add much extra work either.

The vegetable stock gets all of its flavor from the vegetables and takes less time to make. This is because it’s not as hard to pull all the flavor out of a vegetable. That means doesn’t take as long to make more of it.

More is good.

Chicken Stock
(about 1 gallon)
8 lbs chicken bones
6 qts cold water
1 lb mirepoix:
⅓ lb onions, chopped
⅓ lb carrots, chopped
⅓ lb celery, chopped
1 sachet:
3-4 parsley stems
½ t thyme
1 bay leaf
½ t peppercorns

  1. Rinse the bones and combine with the water in a large pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 3-4 hours, skimming the surface of the stock as necessary.
  2. Add the mirepoix and the sachet (traditionally the ingredients for the sachet are wrapped in a small cheesecloth sack, hence the name) and simmer for another hour.
  3. Strain the stock and you’re done.

Vegetable Stock
(about 1 gallon)
2 T oil
1-2 lbs leeks, white part only, well cleaned and chopped (not too fine, you’re just going to soak them)
1 lb carrots, peeled and chopped
1 lb onions, chopped
1 lb celery, chopped
1 fennel bulb, chopped
4 qts cold water
1 bunch parsley
1 bay leaf
1 t thyme
1t peppercorns

  1. Heat the oil over medium in an 8 quart pot add the vegetables and sauté until they’re soft (6-8 minutes).
  2. Add the water and the sachet (everything else) and bring the contents to a simmer (boiling is too harsh) for about an hour.
  3. Strain the stock and you’re done.

Note: The bones and vegetables you strain out of the stock don’t have any flavor left in them and can be thrown out. You can also compost the veggies.

Another note: In the interest of saving time, there are alternatives to homemade stock. Most grocery stores or supermarkets (or Costco or Trader Joe’s) sell cartons or cans of chicken, vegetable, or even beef stock (it’s often called broth, but it works the same way). When you’re really pressed for time, you can also use bouillon cubes/powder or another concentrated product called “better than bouillon.” It won’t make the purists happy and bouillon is pretty salty often has MSG (just so you know), but there you are.

Image Credit: “Stock Photo,” by the author.

One of the downsides of making a lot of soup and stock, is where to store it.  You can use it all at once (if you cook/eat a lot). You can also freeze the stuff for later use, but that takes a lot of space and I don’t have a walk-in freezer or even a standalone.
It’s something I still have trouble with. What do you do?

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