I am often a little confused. And it seems to be happening more and more.

Ah, well. At least I can be prepared. You know on Thanksgiving how when you went to make the gravy you needed a few cups of stock? And you didn’t have any?

We should all take a lesson from the Boy Scouts and be prepared. Make that stock in advance and make it, not as an afterthought, but with intent. Not just with scraps but with boldly fresh ingredients.

First, stock versus broth. Today, we tend to confuse the two terms. Technically, stock is made with meat and not seasoned. While broth is made with bones, and likely attached scraps of meat, and cooked longer to extract gelatin and flavor.

For her cooking school, Cooking by the Book, Suzi orders vegetables by the boxload. A bushel of this, a crate of that. So, when we have some downtime during the week, it is easy to put up a BIG pot of water, salt it with generosity and add stock ingredients. Yes, we do save veggie scraps each day for ultimate stock engagement, but with a box of onions sitting on the floor, there’s no harm in taking a big, fresh one, cutting it into quarters and tossing it into the pot. In fact, the onion skins will contribute a lovely brown color to the final product.

You are supposed to bring the water to a boil, simmer “for a while” and then strain. I have seen “for a while” described as short as 15 minutes. This stock — we don’t use bones — is also meatless. It really is vegetable stock, just in case someone cooking to the school has special needs or concerns.

Cooking with meat or with bones does add flavor, and our veggie stock does not have those contributors. But time can be considered a hidden ingredient. We let our vegetable stock sit on the stovetop for hours. The smell is homey and luscious. On a day like today, with the chill factor at zero, the aroma of that stock is a godsend.

And, if you let stock cook for hours, it becomes richer in flavor, darkly colored, and perfect for everything: that gravy, soups, a base for braising meats, … It’s a wonder on its own. Combined in the pan with some olive oil or wine, its flavors can be amplified and extended.

You really don’t need a formal recipe here. Just fill the pot with water, liberally salt, add “stuff” and cook for a few hours. Strain, allow to cool, and refrigerate or freeze. We have a separate freezer filled with stock and Suzi’s bread. No, we are not actually crazy. We just cook with a lot of people. Every week.


Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60mm Macro Lens, F/4 for 1/40th second at ISO‑250