getting bitter, 'cause so is my stock

Joined Feb 3, 2010
I've been making soups for years and years, and now that I have my own kitchen I make them more than ever.

That said, the last three batches of vegetable stock have come out tasting very bitter.  I haven't changed technique very much, except that I don't take the liquid to a full boil anymore before reducing to a simmer.  I did buy my veg from a new source; a wholesaler where I buy a lot of items to stock my convenience store.

So, I'm wondering, are the veg suspect or could it be something I'm doing?  In the past I've saved up scraps and cuttings from all manner of veg in a paper bag in the freezer, then cooked it off.  I had also done purposeful stocks with ratio 2:1:1, onion, carrot, celery, for brining.  I never removed the skins from the onions (except what was loose and falling off) and the carrots & celery only got a good scrub.

The first stock I made with the wholesaler's onion & carrot, I left the skins on the onions.  It tasted like dye smells.  I remembered that yellow dye was made from onion skins way back when, so I tried again with trimmed onions (edit: topped & bottomed & peeled).  Less nasty, but it was still there... the chemically bitter aftertaste.

My meat broths are all turning out wonderfully, but I do have some veggie customers and I don't think I can last without veggie stock... any ideas?

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Joined Dec 8, 1999
Celery leaves and carrot peels can also make a stock bitter. Are you using those?
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Joined Feb 3, 2010
I am, but I always have.  I've never had a problem with bitterness up until recently.  Even so, the lastest stock  - the third of the trio of bitters - was just peeled carrots, peeled onions, and trimmed celery.  No peelings, no leaves.

My suspicion regarding the vegetables is growing.  They are larger than average, sold in large packaging... and I'm not sure they haven't been treated with some manner of chemical.  Is that done?  Is my bitter stock making me paranoid? 

I'm eagerly awaiting the day the farmer's markets open back up, and even moreso the day I can get planting in my own garden./img/vbsmilies/smilies/bounce.gif   At the same time I'm wondering if I'm doing something to cause the nasty taste.  I don't want to ruin good veg when I get it.

Changes = no boiling, just simmering.  New kitchen, new stove.  Same pots.  Mostly same ingredients, except more often just mire poix.  New source for veg (wholesaler).  A few new grey hairs.
Joined Aug 25, 2009

I have learned from my own vegetable stock that carrot tops are extremely  bitter for a stock. Maybe try cutting the tops off as well .....

a thought.
Joined Feb 3, 2010
Thanks P&C,

but I'm starting to wonder if its the curse of the commercial kitchen.  When I was just cooking at home for 'us' any and every scrap of veg, including carrot tops, onion skins, and celery leaves would go into the pot and the stock would always (if exceedingly varied) turn out great.  In fact, the stocks were made mostly of those cut offs and not much else /img/vbsmilies/smilies/rolleyes.gif

Now, even though I use only the 'good' parts of the veg it isn't working out. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/laser.gif   I'm doing it 'properly' (as far as I'm aware) and failing spectacularly.

I'd be tempted to go back to making scraps stock 'cept I don't have enough volume of scraps to cover the volume of stock I need. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/crazy.gif
Joined Oct 9, 2008
Let me get this straight.

1. You use exactly the same method you've always used, except for no longer using a full rolling boil.

2. You've used basically the same vegetables (by types).

3. Because of the problem, you've used more and more dramatically trimmed vegetables.

4. This is vegetable stock, so there's nothing else in there but water.

5. Just checking -- you haven't changed water supply, have you?

So the ONLY thing that has actually changed is your vegetable supply. Obvious experiment: go to an ordinary nothing-special supermarket, buy precisely the same vegetables (by types) that you usually use, and make stock the usual way. Betcha a dollar the stock isn't bitter.

It's the vegetable supply. Ask them a lot of questions, or just dump them as a source.

As the Master said, "when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."
Joined Feb 3, 2010
Okey doke.

That was what I thought too... thanks Occam'Chris for helping eliminate some of the impossibles.  After reading old posts about other people having stock go bitter on them the self-doubt monster reared its ugly head.

My 'staff' just got back from our tuesday shop, and their instructions included getting some veg from the local grocery so I could make a fresh veg stock for tomorro's roasted cream of cauliflower soup.

Tonight, I stock!! /img/vbsmilies/smilies/bounce.gif

Tommoro, we'll see.

Gonna have some words with that wholesaler if this stock goes off without a hitch...  gentle words, 'cause I'll be a happy camper. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/rollsmile.gif
Joined Nov 1, 2009
"As the Master said, 'when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.'"
Thank you Sir Arthur.  /img/vbsmilies/smilies/wink.gif   But seriously, I agree.  The common denominator seems to be the source.  5 will get you 10 that your batch from a local grocery store, turns out fine.
Joined Feb 3, 2010
I did three side-by-side-by-side stocks.  One mire poix with the wholesale veg, one mire poix with grocery store veg, and one with scraps (including the grocery store onion skins, carrot tops-bottoms-peelings, celery leaves n peels, and the stalk n leaves of the cauliflowers.. oh, and the trimmings and peels of some garlic).  All had the same water, the same type of stock pot, and cooked for the same amount of time at the same temperature.

The scrap stock came out wonderfully flavourful, the grocery mire poix nice and clean tasting, and the wholesale mire poix... yep, a nasty chemically grossness.  I really have to wonder what it is they are doing to those poor veggies.  I'm also growing concerned about all the scraps and stock leftovers that have gone into the compost.  I hope I haven't potentially contaminated next season's garden with some lasting toxic-ness./img/vbsmilies/smilies/surprised.gif   I still have a fair amount of the wholesale veg left.... what to do...
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Joined Nov 5, 2007
My guess would be that the wholesale veggies are coming from a processor who uses a heavy hand with sulfur dioxide as a preservative.

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