Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Homemade Vegetable Stock

Make your own vegetable stock.  It's one of the easiest things to prepare, and you'll be glad you did!  Vegetable stock is not only good for soup, it is great when used in boiling rice or other grains.  It's can also be added to a stir fry, if you need some extra liquid.  This adds flavor rather than watering down your recipe.  You can also use broth to moisten left-overs when reheating them.

Buying organic vegetable stock can be pricey.  If you make your own it's practically free.  All you need are vegetable scraps and some herbs and spices that you already have on hand.  Then freeze in glass jars or plastic containers for later use.  Another method when freezing is to pour the cooled broth into ice cube trays, and once they are frozen pop them out and store them in a plastic freezer bag.  This method allows you to use them in smaller portions, for instance, if you intend on using the vegetable stock mostly for stir fry's.

What I have found that works for me, when it comes to acquiring vegetable scraps, is to keep a gallon bag in my freezer with a variety of scraps.  I label it "For Vegetable Stock", and I keep adding to the collection as I prepare other meals.  Rather than throwing away the celery tops that you don't eat, add them to the scrap collection that will later be used for your vegetable stock.  I like to accumulate bell pepper tops, pieces of onion and celery, and carrot ends and peels.  You can add whatever other vegetable scraps you have on hand.  For example, if you want a spicy stock add hot peppers to the mix. Just be sure to thoroughly wash these scraps before you add them to you bag, if you haven't already done so prior to chopping your vegetables.  

Once my bag is full I make the vegetable stock.  Then start the cycle all over again.  

To begin with, all you need to prepare the stock is:

  1. Freezer bag full of scraps
  2. Large stock pot
  3. Water
  4. Additional herbs and spices

You will also need the following tools:

  1. A slotted spoon or strainer spoon.
  2. A strainer.
  3. Cheese cloth.
  4. A large bowl.
  5. Containers, as described above.

To make the Vegetable Stock:

  1. Empty the contents of the bag into the stock pot.
  2. Add any additional vegetables.    
  3. Add herbs and spices.
  4. Cover the vegetables with water.
  5. On medium-high heat, bring to a boil.
  6. Lower the heat and simmer a minimum of 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  7. Remove from heat and discard the vegetables using a slotted or strainer spoon.  
  8. Lay the cheesecloth over the strainer and place over a large bowl.
  9. Pour the vegetable stock into the strainer to remove any herb or spice remnants.
  10. Let cool, then pour into your container of choice.

The recipe I provided is pretty generic, because you can experiment with the flavors that you would like to add.  I usually add parsley, salt, and pepper. Normally, I have all kinds of herbs on hand, so I use either dried or frozen. The spices can be adjusted as needed too.  You can always add more salt later if you are not happy with it, or you can make it low sodium.   

Herbs that are good for adding to stock are:  thyme, parsley, and bay leaves.  Thyme has a sweet, slightly earthy flavor.  Parsley  has a mild, slightly peppery flavor. And bay leaves add depth to your stock, but is probably used more to add it's mild floral aroma to dishes. 

Other good additions to your vegetable stock are mushrooms, peppercorns, basil twigs, zucchini ends and broccoli stalks.

Vegetable stock can be customized to suit your taste buds or the different dishes you plan to use your stock in. A few simple steps and minimal work creates a versatile stock rich in flavor. I know that you will enjoy the comforting aroma that will fill your home!


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