I hesitate to call this a recipe because…well…it isn’t. It’s basically a guideline of how I make my veggie stock. I’ve been doing this for about a year and a half now, and I’m so frustrated at myself that I didn’t start doing it earlier, because I’ve wasted a lot of money on store-bought vegetable stock in the past.
This is something that I love doing because I only use things that would normally go in the compost bucket anyway, so it is essentially free to make.
Whenever I’m making anything with vegetables, I keep a bowl beside me that my scraps go into. And this is anything- the ends of carrots, peels of potatoes, skins of onions, etc.- that I wouldn’t use in whatever I’m cooking. In my freezer, I keep a big tupperware container and a couple of big ziplock bags that I put all of these scraps into. Once they are all full, I make veggie stock. I can usually get 6-7 pints of stock each time I do this.
Now you can, of course, make stock just like this out of whole vegetables, and I’ve certainly been known to do that if I know I’m going to need some and I don’t have enough in the freezer, but this ramshackle way feels so good. Like I’m recycling my vegetables.
I’ve actually got a pot simmering away as we speak. Here’s what I’ve got in it (as far as I can tell…who knows what I’ve collected):
- onion skins and pieces
- carrot peels and ends
- parsnip peels
- potato peels
- garlic ends
- leeks that got too old to use in soup
- mushroom stems
- green bean ends
- cauliflower and broccoli branches
- celery leaves and trimmings
- summer squash ends
And probably some other stuff that I couldn’t make out…what a collection, eh? I also frequently thow in parsley stems if I have any hanging around, but I don’t at the moment.
I put everything into a heavy-bottomed pot (I used my enamel dutch oven that was a FANTASTIC gift from my mom), pour cold water over it (I use a pint jar so I can keep count of how many I will need prepped when I can it afterwards) and turn the heat on low. I don’t like the water to heat up too fast because remember, my veggies are frozen solid at this point, and I don’t want them to cook into mush.
The absolute key to doing this is to not cook them too much. You never want the water at a full boil- a low simmer is ideal- because the stock will get bitter if it over cooks and then you’ve just wasted all your scraps! It usually takes me a couple of hours to do this. But you don’t have to hover! Just turn it onto low, cover it, and let it simmer for a while. Keep an eye on it and stir it occasionally while it cooks. I don’t even have a time to tell you, because it depends entirely on what scraps you are using. I read a lot of 18th century cookbooks, and they have this great direction in most recipes: “cook it until it is done” with no other guidelines! It cracks me up every time, but ovens and fires could vary so wildly that they never could give an exact time. This is the same type of thing. Usually when the water starts to take on a nice color, I taste it to see if it has flavor.
Now this is a little tricky, because I don’t add any salt to mine (I always use unsalted broth), so it doesn’t really taste good to my palate. However, you can taste the flavors of the veggies, and when it stops tasting like weird water, then you’ve got it. I take it off the heat, strain the veggies out, put the broth into pint jars and process them. It also freezes very well, and I always did this before I got my pressure canner. I usually measured it out into 2 cup portions and froze it in freezer bags. It also works very well in ice cube trays if you need smaller amounts (just make sure that you measure how many ice cubes to a cup and write it on the bag!).
If your broth never achieved the flavor you wanted, you can also concentrate it by cooking down the strained liquid until it has a flavor that you like. It’s very flexible.
If you aren’t already doing this, you really should start saving your scraps. Every time I make it I feel like I’ve gotten something from absolutely nothing. The only drawback is that if you make really excellent stock, it’s impossible to re-create, so it is kind of a crap shoot. One thing to remember is to try and keep it as balanced as you can. Too many potato peels will make it far too starchy, too many coles will make it really bitter, too many carrots and parsnips will make it too sweet, etc. Be careful of your proportions.
Do any of you make your own veggie stock? What method you do you use?