It’s that time of year when soups are made, rich sauces come out to play, and risotto begins to call to me. All of these things have something in common: they all start with good stock. For me, that means vegetable stock!
What reason is there to spend $3.75 on one quart of decent vegetable stock at the grocery store when you can make a gallon of homemade stock from the veggies you were using anyway? There’s no reason, I say. If you have a large pan, a strainer, a couple of bowls and access to some water, you’re ready to go!
Here’s some easy guidelines:
1. When you have done your shopping and your veggie drawer is bursting with all kinds of freshly purchased goodness, get yourself a container that you can use to store your veggie scraps in the fridge. It doesn’t matter if it’s a gallon-sized baggie or a covered tupperware, just make sure it’s going to be big enough to hold a decent amount.
2. As you cook throughout the week, add your veggie scraps to the container. One veggie I wouldn’t recommend adding to your mix: tomatoes. They may taste great, but they make your stock really cloudy and unappetizing. Otherwise, the rest of the gang can all come together and hang out until your container is pretty full (don’t keep it going for more than a week, though).
3. When your week is up, or you find that you need some stock, it’s time to cook! Add your container of veg to a large pot (I use a stock pot) and add cold water until the veggies are just covered. You want to maximize the flavors, so don’t overdo it on the water.
4. When I was taught how to make stock in school, we always added Bouqet Garni, basically a little package of fresh herbs and peppercorns ties up with twine and tossed into the stock pot to be taken out later. I like to keep things nice and easy at home, so I just add fresh ground pepper and herbs right to the pot, and I don’t worry about straining them out. Flavor is my friend, and if you can see herbs in my stock, I think I’ll be okay with that.
5. Bring your water to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and let it simmer for about 30 minutes with the lid on. Don’t let it go too long, or the color of your stock will not be very pretty! Only when you are making meat stocks do you let things go for more than 30 minutes, but for fish or veggie stock, 30 minutes is perfect. Now you are ready to strain!
5. Have a couple of large bowls ready to catch all of the good stock you’ve made. Slowly pour the stock into the strainer, taking care not to splash hot liquid on yourself! If you see that your bowl is getting pretty full, switch the strainer onto the next bowl and finish it up.
6. Now you just let them cool down (unless you’re using it right away in a recipe) and decide how you want to store it. Do you know that there’s a big soup recipe in your future? Then just pop the stock into the fridge and use in a couple of days. I like to save some in the fridge, and store the rest in the freezer. Take out those ice cube trays and get ready to make stock-cicles! They keep for a good long time in the freezer, and they are great to add when you just need a little bit of liquid and would rather not use water.
So way to go! You’re saving money, making tasty foods with your fresh stock, and making good use out of those veg scraps you otherwise would have thrown into the trash. Nice.