Tis the season for homemade soups! When the cold weather arrives I always like to have a couple soups stashed in my freezer to enjoy for lunch with a slice of crusty bread. The base of any good soup is a good stock and to avoid buying expensive cartons or msg laden cans of it, I just make it myself!
While some people prefer to reserve whole veggies specifically for cooking stock, I like to do things the economical way and make stock using my vegetable scraps! This can be anything from carrot tops, to apple cores, to kale stems. It’s also a practical way to use up produce that you prepared too much of such as diced onions or peppers. I even like to use overripe or wilted veggies like spinach or parsnips that were left un-bagged in the fridge too long!
I’ve gotten myself into the habit of saving my produce scraps in a scrap bowl as I’m cooking, then bagging them up and freezing them for stock day. Once I have a couple full bags I know its time to make stock.
The only thing I’ve had problems with in stock is citrus. If you choose to you may add the tiniest sliver of lemon to your batch but any more will create a bitter stock.
Having said that, keep in mind that different veggie combos will yield different soup bases. A traditional stock may be achieved with simply carrots, onion, garlic, celery, and potatoes.
An asian inspired stock may include shiitake, ginger, squash, and scallions.
Don’t be afraid to just cook up a stock with a hodgepodge of leftover veggies though. It will be delicious and multipurpose!
1. Start with a large soup pot. For convenience, I use a double chamber stock pot which I highly recommend. Fill the pot 1/2 to 3/4 of the way full with your frozen chopped veggies.
2. Add enough water to cover the vegetables, cover, and bring to a boil (this may take a while depending on the size of your pot). Once the water has reached a rapid boil, reduce to a simmer and keep partially covered. I cook in a 12 QT pot and my stock can take anywhere from 4-8 hours to be done. Check it often for color and flavor. The longer you simmer your stock, the darker and more flavorful it will become as it reduces and draws nutrients from the produce. At the very least, simmer for close to three hours.
3. As you simmer, the vegetables will lose their vibrant color and fade to a greyish mush. It’s because all the color and vitamins have gone in to your stock! Once the stock has reached the desired color and flavor, turn off the heat.
4. If you are using a double chamber pot, lift the inner chamber out and let the excess liquid drain into your stock. You may use the back of a wooden spoon or ladel to press the vegetables in order to extract a maximum amount of stock.
If you were using a regular pot, place a large heat proof mixing bowl or large pot under a colander and pour the contents of the stock pot through. The vegetable matter will stay in the colander and you may then proceed with pressing the liquid through into the bowl.
5. Some small bits may escape through the holes of your colander. You can strain the stock again through a small sieve or cheesecloth but clearly I couldn’t be bothered to do that… A little sage never hurt anyone. You may also salt the stock if you prefer though I like to keep in unsalted to control the sodium level in my cooking. Let your stock cool and then ladle into freezer bags filling the bags no more than half way.
6. Freeze in labeled bags for future use. Stock will keep for 6+ months in the freezer and will keep 4 or 5 days in the fridge. Use for soups, stews, sauces, and in most recipes that call for water. Drink it hot for a vitamin boost when you feel a cold coming on.
What are you waiting for? Stock up!