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Fear Conquered: Homemade Stock
Just about every vegetable has little parts I don't like to eat.
I peel carrots (and toss peelings out), I trim tops off radishes (and toss tops out), I trim stems off mushrooms (and toss stems out), cut parsley leaves off stem (and toss stems out), pull thyme and rosemary off little branches (and toss branches out), peel outer layer(s) off onion (and toss out), peel and trim garlic (and toss out) and pull brown parts off salad greens (and toss out). Let's see, what else? Potatoes, squash, cucumbers, beets, fennel, celery (I don't eat much of this), avocado, cilantro, tomatoes - and the list goes on.
I used to toss all those trimmings out and I never thought twice about it. After all, what are a few peels here or a few ends there?
Well, start saving it all in airtight containers in your fridge and you'll find out - there's a LOT of little bits that end up in the trash or the disposal. It's all still got nutritional value, it's all got flavor - and it's all being wasted. So what can you do with all the unappetizing scrapings, trimmings and brown bits?
Make vegetable stock.
Making stock is so easy I'm shocked anyone buys the boxed stuff (or, gasp! the canned stuff). Making stock is also the most responsible way to dispose of the vegetable waste - you extract every bit of usable nutrition and flavor before discarding. It also lets you save money (you're not buying stock) and cut down on waste (fewer cartons or cans to be manufactured, transported and disposed of).
There's no set recipe and truly NO right way to make it. There's not even a required ingredient list because you'll be using all the accumulated trimmings (now packed away in airtight contains in the nether-regions of your fridge). You can even toss in some lemon rinds or apple peels - maybe even that incredibly hard baguette you've been using as a rolling pin!
There's not even a set cooking time for stock - you can get the stock started and then go play a game with friends, help your kids with homework or light a candle and soak in a hot bath. Easy, easy, easy - and now all that stuff you were going to throw out can feel just as loved as the lucky ones you chose to eat.
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|You will need a large stock pot.|
|I recommend a stock pot with a 10-15 quart capacity (mine has a 12 quart capacity).|
|Add 3 Tablespoons of olive oil to the stock pot and heat over medium heat while you prepare vegetables.|
|For basic vegetable stock, you will need onion, garlic, carrots, fresh parsley and fresh thyme. You can certainly add more vegetables and herbs you have lying about.|
|Roughly chunk the onion and add to the stock pot.|
|Roughly chunk the carrots and add to the stock pot.|
|Halve a head of garlic and add to the stock pot.|
|Roughly chop a large bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley and add to the pot.|
|I also like to add vegetable peels and trimmings I've collected to the stock.|
|I also raid my vegetable drawer and add whatever I can find.|
|Radishes and broccoli stems...|
|Next, add the spices. I use fennel seed, celery seed, cracked black pepper, dried oregano, dried dill, dried rosemary, bay leaves and kosher salt.|
|Add all selected vegetables to the stock pot.|
|Add all spices and seasonings.|
|Stir everything together and cover. Let the vegetables steam/saute covered for 15 minutes.|
|Add 1 1/2 gallons purified water to the stock pot.|
|Stir everything together, bring stock to the boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer for 2-3 hours.|
|Stock broth will change to a rich brown and the will have reduced by approximately 1/2.|
|To strain, set up a bowl and sieve. For really clear stock, you can also line the sieve with cheese cloth.|
|Strain the stock. I strain mine twice to make sure I've removed every chunk of vegetable.|
|Allow the strained stock to cool to room temperature before refrigerating or freezing.|
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Homemade Vegetable Stock
Prep Time: 30 min
Cook Time: 2-3 hrs
Ingredients (makes 3 quarts)
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 large carrots, chunked
- 2 large yellow onions, chunked
- 1 head of garlic, halved
- 1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
- 1 bunch of fresh thyme
- 1 container of vegetable trimmings (optional)
- 4 cups chopped assorted vegetables (optional)
- 1 Tablespoon fennel seed, crushed
- 1 teaspoon celery seed, crushed
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cracked black pepper
- 1 Tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried dill
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 4 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 1 1/2 gallons (24 cups) purified water
- Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot (10-15 quart capacity) over medium heat
- While the olive oil heats, prepare the vegetables and spices; add to the stock pot and stir to combine everything. Cover the stock pot and cook for 20 minutes
- Add the purified water (I prefer water purified by reverse osmosis), stir well, cover the pot and bring to the boil
- Reduce the heat to medium and let the stock simmer uncovered for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally, until the stock liquid is a rich brown color and has reduced by half
- Remove from heat, strain and let cool to room temperature before refrigerating or freezing. Stock can be kept in the refrigerator for approximately 1 week and frozen indefinitely
An original recipe by Javelin Warrior. © 2010 Javelin Warrior. All rights reserved.
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Hungry for Tips?
- The wider the variety of vegetables, the more depth of flavor to the stock; however, go easy on really aggressive flavors (like parsnips or broccoli) or they will easily overpower the stock.
- I usually collect between 6-8 cups (sometimes even more) of vegetable peels and trimmings before making stock. That way I'm sure to have a wide variety of flavors (and vitamins and minerals); take whatever you've collected and toss into the pot.
- I also raid my vegetable drawer, herb drawer, onion bowl, potato bin and garlic can for anything I'm not likely to use before it goes bad and chuck it into the pot. I'll even toss in stale chunks of bread.
- Don't waste a lot of time with fancy knife-work - just roughly chunk or chop stuff and toss it into the stock pot. You will be cooking everything until it's mush anyway, so it doesn't need to look pretty.
- If you want really, really, really "clear" stock instead of murkiness, strain the stock using layers of cheesecloth. I honestly can't be bothered because I simply don't care how my stock looks. It's not like I plan to serve someone a steaming bowl of stock.
- When making stock, plan to stick around for at least 3 hours - good stock needs plenty of time to simmer in order to really develop flavor.
- Maybe you're scratching your head, wondering why you would ever want to make vegetable stock. Here's a short list of common uses but be creative. And if you're vegan or vegetarian, you can always use vegetable stock in place of chicken stock:
- Soups (obviously)
- Pan sauces
- Mashed potatoes (substitute for some of the milk or butter)
- Pan-cooked chicken
- Pan-seared vegetables
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