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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Taking Stock of Things

As you know, I am a firm believer in homemade chicken stock.  It's not hard to make, and it tastes so much better than the stuff that comes in the box.  When does anything that comes in a box taste better than something made from scratch anyway?

The other day as I was making my grocery list I was going through the produce drawer in the refrigerator . As always, there were the normal odds and ends left over from the week.  As I looked at these vegetables that were just past their prime for steaming and serving for dinner, it occurred to me that they could still be put to good use.  I could do something that I hadn't done in a long time.  I could make a vegetable stock, freeze it and have it on hand to use in the coming months.

The great thing about making homemade vegetable stock is that there is no set list of ingredients.  You can use whatever you happen to have around, and it will come out great.  The other nice thing is that homemade stock is far less expensive than the boxed variety and you can control what goes into it.  It's also so easy to make that you can throw on a pot to simmer in the time it takes to open a box!

Unlike chicken stock, making vegetable stock is far less of a project because it takes a lot less time.  I cut all the vegetables into halves or thirds and throw them into the pot.  I don't even bother peeling anything.  The skins from the veggies add color and nutrients to the stock.  After it's all cooked, just strain the stock into plastic containers and store it in the freezer for up to six months -- although I doubt it will last that long!

The guidelines below are just that -- guidelines.  Throw in as few or as many vegetables as you have and add enough water to cover.  Figure that for each 3 quarts of water you'll need 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black peppercorns.  By not over seasoning the stock you'll be able to add more salt and pepper to whatever you make with it in the coming months.

Recipe:  Basic Vegetable Stock


Basic Vegetables to Include:

2 large onions, unpeeled and halved
4 carrots, unpeeled and halved
2 stalks celery with leaves, halved
1 large leek, quartered
2 cloves garlic, smashed
Italian parsley, thyme, bay leaf

Other Vegetables and Herbs that Would Be Nice:

Celery root
Lemongrass (but just a little)


Place all ingredients in a large soup pot and cover with cold water.  Season with about 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns per 3 quarts of water.  Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for about an hour.  Let cool and then strain the stock into plastic containers for storage. Stock will keep in the freezer for up to 6 months.

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