Thursday, March 5, 2015

Vegan Recipe: Vegetable Stock

Soup season is upon us still. I mean really, when isn't it soup season? The thing about store bought soup is that it is often filled with mystery ingredients and of questionable health benefits. Why not make your own soup? Starting with a solid vegetable stock is a great beginning for any soup invention.

Supermarket vegetable broth is perfect in a pinch, but pales in comparison to the homemade stuff. It takes less than 10 minutes to get the stock on the stove, and the ingredients cost less than $5 to make a gallon. This leaves very little room for excuses.

Stock is an excellent way to use up sad, old veggies. I keep a bag in my freezer as a landing pad for shriveled carrots and trimmings, onion trimmings (including the peel), the green parts of leeks, mushroom stems, peppers, and herbs. After a few weeks I just toss them into the pot, cover with water and add a few aromatics: dried herbs, salt, pepper, bay leaves, whole allspice...whatever you fancy.

To keep your stock fill quart-sized Ziplock bags and lay flat on a plate or small tray. Stack the bags on top of each other and freeze. When solid store in the freezer like books on a bookshelf. You can also pour the stock into ice cube trays for smaller quantities to use in recipes that call for a little veggie broth. 

You need:
1 to 2 onions (no need to skin, just whack into about 1-inch pieces)
2 to 3 carrots, roughly chopped (no need to peel)
3 to 4 celery stalks, roughly chopped (tops, bottoms and the leaves)
4 to 5 sprigs fresh thyme (or 2 tsp dried thyme)
1 bay leaf
1 small bunch parsley
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns (or 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper)
1 tsp sea salt (or kosher)
Optional Extras: leeks (especially the green parts), fennel, tomatoes, mushrooms, mushroom stems, parsnips

1. Roughly chop all of your vegetables into about 1/2- to 1-inch pieces. It doesn't matter what veg you use, just make sure you have approximately the same amount of each  so the stock has a balanced flavor. Avoid strong-flavors like cabbage, broccoli or cauliflower.
2. Toss all the veg into a stock pot--any large pot will do--and cover with enough water so you can easily stir them around, plus a few more inches. It isn't an exact science, but the more water you have the less concentrated the stock will be. 
3. Place the pot on your burner and turn to medium high. Bring to a boil. One bubbles begin to surface, turn down to medium-low so the water is simmering. It is important to not boil the stock at a high heat or you will evaporate the water too quickly to let the veggies work their magic.
4. Cook for about an hour and a half, stirring occasionally.
5. When the stock has a nice light brown color with all of the lovely smells of a proper broth, take the pot off the stove and remove the veg with a slotted spoon. Place your strainer over a large bowl or container of choice and, using a ladle or small bowl, pour the stock through the strainer.
6. Divide the stock into containers or resealable bags and cool completely. Freeze for up to 6 months.

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