Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Veggie Might: Homemade Vegetable Stock and a Fresh Start

Written by the fabulous Leigh, Veggie Might is a regular Thursday feature about all things Vegetarian. This week, it's coming a day early in celebration of the new administration. Today's regularly scheduled article will appear tomorrow.

(Editor’s note: At this article’s filing, I’m in Baltimore/DC and may just be a little swept up in Change.)

It occurred to me that I’ve used homemade vegetable stock in my last few CHG recipes. It’s not the sexiest recipe I can share with you, but it’s one of the most practical, useful, and economical things you’ll ever make, use, and love.

In the spirit of These Trying Economic Times and The New Days Ahead, we can make change possible by casting aside the bullion and canned broth of the past. We can cast off the shackles of sodium and MSG that have been raising our blood pressure. We can create from whole vegetables and herbs a brew that tastes and smells of home and garden, not of the agri-industrial complex. And we can make this for less than 20 cents a serving.

There are as many takes on vegetable stock as there are cooks in the firmament; there is no right or wrong way to make it. Whatever veggies you like are the veggies you should use. Most western cooks agree that a few carrots, a potato, an onion, a couple ribs of celery, and a generous bunch of parsley are essential. After that, it’s up to you and your taste buds.

I like to use parsnips and turnips in my stock, as well as garlic and leeks. Generally, I’ll add thyme (fresh if I have it, dried if I don’t) and a couple bay leaves too. I prefer sea salt, though many cooks recommend soy sauce, and whole black peppercorns to round out the seasoning.

The first time I made stock, I followed the directions in Moosewood New Classics, which differs not much at all from any of the countless recipes you would find on the Internet. The only major difference is what not to include. The Moosewood editors suggest you avoid tomatoes, broccoli, or any acidic vegetables in your stock. Everyone linked above disagrees, so throw in whatever you want to your heart’s and vegetable crisper’s desire.

There is a misconception out there that I feel I should address. I held this belief, too, until a bad batch set me straight: stock should be made with veggies you wouldn’t eat otherwise. Wrong! If you make your stock with questionable veggies, you will have questionable stock. You don’t have to perfectly dice your potatoes and carrots, but you definitely want to avoid that floppy rib of celery and slimy parsley that’s ready for the compost pile.

The debate about the difference between stock and broth rages, but they are mainly the same. Call it what you like, but ultimately you want your base to be versatile. If it’s over seasoned, or particularly seasoned, its uses are limited.

Your homemade stock/broth will be so much healthier than any canned version you can buy, plus you can rescue some of the veggies to get even more bang for your pennies. I use the carrots, parsnips, potatoes, and turnips to make soup or a mashed root veg side dish.

I couldn’t use my normal methods for evaluating the calorie/fat content of the homemade stock, since the veggies are not eaten, only stewed. I checked out a few sites, found the nutritional content of the recipes, and took the mean: 23 calories per cup, 0.1g fat.

You may want to add olive oil to your stock. Sometimes I do; sometimes I forget. This batch, because I used a few more ingredients than last time, came out to about 19 cents per serving. (I also made two gallons, but I adjusted the recipe for 2 quarts. Not everyone uses stock at the rate I do.)

So, with a sense of Purpose and the Mantle of Inspiration, take these tips and make stock. Fortify yourselves and your families to face the challenges that lie ahead. Healthy bodies and healthy minds working together will make change happen and always Love You Back.

Homemade Vegetable Stock
Makes 2 quarts (8 1-cup servings)

8 1/2 cups water
2 large carrots
2 ribs celery with leaves
1 parsnip
1 medium turnip
1 medium potato
1 medium onion
1 leek
3-4 cloves garlic
1 small bunch parsley (about 1 oz by weight)
1 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 tsp sea salt

1) Scrub all veggies. I only peel the turnips, but do what feels good to you.

2) Slice the carrots and parsnips into discs, quarter potato and turnip, coarsely dice celery, onion, and leek, and chop parsley, stems and all.

3) Put 8 cups of cold water in a stock pot or large dutch oven. Add all vegetables and seasonings.

4) Over high heat, bring just to a simmering boil, reduce heat, and continue to simmer for at least 1 hour, 2 if you have the time.

5) After 2 hours, turn off heat, cover and allow stock to continue to brew as it cools.

6) You can use immediately, refrigerate for up to a week, or freeze for 2 to 3 months.

7) Make soup, etc. to your heart’s content.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price per Serving
15 calories, .1g fat, $.185

2 large carrots: $.36
2 ribs celery with leaves: $.11
1 parsnip: $.18
1 medium turnip: $.10
1 medium potato: $.19
1 medium onion: $.12
1 leek: $.12
3¬–4 cloves garlic: $.03
1 small bunch parsley (about 1 oz by weight): $.19
1 tsp dried thyme : $.02
1 bay leaf: $.02
1 tsp black peppercorns: $.02
2 tsp sea salt: $.02
Total Price: $1.48
Price per Serving: $.185

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TC said...

If you add olive oil, when do you do it? Do you saute some of the veggies in it first, or do you just add it to the water? How much?

Alisha said...

I like making "garbage stew." It works like this.
For about a week, I keep a pot in the fridge. Every evening, I pull it out, and while I'm making dinner, I put the throw-away bits of my veggies in there (the extra green parts of leeks, onion skins, apple cores, etc). I cover with water, simmer for about an hour, cool down, and refrigify. After the week (or when it's too full for any more veggie waste), I strain out the veggies, and pour the stock into ice cube trays. It's even cheaper than what you described, because the unappetizing (but not inedible) parts of the plants get used. You don't have to go buy anything.

Mrs. B said...

do you take out the veggies after the stock has cool?

Anonymous said...

I was wondering when you were going to update the in-season fruits and veggies for January?

Marcia said...

I can't bring myself to make stock from perfectly edible veggies. I don't use nearly-molding stuff, but I do toss in carrot ends, celery ends, and the tough outer parts of onions (or the onions that I never got around to finishing).

Homemade veggie stock rocks!

Karen said...

This is how I do it: Cut an onion? I take the top and bottom and put it in a container in the freezer labeled "stock bits". Ditto for peeling a carrot or potato. Not using the top of the celery? In the bag. Those ends of the green onions? Bag. Etc and so on. Bag full? Make stock. Left over stuff in stock pot after straining? Straight to the compost bin - nothing gets wasted. Yeah!

Leigh said...

TC, if you want to saute the veggies first, you certainly can. I would do it in the stock pot with oil before adding the water. Your stock will likely be a bit cloudy, but it will taste great.

If you're not sauteing, add the oil at the beginning before you add the veggies.

Oops! Thanks Mrs. B. I left out the straining step.

Yes, after the stock has cooled, strain out the cooked vegetables. I'll update accordingly.

Good tips Alisha and Marcia. It does seem a bit wasteful (though for the amount of stock I go through, it's pretty cost-effective). That's why I pick out the perfectly good carrots, potatoes, etc. to use for soup/mash. That's what I'm having for lunch today!

Lake said...

How do you like to freeze your leftover stock? I wouldn't mind making my own, but I never know what the recommended freezing vehicle is...

Something like those plastic containers from the picture? It seems like that would take a long time to thaw and take up a lot of space in a freezer (mine is already fill to overflowing w/frozen vegetables).

Plastic zip-locks, maybe?

Ice cube trays seem popular, but not very efficient, since you can't freeze much in one or two of those things.