(Want to know how I meal plan a month in minutes? Here's how!)
And by cheap, I mean free. Sure, it takes a little time, but 98% of that time is unattended, no-effort needed time. Yay. Double-yay because if you go through a lot of stock, you soon begin to realize that it is pretty pricy at the store. Even more so if you want organic or salt free versions.
Both of the jars in the picture are vegetable stocks and I will explain the color difference later on. To start out with, as I explained on Facebook – I begin to collect vegetable scraps over time from all the meals I prep.
To do this, I keep a gallon sized bag in the freezer: everytime I have any leftover peels, ends or wilted things from the back of the fridge, I throw them in that bag. That way nothing goes bad while waiting to be made into stock, as it takes a while to fill the bag. In my house, it takes about 10 days or so to generate enough stuff to fill the bag, but mine is only a two person house. Although, we eat a LOT of vegetables. So the time it takes to fill an entire gallon bag will vary from household to household. I like to make big batches of stock at once right now as we’re still in full on soup-meal-mode and generally find that a 1 gallon bag is a double batch. In other words, 1 gallon of vegetable scraps will fill approximately 2 6 quart pans and make a little less than a gallon of stock. If you don’t want so much – or don’t have a lot of room in your freezer – try saving up a quart bag size instead.
Now the method of actually making the vegetable stock is simple. Take a pan large enough to fill about half way with vegetables. In my case, I use two because I’m making a double batch using a 1 gallon bag’s-worth of scraps. Add the vegetables to the pan, then fill the pan up so that the water is level with the top of the vegetable scraps.
Next you want to bring your pan or pans up to a boil, then turn down the heat so that the pans are at a low, even simmer. Cover your pan(s) with a lid, leaving a crack open at the edges for steam to escape. I like to keep a lid on my pans so that I’m free to wander off and do other things without risking the pan boiling dry and so that the stock doesn’t get too concentrated. You may find that you want your own stock more concentrated than this, depending on what you want to use it for; since I primarily use this stock for soup, this is the right level of concentration for my taste. Once you’ve made sure that the pan is simmering away without boiling over, you can leave it to bubble along its merry way for an hour or so. You can leave it longer: if I want a darker, more flavorful stock, I’ll leave it for up to two hours. I also do not add any salt to my stock; I prefer to season as I go, particularly since I don’t always know exactly what recipe I’m going to use the stock in.
Once the stock is ready, you’ll need a large something to strain it into through a colander. I have a great oversized mixing bowl for this. Because it’s so hot, I usually ladle the large pieces of vegetables out into the colander first to minimize the risk of splash back from the stock. However you do it, carefully make sure that all the stock is run through the colander. At this point, you can discard the solids – if you have a compost heap, that’s a good place for them.
Right now, the stock is useable, but you will still have a little bit of sediment at the bottom unless you follow this last step. Use a fine-meshed strainer to run the stock through again to pick up any sediment – I like to do this over a large gallon sized jug so that I can then pour the stock into whatever containers I want easily. If I’m not going to use the stock up straightaway, a great way to keep it is to portion it into freezer bags and lay them flat to freeze. Then they can be stacked and defrosted later when you need them.
You can see here that this particular batch of stock is extremely dark. That’s because I deliberately included brown onion skins in my scraps as well as the white flesh of the onions. Just as when onions are caramelized they turn dark brown, so too will they affect the color of your stock. In this instance, I was making a vegetable stock for a French Onion Soup later on in the week, so that suited me perfectly. However, if you want a lighter stock, like the smaller jar in the picture at the top of this post, avoid including onion skins.
Good vegetable scraps for stock include:
- onions / shallots (avoiding the skins unless you want a dark stock)<
- squashes / zucchini
- fresh herb stems / leaves
- peppers (sweet / bell)
- sweet potato peelings
- mushrooms / stems
- small amounts of fruit peels like apples / pears (no citrus, bananas or berries, though!)
Vegetable scraps you may want to limit or avoid:
- garlic – too much is bitter
- onion skins – they darken and cloud broth (but this is fine in beef based dishes / soups)
- strong flavors like asparagus, cabbage or broccoli
I shall try and add to this list as I make note of the next few batches of stock I make – please leave a comment below if you have any questions 🙂