Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Vegetable stock

Making a vegetable stock is a good use of excess vegetables in your fridge that may otherwise go to waste. I like to use fresh produce whenever possible. The problem is, so often we have to buy produce in a pre-measured package of some sort rather than just what we need. For example, the other day I was making a recipe that called for a leek (as in one leek). You can't buy just one leek - you have to buy 2 or 3 leeks. A week or so ago I needed a parsnip; but, you can't just buy one parsnip - they typically come in a cello package. Which I don't really understand because turnips, rutabagas, and even carrots (in upper end grocery stores) can be bought individually - but not parsnips, at least here in Texas.

Anyway, rather than letting the leftover vegetables go bad in the fridge (as typically happens), I decided to make a vegetable stock. I used a recipe for vegetable stock on the food network website - although not to the letter. I just used what I had.

My vegetable stock has
  • 2 parsnips
  • 4 carrots
  • 1/2 bunch of celery that was starting to wilt
  • 1/2 onion from the fridge plus a whole onion from the pantry
  • 1/2 head garlic separated into cloves and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 package of snow peas
  • Some string beans I bought the other day to have with dinner and forgot to cook
  • 3/4 bunch of arugula
  • a small red bell pepper from my garden
  • A dozen (or so) black pepper corns
  • A good sized handful of fresh herbs from the garden
    • bay leaves
    • thyme (2 types)
    • savory
    • marjoram
    • oregan0
    • rosemary
I washed everything under cold running water; but, I did not peel the carrots or parsnips - I just scrubbed them and cut them into quarters. Even the onion was chopped into quarters, skin and all, after washing.

Just dump everything into a big pot, bring it to a boil, then simmer for several hours. Turn off the heat, let it cool, strain and package into freezer containers and freeze.

I'll be using 1 cup and 2 cup containers. But, I'll have to figure out some way to distinguish them from the chicken stock containers we made a month or so ago. Hmmm, this makes me want to find a butcher to see if I can get some beef bones to make a good hearty beef stock. It's hard to find a real butcher these days since most grocery stores have gone to pre-packaged meat.

You may notice that there is no salt. The original food network recipe didn't call for salt either. Commercial stocks and broths are often loaded with salt - which is a good reason for making your own. We don't use a lot of salt in our home. I often put in 1/2 the amount of salt (or less) a recipe calls for, except for certain recipes, like baked goods, where the salt is essential to the chemical reaction.

A vegetable stock can be substituted in many recipes that call for chicken stock. I wouldn't substitute vegetable stock in something like chicken and dumplings; but, a acorn squash/pumpkin soup I made the other day called for chicken stock - and a vegetable stock would have worked just as well, perhaps even better (it wasn't as delicious as I wanted it to be - which is why the recipe isn't posted here).

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