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  • Easy Homemade Vegetable Stock

    Well, happy Sunday first of all! I hope everyone had a great week, and are finding at least a small amount of time to relax, re-fuel and organize for the week ahead. I had a busy week, topped off with a busy Saturday! Yesterday, I was up a 5:30AM, bright-eyed (read: half asleep, needing coffee STAT) and ready to interview for a farmer's market stand position selling vegetables for JenEhr farms! Despite it being cold and windy, and my awful math skills, it was a ton of fun. The stand was full of amazing, locally grown organic vegetables: red & orange carrots, bekana, mustard greens, mizuna, purple & yellow potatoes, lettuce, spinach, radish & spicy micro greens, red & chioggia beets, white onions, cerliac, arugula...for a late-april farm stand in WI, the spread was indeed impressive and welcome. Chefs from Salvatore's Pies, Forequarter, and Graze all stopped for some great veg...it was so awesome to see locals enjoy, appreciate and utilize these beautiful vegetables. Needless to say, I cannot wait for our CSA to start in June!! 

    Today, I slept in. And have a lot on my to-do list, since on Wednesday....we're heading to NYC!!!!!!! If you have any suggestions about where to find good eats, coffee, chocolate, etc, let me know! I have plans to tour Mast Brothers chocolate (I will buy ALL THE CHOCOLATE). And that is it for now. For now...

    Anyways, making homemade stock is simple and gratifying. You can use it in applications that call for stock, or even water to make soups/stews more flavorful. You can use up those sad-looking, maybe kinda limp/mushy (but not moldy or gross!) vegetables in your crisper drawer/fridge, and that bunch of organic parsley you bought and put in a jar with water and promptly forgot to water it from that point on (same with that organic celery and green onions....le sigh). 

    I found a lot of great pointers in Cookwise, The Tassajara Cookbook and Mastering The Art Of French Cooking (thanks, Julia!). What I have gleaned from the information is summed up here:

    • Do not use vegetables that are in the cruciferous family (i.e. no broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, etc) because it will make your stock taste rank.
    • Start with cold, filtered water to get maximum flavor extraction!
    • Cooking onions, garlic, etc. prior to infusing filtered water with vegetables is not necessary; some recipes call for it, some don't. Mine does not. 
    • Do use vegetables that are slightly past their prime (if you have them), but not moldy! The starches are converted to more soluble forms as (most) vegetables age, meaning a better infusion of flavors from the vegetable flesh.
    • Rule of thumb: only use vegetables and parts of the vegetables that you would eat. So, that means no pepper cores, dirty carrot tops, radish leaves, turnip tops, potato peelings, etc...
    • On that note, no starchy vegetables: these will cloud your stock. Unless, that is, you want a cloudy, starchy stock. If that is the case, go for it. 
    • Do simmer slowly, over low/moderate heat; do not boil vigorously, or keep a lid clamped-on tight. This results in a sour stock.
    • Do skim off gunk as the stock simmers away. Use a large metal spoon for this. And don't freak out if you can't get it all. 
    • Do simmer for 4-7 hours; you can split this time up into intervals if needed, however you must cool the stock rapidly to get it below 40F to prevent baceteria proliferation and growth. This means you can't just throw the entire thing into a fridge with the lid off and hope for the best. Utilize an ice bath, sticking the pot into the ice bath, stirring to better cool the contents. You could also use smaller containers and do this. And, if you're ok with diluting the flavor, you could stir in some large ice cubes (thought: make one giant ice cube the night before, plunge it in, stir it around for a few moments, then take it out!).
    • I have heard of people doing this in a crock pot or slow cooker, but I cannot tell you about this method because I have never use it. 
    • Strain your finished stock with a medium-holed strainer (like a pasta strainer). After, you could pass through cheese cloth or a nutmilk/sprouting bag.
    • Cool the stock as fast as possible well below 40F after simmering is done; this prevents the proliferation of bacteria, which could make stock sour, or otherwise unsafe and unpleasant to eat.
    • Stir in salt before or after if desired. You can leave this unsalted as well. I added a bit before, tasted the stock, then stirred in a bit more to the warm stock BEFORE cooling. 
    • Refrigerate for up to 4 days, or freeze in large containers, canning jars (both with ~1" of space to allow for expansion) or in bags (I like to lay mine flat, since this takes up less space in my tiny freezer). Label, and if you're anything like me, don't forget that it is there...

    Really, this stuff is so easy and satisfying to make-you just need a bit of time. No fussy ingredients, but feel free to use any sad looking vegetables that you have on hand that will work in this stock (see above-no odiferious vegetables!). Adjust salt and herbs/spices to your preference. A batch will easily make you between 8 and 12 cups, so about 2 batches of soup, or a few batches of your favorite stew. Use it in sauces, making grains, or just stir in some miso and have some extra-flavorful miso soup. 

    However, if you're in need to stock STAT, and didn't have time to make your own, I rely on two vegetable stock concentrates: Better than Bouilon, and Rapunzel. They are both vegetarian/vegan friendly, don't have scary ingredients AND taste pretty darn good! Just watch the sodium levels, as with any prepared food.



    Simple Homemade Vegetable Stock // vegan; plant-based; sugar-free; soy-free; gluten-free; paleo; nut-free// Makes between 8-12 cups

    • Several medium-large carrots, washed and trimmed; peeled if necessary
    • 1-2 medium to large onion, peeled and quartered (I used one red onion, plust about 5 green onions I had laying around)
    • 5-7 stalks of celery, washed
    • 4-6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
    • 1 bunch parsley, trimmed of bad ends and rinsed 
    • 2-4 bay leaves
    • Peppercorns, any variety
    • Salt to taste
    • Several sprigs of thyme and/or rosemary and/or sage, or use a few pinches of dried 
    • Other fresh or dried herbs; I hear a pice of kombu is nice for a mineral flavor note
    • Filtered water, or whatever you drink on a daily basis, to cover (about 12 cups)

    1. Peel and trim any dirty or otherwise gnarly looking spots on the vegetables. Cut into sizes that will fit in a large pot. A stock pot is best, as the narrow and deep shape slows evaporation as the stock simmers gently.

    2. Add enough filtered water to cover the vegetables by ~1". 

    3. Simmer over low heat, you don't want a rolling boil or vigorous simmer. Think a few bubbles and steam rising as the stock cooks. Add water as necessary to keep everything covered. Simmer for 4-7 hours, or longer if you have time.

    4. Strain through a medium-sized strainer (I used my pasta strainer for this), and then through a finer strainer, cheesecloth or a nutmilk bag if desired. Cool as fast as possible by using shallow containers or an ice bath. Store in desired containers in the fridge for up to 3 days or the freezer for up to 2 months.



    Everything in the pot, ready to go:

    The herbs I added were dried thyme and some dried sage from last summer. Sea salt, black peppercorns (crushed) and some bay leaves, too.

    The finished product! I simmered mine for about 5 1/2 hours. I cooled by putting the finished stock into smaller containers and into the fridge after cooling to room temp for about 20 minutes. I put the stock into large canning jars with room for expansion in the freezer-about 1" at the top. Some jars have a line specified...so go wtih that if there! 

    The color will depend on what vegetables and herbs you use; since I had lotsa parsley and green onions, this batch took on a more green-hue. If you don't use a finer strainer, you may have a few small bits of herb, which is perfectly fine. I strained mine through my nutmilk bag for a final step. It smells like hearty vegetable soup, earthy and not musty or sour. Freeze for up to 3 months, or refrigerate and use within 4 days time. To defrost, simply place into the fridge overnight, or plunge a jar into some warm-to-hot water.