It's soup stock season!

Oh hi, cold weather! I’ve missed you!

No, seriously. I’ve missed you. Why, you might ask? Well, because SOUP, that’s why! I’m a big fan of soup, and over the last few years I’ve realized that the canned stuff (or the carton stuff) is good but usually a) expensive, and b) chock-full-o-salt. Neither of these are good things (for your wallet or your body), so I went on a bit of a mission last year to become a master of stock.

Stock, you see, is the key to soup in the same way that Elvis Costello records are the key to happiness. These are both indisputable facts. And since my favorite food to eat while listening to Elvis Costello is—you guessed it—soup, my stock-mastering quest was very important. The two  major things to remember are to give yourself time to cook the stock, and to make room in your freezer for the extra.

After trying a few different recipes, I decided on one for chicken stock and one for vegetable stock that I use a lot. (Beef stock is also an option, but not as common for me, so I don’t have one to suggest. Sorry!)

Here are my fave recipes for each.

Chicken Stock (courtesy SparkPeople)

  1. 5 lb of chicken, skin removed ( I prefer thighs or chicken quarters for richer broth.)

12 cups water

1- 10 oz. package frozen, butternut squash

2 large carrots, cut in half

2 large stalks celery

1 large onion, cut in half (about 1 cup’s worth)

4 cloves garlic, pressed, but not chopped

3 bay leaves

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp italian seasoning

1 tsp whole peppercorns (in a spice bag)

1 sprig rosemary

DIRECTIONS

If not reduced, this will make about 10 cups.

Note: never add salt, or ingredients with sodium until the end when making a broth. Otherwise, as you reduce, it will become too salty. Add salt near the end, or if freezing, add salt when you use it in a recipe.

  1. Add all ingredients to a large pot and make sure it is just covered by fresh, cold water. Bring this to just a boil over med-high heat, then reduce to low heat and let cook for about an hour.

  2. Don’t let this first cooking boil, this way you can skim the foam, which is fat, that will rise to the surface. After about an hour, remove the chicken from the pot and take off about half the meat, leaving a lot clinging to the bones. Set this aside to either be added back to finished soup, or in other recipes. Return the bones with plenty of meat attached back to the pot. Add water as needed to keep all ingredient fully submerged, with about 1/2″ water.

  3. Cover and simmer for 1 to 2 hours, tasting and adding seasoning if needed (not salt). After all the flavor has been cooked out of the chicken and vegetables, remove them from the broth. You can puree the carrot, celery and onion with about a cup of broth and add this back to the soup for fiber or use in other recipes as a thickener. The meat will pretty much be flavorless; however, it will make your cats or dogs very happy!

  4. At this point, depending on what you want the broth for, you can continue to reduce it to make it stronger in flavor. If you reduce it by about half, it makes a good base to freeze and then reconstitute with water for later use. If making soup or stew now, add you other ingredients and let cook, uncovered so it will reduce a little, until done.

Number of Servings: 10

And another great recipe:

Vegetable Scrap Stock (courtesy Poor Girl Eats Well, which is also one of my fave food blogs and very worth checking out!)

Makes about 3 quarts, cost per quart about $0.01.

Step 1 – Get Scrappy

I keep a one-gallon-size zip-top bag in my freezer, and add my vegetable trimmings anytime I cook.  Once the bag is full — which happens surprisingly quickly — it’s time to make stock!

Also, if I find veggies in my fridge that are “on their way out” but not actually spoiled yet, I may toss it into the freezer bag if it would end up going to waste otherwise.

The best scraps to use include:  Onions, garlic, carrots, celery, parsley, leeks, chard, mushrooms, scallions, potato peelings, lettuce, eggplant, zucchini, green beans, and bell peppers.

Other good scraps to include — but will impart more specific flavors, so be careful — include:  Asparagus, parsnips, squash, fennel, corn cobs, pea pods, and cilantro.

Scraps to avoid:  Turnips, cabbages, brussels sprouts (these all get bitter), and anything already rotting that you wouldn’t eat otherwise.

Step 2 – Boil ‘em!

Fill a large pot halfway with water, about 3-4 quarts, and bring to a boil.  Drop in all the vegetable scraps and bring back to boiling.

Step 3 – Simmer & Season

Once the pot returns to boiling, you may want to add some seasonings.  Good options include thyme, basil, and a bay leaf or two. I also add one or two teaspoons of kosher salt (remember, though — it’s easier to add more salt later than to take out too much!)

Simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Simmering longer won’t extract any more flavor, unlike when making meat stocks.* *

Step 4 – Strain

Allow to cool for a few minutes. Carefully scoop out the larger vegetable scraps with a slotted spoon, placing in a large bowl so they can cool.  Next, take a fine-meshed strainer or colander lined with cheesecloth, and carefully pour the remaining broth through the strainer into another pot.

Step 5 – Chill Out

Let everything cool to room temperature, which will take an hour or two. Give the broth a taste and add any additional salt or seasonings as desired.

Discard the vegetable scraps (compost, anyone?).  Then measure out the stock in 2- or 4-cup increments, and freeze in individual containers, being sure to leave a little bit of headroom for it to expand when it freezes.

So there you have it! Those are my stock options (bwa ha!). What’re yours?

What are you looking for?

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