Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A Good Foundation: Making your own stock (for free!)

So many dinner recipes start out with stock, and a good stock is especially important to the flavor of a meatless dish. For a long time I was intimidated of making stock by all the cookbooks that began: "Start out with only the freshest vegetables ..." If I was going to all the trouble of buying and preparing vegetables, just to throw them out at the end of the process, why not just buy a carton of stock?

Eventually, though, I started to notice all of the produce that started to wilt before I could get around to it (some things, unfortunately, you just can't buy one or two of) and I decided to just see what I could do with these odds and ends, figuring I had nothing to lose.

I was surprised to find that I could come up with something as good or better than storebought, using only what I would have thrown out anyway. I've taken to keeping a container in my freezer for the trimmings and anything that looks like it might head south soon, and, when it gets full, tossing it all in my dutch oven to simmer, covered with water.

Some of the items that make it into my pot:
  • celery tops, bottoms, and leaves, and the last few stalks that inevitably end up limp in my vegetable drawer
  • carrot peelings and ends (be sure to scrub the carrots well!), and any carrots that have started to go a bit rubbery
  • onion tops, and any layers that are too peel-y to use, but not yet papery 
  • tomato ends and leftovers (this adds a nice savory flavor and body, but don't add too much, or it will start to overwhelm the stock)
  • any fresh herbs that fit in with your desired flavor
  • fennel tops (this one is a matter of taste)
  • leek greens and green onion tops
Adding salt is a matter of preference; I generally leave it out and just expect to add a lot more salt to the dish than called for.

Freezer-safe mason jars are great for store whatever you don't use within a day or two. If you don't have enough handy, you can use them to make 1-cup ice cubes, and store those in a gallon ziploc.

1 comment:

Gianna said...

I went to the grocery store yesterday with this post in mind, and found myself freed from my usual produce purchase paralysis. Realizing that I have a use for veggies that get to the turning point is great, and I bought all sort of things I normally wouldn't have. Now we get to eat vegetables and make stock. Win-win!