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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Soup Stock

Time for another blog about cooking. I mentioned in my pasta sauce blog that I used homemade soup stock.

Well, I can’t really say enough about the benefits of homemade soup stock. It can be used instead of water in a variety of recipes: to make rice, quinoa, lentils, stuffing, gravy, and, obviously, soup. It adds WAY more flavor to these things than using just plain water (and buying soup stock can be expensive when you compare it to homemade soup stock being COMPLETELY free).

See, one thing I love about soup stock is that it puts to use all of the things we would normally throw away. Here is how I make my stock.

In my freezer I have a plastic container, and I take this container out whenever I cut up veggies. I throw into it: the ends of carrots, celery, squashes, the stringy middles of pumpkin or other squashes, the tips of mushroom stems, the stems from spinach, the peels from carrots, potatoes, and onions, the stems from fresh spices—pretty much anything vegetably. Even the ends/stems of lettuce, cucumber, and other veggies you might not think of cooking normally. I experimented with throwing lemon or orange peels in there—don’t do it.

Other things you do NOT want to put into the stock (I learned this the hard way after making ratatouille) the bits and stems of tomatoes and peppers. This will make your stock too acidic. I have never had heartburn in my life EXCEPT for after I used the stock from ratatouille odds and ends to make rice or something and ate that rice. It was horrible—I mean, it tasted fine but I had SEVERE and INTENSE heartburn for like three days. I was eating baking soda at its maximum suggested usage. Yeah. So don’t put those things in your stock.

Other things you CAN put in your stock: oil left in the pan after cooking something else, the rest of a beer that someone didn’t finish (are you thinking “eww?” It’s normally just James, so whatevs), the liquid that is around tofu in its container, or the liquid around other vegetables in their cans—you might NOT want to use canned liquid if you are anti a lot of preservatives, though.

(Oh yeah and for you non-vegetarians: scraps and fats from chicken/beef/lamb/fish/etc, the bones and carcasses, all this can go in your stock too. Though from watching my Mom do this, if you have a whole chicken carcass that you are planning on making stock from, I think THEN would be the time to pull out your container of veggies and make the stock, instead of trying somehow to freeze the carcass. Ugh, just thinking about making food from an animal’s carcass reminds me why I’m a vegetarian. But whatevs, meat-eaters, you deserve delicious stock, too!)

So basically over a period of a week or two, you would collect all these odds and ends in this plastic container that you keep in your freezer. Sometimes you might need more than one, depending on how often you want to make stock! And just think, all these things COULD be going to waste, getting thrown away, but instead you will be extracting tons of flavor and nutrients from them!

So you put this frozen chunk of stuff into a deep pot with a bunch of water, and then you boil it until has reduced by half, and then you fill it up again with water, boil it again until it has reduced by half, etc etc. Depending on how many veggies and stuff you start out with, you could use more water, boil down more times, and eventually end up with more stock, or less.

When you get toward the end, you have the choice to spice the stock or not. Generally if I spiced it, I would add oil (there might already be some depending on your ingredients), salt, and pepper. But I sort of stopped spicing it because depending on what you use it for, you might want it to be less or more salty/spicy. So now I generally don’t spice it anymore, and just spice the food in the end to taste.

Then you let it cool off to room temperature, and pour it into plastic containers to freeze. I generally freeze it in 1-2 cup containers, since often when you make rice you will only need 1-2 cups of liquid.

I think you could definitely can the stock as well, if you are into canning, which would eliminate the need to de-thaw the stock before you used it, but I have yet to do that. I was making a big pot of stock before my power went out today, so maybe I will try canning it to see how I like that. We have a low freezer capacity so canning things is definitely attractive.

When you pour it into the containers/cans, you will want to strain it through a wire wesh. I use the thing that you are supposed to use for sifting flour. When you have a bunch of the veggies piled up on the mesh, press them hard to extract all the juice. This is where a lot of the flavor is. When you’ve extracted all the juice, you can throw that stuff in your compost and continue straining.

After that, pile all your containers into the freezer (or cans into the canner), rinse out your plastic freezer bucket, and walah, you have a bunch of delicious stock, and you are all set to start collecting “ingredients” for your next batch!

Anyway, either way, like I said, this is an awesome way to “use up” your scraps and get delicious and very nutritious food out of the deal. Happy soup stock making!!


Emmy said...

I never would have thought of saving all of those leftovers in the freezer for stock! It usually goes straight to the compost pile. I always make stock from a left over chicken, though! Thanks for the idea!

justadrienne said...

:-) Awesome! It is cool to have people reading my blog, LOL.

Ella said...

Okay, now I get why you like canning over freezing -- thanks for linking to this post. What a GREAT idea! I'm like Emmy -- our scraps go into the compost pile in the summer, but in the deep cold of winter we get lazy about the compost pile, so that would be the perfect time to do this!

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