When you’re on a tight budget, you’re always looking for ways to scrimp and save.  One of the easiest ways to do this is by making your own soup stock.  Not only is it more expensive to buy stock in the store, but it’s also full of sodium and preservatives that make it less healthy and add too much of a salty flavor.  Not only do I save money by making my own vegetable stock,  but I have another secret of how to make homemade stock even more economical…

SAVE YOUR VEGGIE SCRAPS!!! I’ve got a few bags in my freezer full of leftover vegetable scraps.  I put in broccoli stems, zucchini cores (from when I don’t want to use the seeds in a recipe), carrot peels, leek leaves, bell pepper cores, whatever bits of vegetables are clean and in good shape but wouldn’t normally get eaten.  Once in a while if I know a vegetable might go bad before I can use it, like I’m getting too many vegetables from the CSA maybe, I toss it in the freezer bag too.

Some of you may be wondering, “What is vegetable stock?”  From what I understand (I’m no chef though!) stock is technically made with bones, so there is actually only vegetable broth, not stock.  But the two terms (stock and broth) have become so interchangeable in the food industry that I’ve always heard it called stock, so I’m sticking with that!

Vegetable stock is the EASIEST stock to make. Although it takes about 40 minutes of cooking time, it’s only a few minutes of prep, especially if you chop your vegetables before putting them in the freeezer.  In addition to the scraps I simply add a couple of carrots and potatoes, an onion (I don’t usually have any in my freezer bag), some smashed garlic cloves, fresh thyme and parsley, bay leaves, salt and pepper.

Speaking of salt, you can totally use more than my recipe calls for.  I like to keep the flavor less salty because then I have more control over the saltiness when I use it in a future recipe.  Basically I want my stock to taste lightly of vegetables, not a salt lick!

Some people simply cover their vegetables with water and boil them immediately.  I prefer to start by cooking them in a Tablespoon of  olive oil because I think a little caramelization is important for the flavor of the stock.  It’s not really precooking the vegetables, I just heat the oil in the pot and then start stirring the vegetables around to coat them in the oil and let them get a little golden in spots.  I also like having a hint of olive oil in the stock.  If I’m making chicken or beef stock, they have fats from the animal, but that doesn’t happen naturally with vegetables.

Although I start out with 10 cups of water, I end up with about 8 cups of stock becaue of evaporation.  You could keep the lid on to get a greater yeild, but I think having it cook down some intensifies the flavor.  I’ve tried it both ways and prefer it without a lid.  Once your stock is done you want to strain all the solids out (Eric calls this vegetable mush!).  I use a mesh strainer and if I really want a clearer stock strain it a second time through a coffee filter or paper towel.  Make sure to store the stock in containers labeled with the amount.  You can stick it in the freezer and then know exactly how many containers to defrost for your recipe instead of having to defrost a large batch you’ll only use half of.

This week we’ll be using some of this stock to make butternut squash soup in the Healthy Cooking on a Tight Budget Program.  What do you use vegetable stock for?  Have you ever made your own?

Vegetable Stock Recipe

makes about 8 cups

Ingredients

2 carrots, washed
1 onion, peeled
2 potatoes, washed
Greens from 2 leeks (can be frozen)
2-4 cups of various vegetable scraps (can be frozen)
1 TBS olive oil
8 cloves of garlic, smashed
4 sprigs of thyme
4 sprigs of parsley
2 bay leaves
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp whole peppercorns (I used combination of white and black)
10 cups of water

Instructions

Make sure all of your vegetables are clean and cut into chunks no bigger than 2 inches in diameter.  Heat the olive oil in a large pot on high, when it begins to shimmer add garlic, herbs and seasonings.  Immediately add all the vegetables and stir to distribute oil.  Stir every 30 seconds for about 5 minutes until some caramelization has formed on the vegetables.

Add the water, making sure it’s enough to cover the vegetables (if not add a little more).  Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer.  Simmer for 30 minutes, uncovered.

Pour stock through a strainer, discarding the vegetable mush.  If a clearer stock is desired, strain again through a coffee filter or paper towel.  Store in labeled plastic containers in 2-3 cup amounts in your freezer.

Approximate cost/serving: I’m not even counting the veggie scraps, because they’re things people normally throw away anyway.  The total cost is under $2 for 8 cups!!! Imagine how much you can save using the homemade vegetable stock instead of canned stock!

Vegetarian/Gluten Free: Yes and vegan too!


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