Stock, also known as broth, is an essential kitchen staple, especially if you’re on a budget. The packaged stuff you get at the store typically contains enough salt to meet the sodium requirements of a small village for approximately a year, per serving.
Thankfully, there is a better (ie. cheaper, better tasting, sodium-free, environmentally-friendly, delicous) way.
The easiest way to make vegetable, beef, or chicken stock is by collecting loose scraps of vegetables. Whenever you’re chopping up good stock vegetables (aka, carrots, onions, squash, celery, potatoes, leeks, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, beans, etc) for another recipe, save any of the bits that you don’t typically eat, but that are SAFE to eat (such as green beans ends, clean potato peelings, carrot ends, the middle bit of peppers, celery leaves, etc) and store them in a sealed container in the freezer. We typically use large yoghurt containers for this. Usually two large yoghurt cartons filled up will do for a full batch of stock. When you’re ready to make your stock, dump the two containers of frozen veggie ends into your slow-cooker, throw in a couple of onions, a few whole garlic cloves, and some thyme, coriander seeds, or any other herbs/spices you may like to add. Fill with water, put the lid on the slow-cooker/crock pot, and turn on to high. Let the crock pot simmer for the better part of the day. At the end of the day, turn the crock pot off, wait until cooled, then strain the broth into containers (we use the same yoghurt containers that we store the frozen veggie bits in) and put it in the fridge or freezer for later use. If you’re not planning to use your stock in the next couple of days, the freezer is best. At this point, the veggie ends that have been strained out can be added to the compost, or thrown out if you can’t compost in your community.
This instructions above are obviously for vegetable stock. The only change you need to make to make a meat-based stock is to add in some COOKED bones/scraps from the type of meat you’re using. For example, if you want chicken broth, save the carcass after having roast chicken one night, and toss it in the stock pot with your veggies, herbs and water.
Making your own stock is an excellent idea if you’re worried about excessive amounts of sodium in store bought stock and is an excellent way to use up vegetable scraps and ends. You can use the broth to flavour rice, make gravies and sauces, and of course, to make soups and stews. Because you’re using vegetable ends that would otherwise be thrown out or composted, water from the tap, and herbs and spices you likely already have on hand (or can buy for about $0.60 from a health food store in bulk), the cost for making your own stock is almost non-existant.
A note for those who are panicking about the fact that these instructions call for a slow-cooker: If you don’t have a slow-cooker, you could probably whip this up in a large pot on the stove (you will just have to pay more attention to it). We’ve never tried this, but I imagine that’s why they call those big pots ‘stock pots’. I’m no linguist, but that seems plausible. Bring it to a boil and then lower it to a simmer for however long it takes to achieve the level of flavour you want.
We’ll be using our latest batch of vegetable stock in a new risotto recipe tonight. An update on how that goes will soon follow!