Stock is every kitchen’s must-have item. It is easy to prepare, and adds nutrients and flavor to any dish. Not only that, but it helps you be a more conscious consumer by making use of your scraps.
There are basically two types of stock: Vegetable and Bone. Vegetable stock is a good way to use up your scraps and extras, but if you want an added health benefit it is best to add bones to your broth. You also have the option of making the process as simple or as complicated as you want. I tend to opt for simple, and just throw all my scraps in a pot, cover with cold water, bring to a boil, turn down to low heat, cover, and let it simmer for 5 hours while I do housework or homework or watch movies or write this blog. You can also follow more detailed recipes if you want to get fancy. There are many good ones in Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions.
Basic Vegetable Broth:
1. Throughout the week collect any vegetable scraps you end up with from cooking. Everything from carrot-tops to onion skins and any veggies that didn’t make it into a dish but really need to be used. You may want to add a few extra heads of garlic, coarsely chopped, an onion or three, also coarsely chopped, a bunch of parsley, and some chopped celery, including the leafy part, and sautee them at low heat for about 1/2 an hour. Half a cup ofdry wine can be a tasty addition to this. You can also add other root vegetables, broccoli, leeks, tomato…really anything will work! If you don’t want to sautee the vegetables you can also just put them directly into the pot, though the flavor will be more subtle.
2. Combine all the ingredients in a large cooking pot and add 2 tablespoons of vinegar (this helps extract nutrients) and sprinkle with sea salt. Herbs like thyme, peppercorns, and bay leaves can also be a tasty addition. Add enough water to submerge the contents of the pot and place over medium heat. When it reaches a boil, turn the heat down and cover the pot with a lid, letting the broth simmer for 1 1/2-4 hours for vegetable broth, and 4-72 hours for bone broth. The longer you cook your broth the more concentrated it will become. Taste it along the way to see how it’s coming along, but be careful not to burn your tongue!
3. When you are satisfied, turn the heat off, uncover, and let the broth cool. Then strain out the solid material through a cheese cloth and put them in the compost. The vegetables are now almost devoid of nutrients so they have done their job to their fullest potential and you don’t have to feel bad about disposing of the scraps. Store half of your broth in a mason jar in the refrigerator to use the following week and freeze the other half in an ice cube tray or pint-sized jars. This will ensure that you only thaw as much as you need and none of your hard work will go to waste.
Use the broth either as a soup directly, as a yummy base for a sauce or gravy, or cook grains in it for extra flavor.
Basic Bone Broth
Bone broth is one of the only foods that is found in almost every culture’s tradition of health, healing, and culinary standards. It is rich in gelatin, helping the body absorb all sorts of nutrients, as well as being easily digestible and incredibly tasty. To make bone broth it is good to use a variety of bones from the same animal, though using the leftover bones from last night’s t-bone or chicken dinner is just as good. You can also make fish stock, in which case you would use the entire carcass, including the heads, preferably from a non-oily fish like rockfish or snapper, and just add them to the vegetable stock recipe above.
If you make a beef stock ask the butcher for about 4 pounds of free-range organic beef marrow and knuckle bones, and 3 pounds of meaty rib or neck bones. Brown the meaty bones at 350 degrees in the oven while you let the other bones sit in cold water. When they are browned, add all the contents to the vegetable broth above and follow directions 2 and 3.
The only thing that you’ll have to do differently is that some scum will rise to the top when you are making bone broth. Be sure to remove this before you strain the stock, it’s not what you want to eat.