Saturday, March 6, 2010

Soup Week Continues: Vegetable Stock

Let's start with the basics: Nancy’s Vegetable Stock

I’ve made soup for a long time. I have memories of my mother and grandmother making soup, using chicken carcasses, ham bones, or vegetable peelings and scraps to make a rich stock. For me, making stock is a way to transform things that are easily thrown away into something rich and flavorful.

I don’t ever remember following a recipe: I use what I have on hand, or collect over a period of days or weeks, and use them to make a rich, flavor-filled broth with little bits of stuff that makes a great base for vegetables, beans, pasta, rice, or whatever else you want to add to your soup.

Vegetable Stock

1. Collect clean peelings, ends, and other pieces of vegetables that you usually discard or compost in a covered container in the freezer. I use peelings from potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, onions, and garlic; the pieces you cut off from celery, leeks, and scallions; the end bits from onions, carrots, parsnips, and garlic. Basically any part of a vegetable that I might use in a soup or a salad gets saved in the freezer until I have approximately 2 cups of ‘stuff’ for my stock.

2. During the good weather when I compost most of my fruit and vegetable waste, I may not have a stash of vegetable peelings in the freezer. If I want to make a soup with summer vegetables, I’ll prepare all the vegetables I plan to use in my soup, store them in the refrigerator for a day and use the peelings, ends, and other bits to make stock.

3. Fill a big pot with water and add the vegetables. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer and cook for an hour or so. The liquid will be a light amber color.

3. I use a combination of a ladle and a slotted spoon to transfer the stock to one bowl (or another pot) and the vegetable matter to a second bowl. This takes a bit of time and, as I get close to the bottom of the pot, I pour the last bit of liquid through a fine mesh sieve (or colander) into the bowl holding the rest of the stock.

4. If I am freezing the stock for future use, I measure out either 1 or 2 cups at a time and place in a Tupperware or RubberMade container, or a freezer bag, marking the quantity on the container.

For those of you who prefer to work with specific ingredient lists and measures, I am sharing this recipe for Vegetable Stock that I found in my collection – reading the ingredient list (Turkish bay leaves? Purified water?) I imagine I found this recipe on a gourmet magazine or website…. And I will bet money (something I rarely do) that I have never made this recipe…

Vegetable Stock

20 Cups
This is an excellent vegetable stock - freeze what you don't use for next time.

1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, well washed and chopped
4 medium onions, chopped
6 large carrots, peeled and chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 small bunch parsley stems
2 teaspoons dried whole marjoram
1/2 teaspoon dried whole thyme
3 Turkish bay leaves or 1/2 California bay leaf
1 1/2 gallons cold purified water

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add the vegetables and stir-fry to brown lightly. Add the marjoram, thyme, bay leaves, and cold water. Bring the pot to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for one hour.
Strain the stock through a fine sieve or a cheesecloth-lined colander.
Press or squeeze the vegetables to extract their liquid. Discard the vegetables.

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