cultivate your life

Making Stock

I have a few requests for my stock recipe, and I should really make it known that it’s not MY stock recipe.  You can find it anywhere online, but I hopefully have a few tips and tricks that will help you make your own.
You can use stock in a variety of things that are beyond simply soup.  Add it to your pasta water when you boil pasta to make pasta salad.  This is a trick I use all the time.  If a rice packet calls for water, use stock instead.  Just try to keep in mind that those spice packets in rice mixes are usually full of salt, so alter accordingly.  Use it instead of water when you cook up tacos or stir fry (just a few tablespoons will do).  My husband uses it when he makes refried beans or bean tacos all the time.  Stock is also a great liquid in stews and pot-pie filling.
The main tip is to use leftover vegetables from the freezer to make the stock.  Every week, I clean out the leftover vegetables from my fridge.  I then double-bag them (I don’t buy freezer bags) and pop them in the freezer.  Half an onion, half a bag of carrots, bunches of parsley…  the measurements don’t really matter so much.  Also, you can leave all the peels on because you will strain the stock at the end anyway.  Leave them in the freezer until you have some time to dedicate to stock making.  They last fairly long if they are packaged right.  If they look freezer burned, have changed colors significantly or smell “off,” don’t use them.  
Leftover white wine is great in stock, if you have wine and have a bit of it sitting in your fridge that you don’t want to drink and don’t want to throw away.  Just make sure it hasn’t turned to vinegar yet!  
You will also need peppercorns and dried bay leaves.  The nice thing about those is that you can store them for a long time.  Try buying them from a spice supplier online or in bulk at the grocery store to save money.  
Cheese cloth works as a great strainer at the end, but you can use a fine sieve if you have one.  We also have a big stock pot with the built in strainer for pasta.  That really comes in handy.  A wooden spoon helps too.
Large mouth Nalgene bottles work well for storage, but if you don’t have any, save some jars or water bottles and either use a funnel you might have or create one using a flexible cutting board or a Silpat sheet.  It’s probably easier and cheaper, though, to buy a little plastic funnel from a discount store.  They are useful for lots of other things as well.
We only make vegetable stock, so here goes:
Leftover vegetables from the freezer:
celery (I like to use an entire bag from the grocery store with leaves attached.  Use less if you are not wild about the celery flavor)
carrots (I use leftover bags of baby carrots.  More carrots make the stock slightly sweeter)
onion (I only use about one frozen onion)
parsley (I like Italian flat leaf, but regular fresh parsley works well too)
dried bay leaves
mushrooms (for an earthy flavor)
potatoes and root vegetables
green onions
bell peppers (I’m not a fan, but some people really like them in stock)
white wine
Fill up a stock pot with half (fresh or frozen) vegetables and half water.  Don’t fill it too high because you don’t want it to boil over.  Add a tablespoon or so of peppercorns and 1 or 2 dried bay leaves.  Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for about an hour.  Check on the taste and color of the stock.  If needed, add a generous handful of salt.  Don’t worry…  this is going to be dispersed throughout the stock.  If it’s not reducing quickly enough, leave the pot uncovered and simmer until the vegetables release their color more.  
Let the stock cool slightly.  
When finished cooking, get out a large mixing bowl and put a sieve on top.  Drain the pot into the bowl.  Using the wooden spoon, gently push any excess water out of the vegetables.  Be careful not to spill or get burned!  Put the stock back into the empty pot, use a small sieve or double-layered cheese cloth and strain the stock a second time to pick up any last remnants.  
Line up the water bottles or jars on the counter.  Place paper towels or kitchen towels underneath to avoid a mess.  One by one, use a funnel and empty the stock into the bottles.  Refrigerate for up to two weeks or freeze for up to three months.  Remember, though, that if it has an “off” smell to it when you go to use it, throw it out.  You can always make more next time.  
You’ve just made vegetable stock!

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