Friday, January 23, 2009

How To Make Your Own Vegetable and Meat Stock

M is for Money wrote a nice post about Traditional Frugal Skills awhile back, and it has been on my mind ever since I read it. Basically she talks about a number of skills that our grandparents had that kept them going through lean times - and how many of those skills we have lost. One of those is cooking, something I love to do. There is a lot to be said about how cooking your own meals is both frugal and healthy, but for this post I want to concentrate on one of my favorite super-frugal cooking standards - making stock.

I love making stock and broth! (The way I understand it, stock comes from bones, broth comes from using meat, though the terms are frequently interchangeable. We'll use "stock" here, just to keep it simple. ) I make vegetable, meat and poultry stock. The best part about it? You make something absolutely wonderful, for very little work, out of things you would normally throw away!

Here's what I do:

Whenever I am making something with vegetables, I wash them first - then I peel, slice and dice them. Why? Because all the vegetable trimmings go in freezer bags and are placed in the freezer for later use. Carrot peels, celery leaves, mushroom stems, fennel fronds, the corn kennels scraped from corn cobs, tops of onions and the skins of ginger all find their way into my freezer bags. I love tomatoes - the skins, the seeds, the juice from drained cans, even the too wrinkled grape tomatoes left on the bottom of the carton - they all go in the bag. I only use real lemons and limes, so guess what happens to the rinds? Yep, in the bag. I do this all year around and in the summer, when I eat a lot of produce, I will fill a couple of bags in short order. Once the bags are filled, its time for the pot!

A couple of words of warning here - when you are making stock you don't want too much of one vegetable or the stock will only taste like that one veggie. The big culprit for this is celery. Celery is very strong flavored, so unless you want celery soup, you might not want more than a few handfuls of leaves per pot. The other thing to watch out for is vegetables that get bitter when cooked for too long, like broccoli.

Once I have a couple of bags of mixed trimmings, into the pot they go along with some peppercorns, sea salt, a couple bay leaves and few cloves of garlic. I fill the pot the rest of the way up with water and away we go. There is no hard and fast recipe for this, and it will taste a little different every time. That is okay! I bring the whole mass to a boil, then turn it down to simmer and cook for an hour or so. This is great to make when you are doing housework or some other kind of chore, then when you think of it as you pass by the kitchen, give the pot a stir. Taste it a bit and see if it needs more salt. Although, here again, there is one thing to keep in mind - it isn't soup. You are going to be cooking with this. Less salt is better, because you can always add more to the recipe you are using the stock in, but it is really difficult to take it out if you add in too much!

In addition to vegetable, I also make meat stock...

I keep the meat bones separated in more freezer bags - one bag for poultry, one bag for pork and beef bones. I am not a huge meat eater, so it takes a lot longer for me to accumulate a bag full of bones, but the holidays are a prime time to stock up (Ha!) on bones. For those of you that eat rotisserie chickens - those bones are great in the stew pot!

The process is essentially the same - bones in the pot, followed by peppercorns, salt, bay leaves and garlic. I also add some vegetables to the pot. Sometimes this is a half of bag of vegetable trimmings. It can also be a few stalks of celery, a few carrots and an onion. (just cut the onion in quarters - no need to peel.) Once again I cover the whole mess in water, bring to a boil, then simmer for an hour or so.

Once the stock has simmered for an hour or so, I turn off the heat and I let it cool for a bit on the stove. Then I strain it through a fine mesh sieve. The resulting broth is measured out into .5, 1, and 2 cup measurements, put into tupperware and frozen until needed. The leftovers from the pot get disposed of if they contain bones or meat, vegetable matter only can be composted.

So, there you go - for the cost of of some water and a little time, you have a wonderful, homemade stock, perfect for recipes. The stuff in the supermarket will run you about a $1 a can and is loaded with sodium and other non healthy ingredients. This is delicious, useful - and practically free!


Photo by: Miss Priss

20 comments:

Fit Wallet said...

I've been thinking about making my own stock (veggie only as I'm a vegetarian) but I never thought of it as cost-effective. The recipes I've seen online all involve new vegetables, which would cost more than just buying bouillon cubes. This makes WAY more sense--duh! I'm going to start freezing my veggie trimmings straightaway. Do you use bell peppers at all? I cook with them constantly and always have a little leftover, but it might be too bitter.

Kristy @ Master Your Card said...

Hmmm, I dunno Dawn. This sounds like a lot of work! LOL. I don't even like to clean my own house. While I like to cook, I very rarely use stock, and when I do, I must admit, I've bought the store brand. I generally look for the kind with less sodium though. I think this is a great idea for those who don't mind taking the time, but I rarely have time for myself, so I don't know if I would do this. Still, thanks for sharing your recipe!

Miss M said...

Hey thanks for the mention. I think making your own stock is a great way to save money, they charge a fortune for it in the store. Boullion is cheap, but yuck, it's basically a salt patty. Since you can make stock from leftover bits of meat and veggies it really only costs your time. I should make some more, I like to keep a bit in the freezer for either soup or risotto.

RTC said...

Wow, thanks, Dawn! I made vegetable stock last week for the first time, but I used an internet recipe that called for fresh vegetables. I like your way a lot better!
One question, any idea how long vegetable stock lasts in the refrigerator?

Dawn said...

Fit - A little green pepper is okay, but I don't like too much. You are right, they can be bitter. You know what I love to throw in there? Onions or garlic that has sprouted. I hate when they sprout - but at least this way I can get use out of them.

Kristy - No problem! It actually isn't much more work than boiling water, though admittedly, the putting it in containers can be a bit of pain.

Dawn said...

Miss M - I like it for soup and risotto too. I also freeze it in smaller portions for other recipes. I always seem to need a half a cup or so. I prefer to use it rather than wine or water in many cases. For one thing, I don't keep cooking wine in the house - what I have is for drinking in a glass, and stock adds far more flavor than water.

Dawn said...

RTC - I wouldn't let it go longer than a week in the fridge. Personally I always freeze it and then it lasts for months. I like to freeze it in half, 1 and 2 cup portions - that way it is ready for whatever recipe I have.

Saver Queen said...

Such a great post. I made stock for the first time this winter (I was so pleased with myself). It was so easy and so flavourful - I can't believe that people buy cans and boxes and cubes when it's this easy to make. And I consider stock essentially free when made from the leavings from veggies and bones, because it would be thrown out otherwise!

Onions & garlic that have sprouted - brilliant! I hate wasting food, so excellent idea there.

Dawn said...

Thanks Saver Queen! I'm with you - I consider it essentially free. Plus I love knowing I have it on hand whenever I want it, just waiting in the freezer.

Saver Queen said...

Just wanted to let you know that I linked to this post in my recent entry - A delicious stew recipe from Mom!

http://saverqueen.com/2009/01/28/a-delicious-stew-recipe-from-mom/

Christy said...

I made homemade chicken stock for the first time last week, using a chicken carcass and some onion and carrot and celery. I wasn't as smart as you though and froze it in a big container. I figured I would use it as a soup base. Next time though I will freeze it in smaller portions. What a great idea!

Brittany said...

I have tagged you for the 'Honest Scrap' Award on my blog... check, check, check it out!

Jen said...

I do this too, and love it! I freeze 2 cup portions in quart size zipper freezer bags. I stack them flat on a cookie sheet, and freeze. Once they're frozen, you can fit them in tiny places in the freezer. I always cook rice in my homemade stock. YUM! Great post.

momstheword said...

Great post. I've been thinking I'd like to try and make my own stock someday.

Dawn said...

Jen - I LOVE rice cooked in homemade stock. Just that with a dab of butter....mmmmmmm.... I am craving it now!

Dawn said...

momstheword - Oh, you should! It is quite easy. The only bit of work is dividing it up into portions and popping it in the freezer.

supermom said...

I've never thought of doing it that way... I've always used fresh veggies. What a great idea! I love learning new ways to tweak the things I already do.

Dawn said...

Supermom - isn't it funny how we all have different ways of doing things. Glad I could give you a new idea!

Kari said...

Hi Dawn, I came to your blog through another blogger. Now I'm hooked I went through your archive even and read through all of that first.

Your blog is inspiring while being informative too. I can relate to you. I've added you to my blog roll.

I love this post! I recently made my own stock for the first time after making turkey dinner, only I froze it in big portions and haven't decided how to use it quite yet. Honestly, I forgot about it and bought some chicken stock ha!! Next time I'll add some veggies and I need to get a mesh seeve too. I'm excited to start freezing all the bits and pieces and seeing what I can come up with.

Dawn said...

Kari - Thank you for the wonderful compliment of reading my blog! Wow!! I am just touched.

I hope your soup was fantastic - and let me know how your stock turns out!