Gobs of my recipes call for vegetable broth. Even, say, chicken noodle soup. The main reason is obvious: most of what I make starts out vegetarian, the meat added later to only a portion for my resident carnivore.
So, a few years ago, I started saving my veggie and herb scraps and freezing them in a gallon freezer bag. When the bag is packed to the brim, I brew up a big old pot of vegetable broth concentrate. Then I freeze it in measured portions and take it out as I need it, adding water and sometimes salt and, voila: veggie broth!
Inevitably my broth has carrots, celery, and onion – foundation veggies. I’m big on parsley, so it always has some parsley in it too. I peel an onion – the peel goes in the bag (after washing). I chop off the ends of a bunch of celery – into the bag. A couple of carrots languish in the bottom of the produce drawer. I stick them in the bag before they go bad. You get the drift.
Not only do I save a ton of money by making my own vegetable broth from my discards, it adds such a wonderful depth of flavor to dishes that I never quite get from store-bought stock. And I love being able to control the amount of salt that goes into a final recipe.
Here’s how I do it.
- One-gallon freezer bag full of assorted vegetable and herb scraps: onion ends and peels, celery bits and leaves, carrot peels and ends, shallots, parsnips, turnips, rutabagas, leeks, scallions, parsley stems, sage, bits of thyme, rosemary – anything you want, really, though I do avoid lettuce and cucumber.
- About 12 cups of water (to start)
- One or two bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon peppercorns
- After you’ve amassed a gallon-sized freezer bag full of veggies from days of diligent scrap-gathering, dump the frozen contents of the bag into a large stock pot.
- Fill the pot with water about 3 inches from the top – I end up adding around 12 cups of water initially.
- Add the bay leaves and peppercorns.
- Lightly push the vegetables down with a wooden spoon. Avoid stirring at any time during the process – that can make the broth cloudy.
- Over medium heat, bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium-low, keeping at a steady, simmer.
- Simmer until the liquid has reduced by just about half – this takes about an hour.
- Add enough water to return the liquid to its former level. Push the veggies down every once in awhile.
- Bring to a simmer again, and again continue to simmer until the liquid has reduced by half, about another hour.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool.
- Strain the broth concentrate by first pouring it through a colander and then pouring it through a fine-mesh sieve.
- Pour the broth concentrate into containers in ½ cup, 1 cup, or 2 cup increments. A standard muffin tin is ½ cup, and works well here.
- When the broth concentrate has frozen completely, remove from the freezer and place the chunks in a labeled freezer bag.
- When you’re ready to use the broth, bring out a broth concentrate cube and place it in a bowl. Pour an equal amount of hot water over the broth cube (if the broth cube is ½ cup, add ½ cup water) and and, if desired, add 1 teaspoon of salt per 1 cup of finished broth.
- You may need to microwave the frozen broth concentrate to thaw it completely, or let it sit on the counter for a bit until it thaws. Depending on the recipe, I’ll just add it frozen and adjust the recipe times accordingly.