Saturday, October 27, 2007

Live Stock

In making the rounds at the farmers' market today, I was glad to find some vegetables that I don't usually come across there... and that I need for making soup stock.

Strangely, I've discovered that very few farmers at the market bring carrots to the market, and even fewer offer celery. But best of all, the Amish folks had parsnips, something I love to throw into soups and stews or occasionally showcase on its own. The parsnips had abundant greens still attached, and I knew that those would be useful in stock as well.

I pulled out my trusty stock pot after breakfast and started peeling and chopping a colorful array of local vegetables and mostly local herbs to start a large pot of vegetable stock.

While the stock simmered, I contemplated the remaining leaves from the first bunch of parsnips along with the remaining celery. Since I'm low on space in the refrigerator after all my purchases this morning, I decided to wash and chop the rest of both those items, and I packed them into three plastic bags to throw into the freezer.

It only made sense: in the past I've chopped fresh parsley and carrot greens, tucked them into ice cube trays and covered them with water, ending up with small frozen cubes of flavor to add to a pot of simmering stock. There's no point in cooking these items and losing the flavor before they go into the stock, and the freezing process won't affect the produce since I'll throw the vegetables directly into the stock pot without thawing. And if it means I won't lose perfectly good produce in the refrigerator... well, why not?

I finished that little project and had a while to rest and read before the stock needed to be strained (just before lunch -- talk about timing!).

(Once again, that canning funnel comes in handy!)

So here I am, with three quarts of fresh vegetable stock cooling on the counter and the start of three more large pots in the freezer. What a way to start soup season!

It's the perfect way to greet cold weather: a warm kitchen full of savory smells and the promise of more cooking to come.

Vegetable Stock

Ever since I came across the recipe for a Basic Vegetable Stock in the Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites cookbook, I've been using it faithfully, with occasional variations based on available vegetables and herbs or on the intended use. I never need to refer to the recipe any more; I just grab vegetables and enjoy a leisurely half-hour (or less) in careful and loving preparation. Between this and starting a batch of homemade bread, I can't think of a better way to start a Saturday morning in the fall or winter... the fragrance is unbeatable. And if you have a compost pile, take the steaming scraps left after you strain the stock and add them to the icy pile to keep everything going during the winter months.

NOTE: You'll notice that on most of the vegetables, I don't recommend peeling. Just scrub them well and keep the vitamins and minerals in your stock!

2 medium onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
3-6 garlic cloves
2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, scrubbed and coarsely chopped
2 large potatoes, scrubbed and coarsely chopped
2 sweet potatoes, scrubbed and coarsely chopped
2 fresh parsley sprigs, chopped
greens from celery, carrots, parsnips, washed and chopped (if you've got them)
1 bay leaf
6 peppercorns
4 allspice berries
water to cover

Combine all ingredients in a large soup pot. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover, and simmer for an hour. Strain the stock through a colander or strainer, pressing out as much liquid as possible. Compost the solids.

You can add other herbs or vegetables except: tomatoes, eggplants, bell peppers, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower. Fresh stock can be kept in the refrigerator for about a week; otherwise, don't fill jars quite to the top, refrigerate for a full 24 hours, and then move to the freezer.

Makes 2 to 3 quarts


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