I know, it’s the end of August and the idea of heating up the house to make soup sounds totally unfun. But wait – it’s cloudy outside today, and the high is only in the seventies, so what the heck? The first step to making a truly delicious, box free soup is to make your own soup stock. Besides the impeccable flavor, homemade stock is a great way to turn food waste into new food – that tastes unique each time. Plus – canned broth can be loaded with sodium, artificial flavorings, and make a simple soup cost a lot more than if you use leftover veggies in your fridge or freezer.
Brewing Stock: Smoked Turkey and Frozen Veggie Remains
The simplest version: vegetable stock. Each time you cut up vegetables for a meal – especially celery, carrots, onions, parsley, and garlic – save the parts you normally throw out (or compost) in a freezer bag. The white rooty part of the celery that no one wants to dip in peanut butter, the end of the carrot, the (rinsed) skins of those onions and garlic cloves you chop up – all of that food you thought was trashable is absolutely freezable and stockable. Some of my favorite additions are the beet skins from boiled and peeled beets, and the stalks of any leafy green (like kale and chard). Once you have a large freezer bag or two full (just keep adding to the bag as you cook), you have the makings of a basic veggie stock that will be stock-full (pun intended) of all the vegetable goodness you just couldn’t fit into earlier meals. This is a also great way to use the leftover bones and parts of a whole chicken or turkey, bones from barbequed ribs, or even the bones from a whole fish to add some good solid fats and proteins to the stock – not to mention another level of flavor.
A basic stock recipe (adapted from Alice Waters’s amazing cookbook, The Art of Simple Food):
The carcass or meaty bones from a previous meaty meal (i.e. the remains of a whole chicken or turkey)
Frozen vegetable remains, defrosted if time allows (the more veggies, the richer the flavor)
1 or 2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. black peppercorns
depending of veggies used, you can add any of the following:
1 head of garlic, cut in half
1 onion, peeled and halved
1 celery stalk
1 carrot, peeled
1 1/2 gallons cold water
If making a meaty broth, begin by placing the carcass into a large stock pot, and pouring the cold water over the bones. Place over high heat, bring to a full rolling boil, then turn the heat down, maintaining a gentle simmer. The foam that rises and collects at the top should be skimmed off with a ladle and discarded, but be careful to leave as much fat as possible (which makes the flavor so tasty and imparts important minerals to the stock). After you have skimmed off the foam, add the vegetables. This way, they will not get in the way of the skimming process (as they like to float on the surface). If not using any meat, place the vegetables and water in a stock pot and heat to a rolling boil, then turn down to a gentle simmer.
Once the stock is at a simmer, add the bay leaves, and herbs (such as a bouquet of parsley and/or thyme), and peppercorns. (It is possible to add salt at this juncture, but I wait until I’m making the soup later on, to ensure I don’t end up with an oversalty end product). Let the broth simmer for 3 – 5 hours, depending on how strong you want the flavors to be. Once it is done, use a slotted spoon to remove the larger vegetable chunks and animal carcass, then pour the remaining broth through a strainer (lined with a cheesecloth for a clearer, “thin” broth) into a nonreactive container.
If you use the broth immediately, skim the fat off the top. If not, allow the broth to cool completely, then refrigerate it
with the layer of fat on top. The fat will help seal in the flavors, and help preserve the broth longer in the refrigerator and is easily removed once cooled. Do not cover the broth until it is totally cool, it can end up staying warm too long and spoiling otherwise. I store the broth in two-pint containers in the refrigerator for a week or so, but it can also be frozen for a few months. Be sure to defrost the stock before using it if you do decide to freeze it.