Welcome to winter!! The cold is here and now is the time for soups!
This is the time of year to nourish the kidneys. And one of the best ways to do that is through keeping your body fluids moving and your salt/potassium balanced through rich brothy soups. Nearly every soup needs a good amount of water or a stock of some sort. Most of us either opt for the stock-in-the-box, bullion cubes, or just plain water. But there is a fourth option that is shrouded in the misty dark of winter: fresh stock!
There are many different versions of this amazingly versatile kitchen staple. And it is really more simple than you can imagine! Actually, using your imagination with this one recipe can get you into trouble. You really want to start off with a simple stock; one that you can use in any soup. Then, bring your imagination in and make ones filled with items like chili peppers and fresh corn husks to use in your classic Tortilla soup. When you are done making your stock, make sure you label it because that chili pepper/corn husk stock might not be perfect in your Spiced Apple Bisque
So, for a basic use-in-everything vegetable stock we want to fill our soup pot with all the celery ends, carrot pieces, onion skins, leek greens, and herb stems we have been saving for the last couple weeks. If you are getting creative in the kitchen rather infrequently, you can start a stock bag that lives in the freezer and gets added to when you have little pieces to add. Or you can spend a couple bucks on some wonderful ingredients and make a stock using more of the onions and other veggies rather than just their skins or ends. This is the stock I like to make. It turns out dark and robust. Something I can even water down depending on use.
K…now you have a bag of saved treasures or a bushel of onions, carrots, leeks, celery, shallots, and fresh herb stems from your farmer or market and you are ready to stock! Grab out your biggest pot. Cut everything into 1 to 2 inch pieces and get it into your pot. Add your cold water. You want your ingredients to be completely submerged with room to swim around. Naturally some of your onions or leeks are going to be above the water line. Don’t worry about it. Once you have brought everything up to a boil and get a steady simmer going, you can give it all a stir and start mixing it up.
As your simmer rolls, keep stirring every once in a while to make sure everything gets submerged for equal time. I like to simmer mine for 1-1.5 hours. If you are making a stock with just the odds and ends, keep your stock simmering for 30-45 minutes. A stock with heartier pieces like chopped whole onions and carrots requires a longer time to break down and season your water than a stock made from the smaller odds and ends or skins.
Once your timer is up and your house is filled with mouthwatering scents, strain your stock into a large container like another pot. From here you can leave it out and let it cool to room temperature. You essentially want to cool the stock as fast as possible without making the fridge overheat. Some culinary stores sell skinny long plastic containers that fill up with water and freeze in order to chill your stock faster. Since this is a vegetable stock with out animal products, it is safe to keep out and cool.
Once at room temperature you can store it in a number of different ways. I prefer freezing my stock in quart size bags. This allows me to know exactly how much I have when I need it. When a recipe calls for 2 quarts, I know how many bags I am using. Another way to go is freezing it in an ice cube tray. This makes for easy use, but hard measuring. There are so many different ways. See what works for you.
Once you get the basic stock down, play with ingredients and bring a whole new depth to your soups. Many of the pre-made stocks and bullion cubes have unwanted ingredients or even MSG that can and do compromise your health. When making stock is as simple as this, it is hard to go the lazy route. Plus, our immunity is boosted through the minerals and vitamins that are bioavailable through the freshness of our ingredients.
Better soups, healthier bodies….hard to beat!
Make yours and tell me what you put into it!
The Shri Chefs