We have officially entered deep winter here in Ontario – snowstorms, black ice and bitter, terrible cold. All week I’ve been nursing steaming cups of tea, sinking into fragrant hot baths and really enjoying those extra few minutes under my warm comforter before I get out of bed in the mornings. And I’ve been eating soup. Lots and lots of soup. This week alone I made leek and potato with thyme, butternut squash and ginger, and a creamy tomato with chickpea croutons.
Being a little warmer and happier this week has come at the cost of many boxes of vegetable broth. My favourite brand uses organic vegetables, isn’t from concentrate, does not have any strange ingredients and has a low sodium option. With all that goodness, it’s of course also not cheap! At $4.99 a box ($3.50 if I stock up when it’s on sale), it’s one pantry item that it really pays to make from scratch. Throwing in a couple of loosely chopped onions, a few carrots and pieces of celery, and a smashed garlic clove costs almost nothing and will yield about 4 liters of rich, flavourful broth.
Or, if you want to take the good news even further, you can make the same broth for free (basically), by keeping the vegetable scraps that you’d otherwise compost or throw away during the week. (I don’t know why, but this kind of repurposing makes me positively giddy. Waste not, want not, right?) I keep a ziplock bag in the freezer, and before I peel or chop stock-friendly vegetables, I give them a quick wash so that any scraps are clean and can be tossed in the ziplock. When the bag gets full, I take it out and make a batch of broth.
- when cutting onions, I usually peel off the last layer along with the outer skin, more generously than I otherwise would (as in the picture above).
- always wash the vegetables quickly before peeling or chopping – it’s much easier to do it before everything is in tiny strips and pieces
- I recommend using only organic vegetables, since the outer skins and peels are where all the pesticides in conventional vegetables are. You could make a pretty toxic broth using only the scraps of those veggies!
- In my ziplock, I save onions (green/spring, shallots, yellow, red and white), carrots, celery and sometimes the white and light green parts of leeks. I wouldn’t recommend including anything with strong colours (beets) or flavours (cabbage, brussel sprouts, etc).
- If you have any veggies that are too wilted or old to cook with, but they haven’t gone bad, you can toss them in the ziplock too (hello, rubbery celery sticks!)
- Bring 6 liters of water (preferably filtered) to boil in a large stock pot.
- Add 6 loosely packed cups of vegetable scraps, and (if not in the scraps already) add one smashed clove of garlic, one diced tomato (or 6-8 cherry tomatoes) and 2 bay leaves.
- Bring the water back to a boil, and then simmer for 4-6 hours. Season to your liking (I add a pinch of salt and a few dashes of pepper).
- Strain the broth through a fine mesh strainer, and pour into canning jars. If you start with 6 liters of water, you should end up with about 5 liters of broth.
Store in the fridge for up to 7 days (or if you’ve used freezer-safe plastic containers, you can store it in the freezer).
Make soup & stay warm, friends.
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