Homemade Vegie Broth--Come on, you can do it!

Really I began making my own vegetable broth because I just couldn't stand how much I was paying for a couple of cartons every week, like almost $3 per carton...and the price kept going up. And here I was tossing out all the veggie scraps...carrot tops, onion skins, soft celery from the bottom bin of the fridge. My vegetable bins seem to be more like little square coffins where odds and ends of various produce meet their demise. Sometimes they just lay limp at the bottom which is kind of sad but the ones that are forgotten in the back actually begin to decay and even leak a yellowish brown goo. Do not use these for stock! Remember, garbage in-garbage out.

Back to making your own stock. If you're home for a couple of hours I think you'll be surprised at how easy making broth actually is. I make my broth every other weekend and freeze it so it's on hand when I need it. The only problem I encountered was my canning jars exploding in the freezer. As if cleaning up the vegetable bins was not enough. I tried filling the jars on 3/4 of the way but they still expanded and cracked the glass. One chef I know, Karen Diggs, recommends using plastic wrap or parchment paper as a lid instead of a metal canning lid, still using the ring to seal the wrap in place. What I have found works for me is laying the jars on their sides so there is more room for expansion. We haven't had a problem since.

Now, IF you are going to use store bought broth, which I trust you will do only for an emergency, I recommend using Pacific or Imagine Organic. You can dilute them with water to stretch them a little. However, it's worth noting that in Cook's Illustrated June 2008 issue they blasted all organic cooking broths stating, "All the organic vegetable broths in our lineup tanked." Here are the ones NOT recommended: Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base, Emeril's All Natural Organic Veg Stock, Swanson Certified Organic Vegetarian Veg Broth, Imagine Org Veg Cooking Stock, Kitchen Basics Natural Veg Cooking Stock and Pacific Natural Foods Organic Veg Broth. Imagine Organic Veg Broth was "recommended with reservations" with tasters stating stating it had a "mostly carrot" flavor and being bland. Knorr Vegetarian Vegetable Bouillon Cubes was deemed salty but on the okay list with College Inn Garden Veg Broth. So which one (and only one) unbelievably made it to the recommended list? Swanson Vegetarian Vegetable Broth (not the organic one)...and why are you NOT going to use this one? Because being conscious about what you put into your mouth you know that it doesn't make sense for a vegetable broth to have "flavor enhancers" like those found in Swansons: high fructose corn syrup, sugar, dextrose, MSG, disodium insodinate, disodium guanylate, and more.

All of that should be more than enough reason for you to want to make your own stock; it's going to taste better and it's going to make anything you use it in extra nourishing. There are literally hundreds of recipes for stock out there but the one I use is a modification of Rebecca Katz' Magic Mineral Broth. You know I love everything that comes out of her kitchen and her broth is no exception. If you're making a sipping broth please visit her website and make the exact version, it's a touch sweet which makes it especially soothing. But for my purposes, which mainly means using it as a base for soups and grains, I change a few things, including omitting the salt and using less yams/sweet potatoes. According to James Beard vegetables contain their own natural sodium so it can be added afterward.

There is such a thing as a roasted vegetable stock. It will give you a darker, deeper more earthy flavor. For a Roasted Vegetable Stock to use say as a base for Onion Soup check out this recipe. Anna Thomas in The Vegetarian Epicure (which is a great cookbook and you can pick it up on Amazon for a couple bucks) has a recipe for Dark Vegetable Broth and an Assertive Broth in which she has you saute the vegies first. What we're going for here is a light broth to use as a base for everything from soups to grains to add light flavor and lots of nutrients.

Now, one of the things you're going to see in this recipe is kombu. Kombu is kelp, yep that's seaweed my friends or as we called it in chef school "sea vegetable" because weed is such an ugly word. The Kombu package says it's an "Edible Ocean Plant." Whatever it's called, I don't want you to skip this ingredient. You can find it in most stores (see picture) you've probably just never looked. I promise you that your stock will not taste all fishy.

Kombu or Kelp, is a brown seaweed very rich in iodine. It is high too in potassium, calcium, iron, and magnesium and also contains a highly important level of trace elements such as zinc, copper and manganese. According to Paul Pitchford in his book Healing with Whole Foods, kombu greatly increases the nutritional value of all food prepared with it. It has a high mineral content. In beans, the minerals help balance the protein and oil and increase digestibility. Kombu softens masses (anti-tumor), it has an anti-coagulant effect on the blood, is a natural fungicide, relieves hormonal imbalances, cools and soothes lungs and throat, and relieves coughing and asthma to name just a few benefits!

Lastly, if you want to know more about the difference between Broth vs Stock here is a decent explanation.

3 unpeeled carrots with green tops, rinse off any dirt, cut into large chunks
1 medium yellow onion, skins on but cut off dirty root, quarter
1 leek, white and light green parts, cut in half lengthwise, rinsed, then cut into chunks
4 stalks celery, with tops if you've got them, cut into chunks
4 cloves garlic, tossed in whole, skins and all
1/2 bunch Italian parsley
2 medium red potatoes, unpeeled but scrubbed clean, eyes removed, quartered
1 Garnet yam, skin on, quartered
1 3x2 inch strip of kombu, rinsed
1 bay leaf
8 peppercorns
4 whole juniper berries

Toss all ingredients into an 8 quart stock pot and cover with cold water to about 2 inches from the top of the pot. Cover with lid and bring to a boil. Remove lid, reduce heat to low and simmer for 2 hours. Strain the stock and let cool. Refrigerate or freeze.

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