Nov 9, 2011

On Vegetable Stock

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I grew up in a family that made a religion out of frugality and it affected me deeply. One of the things that has kept me fat is a horror of waste that is so ingrained that I act as a repository of leftovers in order to keep them from being thrown out.

A hamburger or piece of steak that remains uneaten after the nightly meal of my omnivorous housemates will, because of their habits and prejudices, end up sitting on a plate in the microwave or the fridge until it mummifies and is discarded. I could save it from the garbage can or compost heap. I could ... but, as much as it bothers me, I won't.

One thing that helps me keep my mind off this compulsion is my pot of vegetable stock. I have gotten into the habit of washing all my vegetables well and when I prepare them, putting the peel and trimmings into a saucepan that sits on a back burner and simmers sometimes for days. Other stuff also goes into the pot;  floppy celery, wilted lettuce, soft ginger, stems of dried shiitake mushrooms and fresh herbs that are past their prime.

Spices go in too. If I grind up too much cumin, coriander, mustard, etc. rather than waste it, it goes into the pot. The only thing that doesn't go in are the leaves and stems of the nightshades like tomato, potato, aubergine (eggplant), and bell pepper.

Every time I go out to the kitchen for a cup of tea or a glass of water, I top up the pot with more filtered water. Every couple of days I strain the solids out and put the stock in the fridge and start a new pot. The flavor and color of the stock varies according to what goes into the pot, but I've never yet had a bad batch.

The resulting stock is useful as a soup base (especially considering the sodium content of commercial stocks and bouillons) as liquid for cooking rice, quinoa, bulghur, etc. It is delicious and rich and a good reason to be a frugal herbivore.

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