Here I was thinking that I’d have to tuck this post away for a rainy day. Well, I’d like to thank Mother Nature for her excellent timing! As a followup to last week’s post, Inspired: Food Waste, I’m sharing my version of Spring Vegetable Broth.
Oh, I know what you’re thinking: “uh, Anni, it’s so much easier to just buy broth” and “who has time to make broth — are you kidding me?” Well, bear with me on this because homemade broth is worth it for a variety of reasons:
- It’s a great way to use up aging vegetables and bits that would normally go to waste. (Ever wonder what to do with wimpy carrots, softening celery, or leftover pea pods? Turn them into broth!)
- Broth is a kitchen staple that can be used to make meals on the fly. With broth handy, you’re halfway to homemade soup, rice dishes, and pastas. It’s also great on its own if you want a light meal. A bowlful of flavorful vegetable broth is a healthy partner to a rich grilled-cheese sandwich.
- It keeps in the freezer for a few months, so you can make a batch, use some now, and freeze the rest for later.
- You can customize the taste to your flavor preferences and/or dietary restrictions.
For years I thought that making broth was hard. Wedding cakes or French-style chocolates? No problem. But broth seemed to take so much effort — the prep, the cooking! When I finally started making broth, I learned two things. The first is that the prep didn’t take as long as I thought it would because you don’t have to chop the vegetables perfectly. (Seriously, if you’re making stock, those vegetables are going to end up shmooshed later, so nothing has to look pretty.) The second is that most of the time involved in “making” was taken care of by my cooktop. Which meant that I could be making broth while I was working at home, doing laundry, cleaning the house, or catching up on my Twitter feed.
So, here we go! The recipe below makes a flavorful and slightly sweet broth, perfect for spring-vegetable soups and risottos.
Just a quick comment on tools for making vegetable broth: you don’t need anything fancy to make broth. A good-sized stock pot (at least 8-quart), sharpened knife, strainer, and large storage container with well-fitting lid will do it. I’ve listed what I used in the Tools section below, just so you know what you’re looking at in the photos.
Spring Vegetable Broth
(Adapted from The New Vegetarian Epicure)
Yield: About 2 quarts (7-8 cups) of broth
- Vegetable peeler
- Good, sharp knife for cutting vegetables
- Stock pot (Mine is an 8-quart, but 9 or 10-quart would be ideal)
- Large container for straining and storing the broth
(I used a 4-quart container, purchased from a restaurant supply store)
- Strainer, china cap, or chinois for straining the solids from the broth (I used a chinois, purchased from a restaurant supply store about 10 years ago; this baby is durable and worth the money!)
- If you’re planning to make Veggie Smoosh Burgers (optional): 6″ x 6″ piece of cheesecloth and three 6-inch pieces of kitchen twine for making a sachet to hold the peels, peppercorns, and bay leaf
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds (1½ heaping cups)
3-4 stalks celery, chopped (1½ heaping cups)
1½ large yellow onions, cut into 1″ chunks
2½ cups dark-green tops of leeks, sliced
Peels from one large Russet or two medium Yukon Gold potatoes
1 large parsnip, peeled and sliced into rounds
1½ cups butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1″ chunks
1 bay leaf
4-5 branches of flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon fresh thyme (approximately 5 branches)
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon white peppercorns
2 teaspoons kosher salt
12 cups of filtered or purified water (good water makes good soup; if your tap water tastes good, go ahead and use it)
- Optional: If you’re planning to make Veggie Smoosh Burgers, place the peels, peppercorns, and bay leaf in the center of the cheesecloth.
You might have to fold the peels or press them together to make them fit.
- Tie the ends of the sachet together, then tie another piece of kitchen twine around the center of the sachet. Place it in the pot.
- If you’re not planning to make Veggie Smoosh Burgers, skip the sachet and combine the vegetables, herbs, salt, and peppercorns in the stockpot and put it on the stove.
- Add water to the pot — slowly if you’re using a large container — and give the ingredients a stir to combine everything.
- Turn on the burner and bring the contents of the pot to a boil.
The amount of time it takes to reach boiling will vary depending on the type of stovetop you have — gas, electric, or induction. Using the “power boil” burner on my gas cooktop, achieving a full boil takes 10-15 minutes. Your mileage may vary.
- As soon as the mixture comes to a boil, turn the heat down so that the contents of the pot remain at a simmer. Let the contents simmer for 60-75 minutes, stopping by to stir things around every 15-20 minutes and adjust the heat, if necessary, to maintain the simmer.
A simmer is just below the boiling point, so you should see a slight bubbling going on just under/at the surface of the water. I set my burner to medium-high to keep the simmer going.
- When the contents of the pot have reduced by about 1/4 and the vegetables are very soft (falling apart is ok), turn off the heat and allow the pot to cool a bit before you strain the broth.
- When you’re ready to strain the broth, place your strainer/chinois/china cap into the large container and carefully pour the contents into the strainer.
Don’t put your face right over the strainer, as steam from the broth and vegetables will rise quickly and can burn. Also, be sure to pour slowly so that you don’t splash hot liquid everywhere.
- Using a wooden spoon or ladle, press the vegetables against the strainer to extract as much liquid as possible.
You should end up with about 2 quarts of broth.
- Discard (better yet, compost) the vegetable shmoosh and allow the broth to cool to room temperature before storing.
- Optional: If you prefer a finer or clearer broth, you can strain it one or two times to remove any remaining vegetable bits.
- Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to five days, or portion the broth into smaller containers and freeze for up to three months.
Be sure to label the containers with the date you made the broth.