Oil-Free, No-Fat, Vegetable Broth
Homemade stock almost always tastes better than boxed or canned, and this is never more true than with vegetable stock. In the case of chicken or beef stock, the flavor comes primarily from cooking the bones in water, on low heat, for several hours. With vegetable stock, there are no bones to cook, so the richness of the stock comes from the variety of vegetables you use. It helps to brown the veggies first, so the stock gets infused with some of the flavors from caramelization. Unlike chicken or beef stock, which needs time to extract all the goodness from the bones, with vegetable stock, you cook the stock for only an hour to an hour and a half. Beyond that, the flavors could begin to break down.
Making your own vegetable broth is easy to do, and can save you money. It takes only a small amount of planning, and you will need to have some empty freezer space to store the ingredients and the finished broth.
When you buy your fresh vegetables at the grocery store or market, buy the best and freshest pieces you can find. Try to buy organic if you can, but don’t worry if you can’t afford them, or if they are out of a particular vegetable. You can always substitute something of a similar color.
When you get home with your produce, store it in the refrigerator. If your produce starts to fade before you’ve had a chance to eat it, don’t discard it. Wrinkled tomatoes, limp carrots and celery, and soft onions or potatoes will work just fine for making a tasty vegetable broth. Just be sure the produce is not damaged, bruised, or has black spots on it. Damaged produce will affect the flavor of your broth, so best not to use it. If you don’t have time to make your broth right now, just wash and rough chop your produce, remove any bruises or bad spots, place them into a re-sealable plastic bag, and store them in the freezer until you have time to make a batch of broth.
There is no need to peel the produce; the peels will actually add to the flavor of the broth. Just be sure they are clean. I find that the following combination of vegetables and herbs work well, but you can always change these amounts or add other vegetables or herbs to suit your taste.
- 6 ripe tomatoes (Note adding cherry tomatoes will make the broth sweeter)
- 2 large potatoes
- 8 carrots
- 2 cups squash ends and pieces, all types including zucchini (optional)
- 6 celery stalks, minimum
- 2 to 3 onions
- 6 garlic cloves, crushed
- Fresh herbs such as 1 small bunch of parsley, 4-5 sprigs of thyme, or oregano, or marjoram, 1 bay leaf
- Place the vegetables into a large stockpot. Add a splash of water. Heat the vegetables over medium heat until slightly browned, stirring frequently. This will provide a “roasted” flavor to your broth, but be careful not to burn them, or they will lose their flavor. Add additional water as needed until the vegetables are slightly browned.
2. Remove the stockpot from the heat and add about 8 cups of water.
3. Place washed, trimmed, herbs onto the stockpot, stir, and return stockpot to the heat.
4. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and cover; simmer for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until all the vegetables are very tender. Stir occasionally to mingle the vegetables and break open the tomatoes. Add more water if needed.
5. When done, remove as many of the vegetables as possible with a large slotted spoon.
6. Pour the liquid through either a sieve, or strainer, or even a double layer of cheesecloth, over a large bowl. (You decide what to do with the cooked vegetables. Our squirrels and rabbits love them and they also do well in the compost pile.)
This should make about 8 to 10 cups of broth when completed. Don’t worry about leaving some of the vegetable fiber in the broth. It’ll add to the flavor and nutrition of the broth.
7. Let the broth cool, and then divide into freezer-safe containers. I put about 4 cups of broth into each container, which provides a convenient cooking-sized portion for soups, stews, etc.
8. Label and date your container; a piece of clear tape and a black marker work well for this.
9. Place your containers in the freezer for future use.
- This recipe does not include any salt. The vegetables will contribute their own salt, especially the celery and tomatoes. However, if you don’t have a salt problem, or high blood pressure, and you want to add a little salt, add it at the end of the cooking process, but no more than 1/2 tablespoon (about 2 teaspoons). Potatoes (and beans) tend to absorb salt, so it’s best to add your salt to the actual dish you are making rather than into the whole batch of broth. This way, you can more easily control the sodium content in your meals.
- Experiment with this recipe by adding more, or different, vegetables and herbs to suite your own taste. You can add a few red chile or red pepper flakes for added heat, mild or medium green chilies, or even a jalapeno if you like the extra spice.
Let me know your thoughts about making your own broth at home. Do you have a special tip you’d like to share?