I recently acquired a Crock-pot and a few books of recipes to go along with it. Slow cooker cooking is a bit different from regular stove-top cooking for me, particularly in the sheer amount of ingredients that I need to fill a 7-quart Crock-pot. Predictably, one ingredient that appears again and again in slow cooker recipes is stock or broth.
When I was in the Peace Corps in Honduras I was faced with a stock/broth dilema: it wasn’t available unless homemade. I had neither experience nor a refrigerator, so making a bunch of broth or stock for future use never crossed my mind and was not a rational option because it would have gone bad.
Also while in the Peace Corps, my sister gifted me a cookbook, More With Less, by Doris Janzen Longacre, published by the Mennonite Central Committee, which would not only shape the way I cook, but my whole life’s outlook. Mrs. Longacre’s creed, laid out in the text of the cookbook, was to get more-with-less out of every area of life, from the way a person cooks in the kitchen, to their spiritual life, and she would eventually publish a book about living more-with-less to accompany the cookbook. Her thoughts on stock and broth were that purchasing canned or boxed stocks was expensive and used a lot of packaging resources that are wasteful, and she suggested using bouillon cubes or granules reconstituted in tap water as an alternative. This option was available to me in rural Honduras, and popular there, so that’s what I learned to do.
More With Less is also filled with tons of little tips on getting the most out of what you have in the kitchen, and there were numerous tips on making soups and stock/broth from scraps and left-overs. One such tip which really intrigued me was putting a container in the freezer for vegetable scraps, like peelings and tips that are usually discarded, as well as left-over bones from meals, to be used for stock and broth. When I returned from Honduras and finally settled in my own apartment, I tried this. I enjoyed it very much, and it was very easy to get a build-up of scraps because we cook vegetables at every meal, and so have compost scraps everyday. I enjoyed making the stock as a way to be more environmentally conscientious and thrifty, as well, each stock tasted a little bit different depending on the combination of vegetables and types of bones as well as from the flavors stuck to those bones from the meal they had been made into originally. One stock in particular sticks out in my mind that had bones from spicy chicken wings, it had a bit of a bite, but was delicious all together. 🙂
About two years ago, I got away from making stock, mostly because I became concerned that I wasn’t boiling it long enough to kill harmful bacteria, and didn’t want to make anyone sick. My son was just very little, and I was nursing, and was afraid of doing us harm. (Of course, in a stock made purely from vegetables, this concern isn’t really present.) But with the acquisition of a Crock-pot about two months ago, and a turkey carcass post-Thanksgiving, I decided to give it another go. My slow cooker cookbooks both have recipes for making stock and broth, and since nearly all recipes for the Crock-pot require some, I had been thinking that it would be a worth-while activity to undertake again. After reading over the stock and broth recipes, I reasoned that, cooked for 10 hours in the slow cooker, the risk for harmful bacteria remaining in the stock from the bones would be reduced significantly, and I felt comfortable trying it again. I started to save kitchen scraps in an empty vinegar container in my freezer, and it is completely full and ready now. My dad gave me the turkey carcass after Thanksgiving, so I threw that in the pot to make 100% turkey broth (well, maybe a little stuffing in there too). Jarring it up, I feel satisfied with my new experiment, and again, don’t worry that this will harbor bad bacteria to make my family sick.
It’s easy, and you can do it too whether you have a slow cooker or not! Here some tips and links to get you started:
1. You can find recipes for making stock and broth, but why waste money using ingredients that you could eat directly and throw other parts of those vegetables away that would make a perfectly delicious and economical stock? Cut the top off an empty milk carton, or 2- or 3-liter soda bottle, and put it in the far corner of your freezer. Any time you chop vegetables for meals, throw in the butts and ends, the peels and skins that you would normally throw away or compost. You can also save the bones of meats, mixing chicken with beef bones, etc., is fine. When the container is full, you are ready.
2. Don’t put bad vegetables in the box. Rotting potatoes are not going to make good stock, but healthy carrot skins will. Likewise, rotting meat is unhealthy and should never be put in anything you propose to consume.
3. Wash your veggies before you peel and chop them so that your stock doesn’t have (as many of) those pesky pesticides in them. Even if you buy organic, you don’t want dirt in your stock either.
4. If you want to make your stock/broth on the stove top, check out these links:
- thekitchn.com’s best recipes and tutorials for making stock and broth. This link is full of a number of recipes and links with tips. A great place to start!
- Simply Recipes: How to Make Chicken Stock
5. If you want to make your stock/broth in a slow cooker, place ingredients into the crock, cover with water to 3/4 full, cover tightly, and cook on low for 10 hours.
6. Strain in a colander. If you do not want floaties, strain it in a fine mesh colander or pass the liquid through a cheese cloth. I don’t mind floaties (they make the meal better), so I use a regular pasta strainer.
7. Add salt of desired.
8. Jar and store in the fridge for up to a week, or freeze in freezer safe jars. Label so that you know which batch to use first. You can name your batches too by what they were made with, sometimes you might want to know.
9. If you would like to skim fat off stock/broth, let set in refrigerator until separated, and skim, or leave as is and skim fat off stock/broth immediately before use.
10. Discard scraps in garbage or compost, depending on ingredients and/or your composting method.
11. Enjoy in any meal that calls for stock or broth. Remember that unless you added salt to your broth before jarring it, your broth is sodium free and you will probably need to compensate for that when making your recipe.
Another interesting recipe I found was for making home-made vegetable bouillon cubes, such as those you would reconstitute to make stock/broth. Check out Vegan Slow Cooker for Beginners published by Rockridge Press.
Chime in: What are some techniques you use for making home-made stock or broth? Have you found making your own stock or broth economical? In what way?