Soup stock – usually chicken broth – is an ingredient in roughly half of my freezer meal recipes. It’s not a terribly expensive ingredient – if you’re just cooking up one meal at a time. But if you need several cups per recipe and you’re preparing a whole month’s worth of freezer meals, the cost really starts to add up! And of course there is also the question of all the added sodium in commercial soup stock, which many of us would be happy to avoid.
The simple solution is to make your own broth. Homemade broth and soup stock is easy enough to make, and if you learn a few easy tips you can pretty much make it for free.
But forget the complex Julia Child recipes! This isn’t gourmet cooking: frugal living is about basic survival and saving money on the day-to-day stuff. That leaves you with more money for special occasions when you want to splurge on fancy ingredients and gourmet recipes. Buy only what you have to, and use food scraps wherever possible. It’s good for your budget and for the planet!
Free Sources for Soup Stock Ingredients
- Vegetable peels and scraps: scrub veggies well so you can save the peels and end bits for your soup bag – just store in a zipped bag in the freezer until it’s time to make your soup stock;
- Cooking liquids: when you boil/steam veggies or have cooking liquid left after boiling a ham, pour this tasty stuff into Mason jars and freeze until you cook up your stock;
- Canning liquids: If you drain a can of tomatoes or olives before adding to a recipe, save the liquid to add to stock or other recipes;
- Bones and skin: Whenever you roast chicken, beef, pork or lamb, save the discarded bones, skin and such, and freeze in labelled bags. These parts of the meat are all rich in collagen, which will make for a sumptuous homemade meat stock!
- Meat trimmings: The bits of fatty or gristly meat you trim off are good for adding flavour to a broth;
- Shrimp shells: When you peel your own shrimp, keep the shells in a freezer bag until you have enough to make a broth. This shrimp stock recipe by Emeril Lagasse calls for 1-1/2 pounds of shells.
Basically, take any opportunity you have to save the “inedible” bits when you prepare your food. Even onion skins and potato peels can be added to your soup bag, in small quantities. They will give your soup stock a darker colour and richer flavour, so they’re especially good if you want to make a beef or lamb broth.
Turning Food Waste into Free Soup Stock
Anytime you bring fresh produce home from the market, remember your soup bag. If you’ve bought carrots, turnips, beets, or kohlrabi with the tops intact, you need to cut them off to extend the shelf life of your root vegetables. If you don’t intent to cook with carrot tops, fennel frond or other greens, save them for making soup stock.
When you’re preparing celery for a recipe, save the leaves and leaf blades for your stock pot. If you remove the stems from spinach, kale or other dark green vegetables, add these to your soup bag as well. With some brassicas like broccoli or cauliflower, you may find the head you’ve brought home still has some of its leaves. These are safe for the soup bag too. And if you have just a tiny bit of parsley leftover after making tabouleh – or stems from rosemary or thyme after making a roast – toss them in the soup bag too!
Homemade Broth and Soup Stock
Make Your Own Vegetable Broth
When you need vegetable broth for a recipe, just pull a soup bag out of the freezer. Plop its contents into a heavy stock pot and cover them about halfway up with water and/or reserved cooking liquids. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer covered on medium-low heat. Let the broth cook for 1-1/2 to 2 hours to extract the flavour. Strain out the vegetables and your broth is ready to go! Season as desired.
How to Make Meaty Soup Stock
If you’ve bought soup bones from the butcher or you have bones saved up in the freezer, you can use them to make a meat stock instead of a vegetable broth. For a richer flavour and colour, defrost the bones and roast them first. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Arrange the bones in a single layer in a roasting pan. Roast the bones about 25 minutes, turning once or twice.
Add some aromatic veggies from your soup bag, or cut up a few fresh ones. I like to use less than perfect carrots, onions, garlic, and stalks of celery. Save your really pretty ones for other uses. Don’t peel the vegetables or chop them up too small. Just scrub them and cut into large chunks. Arrange the vegetables around the bones and return to the oven. Remove when the vegetables are well browned, about 25 minutes more.
Transfer the bones and vegetables to a stock pot and cover them with water. You can add in any reserved cooking liquid or meat broth if you like. Cover the pot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Lower the heat and simmer gently for 3-6 hours.
Don’t stir the soup stock while it’s cooking, as this will just mix the fats back into the stock and may turn it cloudy. Instead, occasionally skim off the fat and any foam that rises to the top of the pot. Spoon the fat info a jar and let it cool. Label it and keep it in the fridge. You can use it in your cooking.
Once the soup stock is done, remove the bones and strain out the vegetables. If the soup stock looks cloudy at this point, you can filter it. Line a colander with cheesecloth and slowly pour the stock through it into another pot.
Storing Your Soup Stock for Later
Store soup stock or broth in a covered container in the fridge for up to 3-4 days. If you need to store it any longer, you can freeze small amounts in Mason jars. Fill to the “Freeze-Fill” line (the line just under the threads on most canning jars.) When you place the lid on the jar, make it just fingertip tight. Label clean jars and cool before placing upright in the freezer. Your soup stock and broth is safe in the freezer for up to 6 months.
So Is it ‘Soup Stock’ or ‘Broth’?
According to Emma Christiansen of the Kitchn, the difference between broth and soup stock applies mainly to the gourmet cooking world. At home and in the grocery store, both terms are used interchangeably to mean broth. So whether a recipe calls for vegetable soup stock or vegetable broth, it’s probably calling for broth.
For those who want to know about the technical differences, broth is a thinner product than soup stock. Broth is traditionally any liquid that was used for cooking meat. If you want to cook up a batch of broth, you’d usually start with meat and vegetables.
Broth can also just mean cooking liquid, in general. You might have fish or seafood broth, as well as beef broth or chicken broth. But the cooking liquid leftover after boiling or steaming vegetables is also technically a broth. And you should definitely save this broth when you want to make soup base for your recipes.
In a broader sense, “broth” means you started with pieces of meat rather than bones. It may also mean that you’ve seasoned the cooking liquid so you could drink it on its own.
Soup stock is more of a starter ingredient, and tends not to be seasoned. Stock is also thicker and richer than broth. That’s because it’s made from bones, skin, knuckles, and other parts of the animal that would normally be considered scraps. To make soup stock, you must have bones to provide the marrow and collagen-rich gelatin that thickens the stock.
What About Bone Broth?
Essentially, bone broth is just soup stock. The trend towards calling it “broth” is confusing because bone “broth” is made with the bones. It has the thicker, more viscous consistency of soup stock. Chef Marco Canora explains that the confusion came along with the wellness and Paleo trends that started a few years ago.
Bone broth recipes usually call for a longer cooking time, usually anywhere from 8-24 hours. Some recipes recommend cooking for up to 72 hours, or until the bones crumble when you press on them. The idea is to extract as much gelatin as possible from the bones, as well as trace minerals that might otherwise be missed. Just as with any soup stock, you can make bone broth from beef soup bones or the chicken carcass leftover from your Sunday dinner.
No Time to Make Soup Stock?
In a rush? If you don’t have all day to make homemade soup stock, a concentrated soup base is one way to get broth for a recipe without resorting to canned soup broth or those salty powders or cubes. You can make your own vegetable soup base concentrate from fresh vegetables when they’re in season.
Essentially, this soup base is vegetables ground up in a food processor and preserved in salt. Recipes for vegetable soup base have been printed in books like The River Cottage Preserves Handbook. I haven’t been able to locate any recipes for homemade beef or chicken soup base, and I don’t really know how safe it is to make meaty soup bases at home. If anyone knows of any recipes or safety info on making soup base at home using meat, please point me to the source. Just drop me a comment below. Thanks!
Better Than Bouillon offers a wide range of vegetable, meat, and seafood soup bases. This is one of the few commercial instant soup products that I can really get behind. We’ve been using the beef and chicken soup bases for about six months now, and we really love them. The taste is so close to homemade, and the soup base is a snap to use. If you’re concerned about salt in your diet, they do have low-sodium versions of their soup bases as well.
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Original content © 2016-2017 Kyla Matton Osborne, aka #RubyWriter
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