August 9, 2009

Seasonal Stock

About once each season I like to make a batch of what I call "Seasonal Stock." It's vegetable stock made from whatever vegetables are available at that moment.

This stock really comes in handy a lot.

You might think that summer and fall would be the only times of year that plenty of fresh vegetables would be available for making stock, but I have made some great stocks at other times of the year. Each season produces it's own uniquely tasting, uniquely colored stock.

This past January I dug parsnips from the frozen garden, brushed snow off the brussels sprouts, and added onions, carrots, sweet potato, and butternut squash from storage. This made a deep orange winter stock that was especially nice in butternut squash soup.

In May I made a spring stock that used a large proportion of greens such as spinach, lettuce, mustard, and chard, along with some chunks of turnip, asparagus, and a handful of chives and little bit of carrot that was still surviving in storage. This deep green stock made a great gravy when slow cooked with a pork shoulder.

There were a lot of vegetables available for the summer stock pictured above. I used zucchini, cabbage, onion, banana pepper, red tomato, yellow tomato, broccoli, carrot, chard, celery, carrots, rosemary, and parsley. I also threw in a strawberry and two blackberries, just for fun. Why not?

There is no recipe. I combine about two quarts of cleaned, roughly cut, loosely packed vegetables to two gallons of water. I simmer it for a few hours in a large pot. Then I let it cool and strain it through several layers of cheesecloth. Return the stock to a boil, ladle into clean, hot jars, place lids and rings, and pressure can. The Ball Blue Book (definitely one of my favorites) states to process quarts of their recipe vegetable stock for 35 minutes (at the pressure designated for your altitude). So that's what I do.

I have heard of people saving scraps of pared vegetables left over after preparing meals. Store these scraps in baggies in the freezer until there is enough to make stock. I think this is a great idea! It makes use of every bit of your precious fresh vegetables, whether they come from a garden, farm market, or supermarket. We can all do this!

There must be some sort of magic in combining foods that are available fresh at the same time together. I say this because seasonal stock always turns out well. Every time I make seasonal stock I taste it and think, "This is the best batch ever."

I wonder what that says about me.

Oh! Wait! I almost forgot to mention one very important ingredient that goes into every batch of seasonal stock... a splash of homemade wine.

Now I wonder what that says about me.

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