Learning to make broth

By Tina

Call winter weather what you will: blustery, brisk, inhumane, time-to-leave, sweatertime, scarfy, chilly, awesome, or cozy. I call it soup weather–and that’s when it’s time to make broth! I cook soup with water, and with store-bought broth when I have to, but there really is nothing like homemade broth.

I wasn’t always a broth-maker. I didn’t have a recipe and I was intimidated by arguments claiming that roasting or pressure-cooking were the only ways to extract flavor from your foundational vegetables. So I deferred to the ‘experts’ and bought their branded broths at the store, but some of these can overpower the flavors of your soup.

This is what I’ve learned: A good vegetable broth requires a lot of vegetables, and since the flavors of the vegetables you use will make your stock, be sure they are ripe and flavorful–not too young and not past their prime. By chopping your vegetables, you are maximizing the flavor they can release into the water. A rough chopping is fine since you will discard the vegetables after simmering them to transfer the flavor to the stock. This will seem less wasteful if you think of leaving the vegetables relatively flavorless.

A few tips:

  • A very rough chopping is fine since you will discard the vegetables after simmering. But do chop so that you maximize their surface area and, thus, the flavor that is transferred to the stock.
  • Keep a plastic Ziploc bag in your freezer to keep the ends and stems of vegetables that you would normally discard during your routine cooking. Wash them before freezing so that they are ready to use when you want to throw them in a broth pot: parsley stems, celery hearts, leek greens, carrot tops, mushroom stems, and very well cleaned trimmings. However, don’t include anything that is too starchy (like potatoes) or that will overpower the flavor of the stock’s flavor, such as turnips or rutabaga, broccoli or cauliflower, artichokes, peelings that might conceal dirt, to name a few.
  • Vegetable stock doesn’t reduce to a concentrate in the same way that a meat or poultry-based broth will. Use less water if you want to concentrate the flavors.
  • I typically go for a very clear, light broth. However, a splash or two of soy sauce, instead of salt, can satisfy your desire for umami if you so wish!
  • A good stock is provides the ground floor for building your soup and will deepen the flavors of your cooked grains and legumes, like rice and lentils. You can replace all of some of the water with broth.
  • Bring all stock to a boil before using.

Think you are ready to try your hand at homemade broth? Share your experiences in the comments below!