Friday, July 8, 2011

Using the CSA Basket: Making Stock

This week has gone by very quickly--tomorrow, we pick up our CSA share again, and we still have carrots, celery, parsley, and chard left over. With the exception of the chard, everything will keep in the fridge quite well for a few weeks (and I happen to know that we're planning to have wilted chard on our pizza tonight).

The last time that I wrote about canning vegetable stock, I focused on the pressure-canning process, as it was my first time using the canner. Today, I want to talk about the stock itself. I have to admit that prior to the batch of stock I made in April, I didn't hold stock in high enough a regard--I nearly took it for granted. We'd made stock before, and usually froze the leftovers; what I didn't realize was that the stock was losing some of its flavor in the process. Canning stock captures all the fullness of flavor of a vegetable stock that has been cooking for several hours; it's fragrant and savory, and I fell in love with it every time that I opened a jar. It was dark and rich, and did wonders for polenta, soup, risotto, etc.; and we ran out of it in less than three months.

I've been waiting to receive celery in our CSA share to make stock again, as Adrienne and her farm team grow the most flavorful, deep green celery I have ever seen. (If you'd like a comparison, the stock pot above has a few pieces of organic store-bought celery at the six o'clock position, and a CSA celery leaf at the 4 o'clock position--it's that green throughout.) We've been saving scraps for stock all week, too (rather than composting them)--carrot tops, outer layers of onions, bottom portions of mushrooms, etc. In addition to those, I added (to each of the large stock pots) half an onion, half a head of garlic, a few stalks of celery (and celery leaves), carrots, dill, parsley, basil, oregano, summer savory, peppercorns, bay leaves, coriander, fennel seed, and a dried pepper or two. Keep in mind that the stock cooks for a long time, and that thus dried herbs and sturdy vegetables/greens are most suitable. I kept wanting to add fresh basil to the mix, but Matt reminded me that it would disintegrate too fast, making the stock more bitter.

Making stock is relatively easy: combine vegetables and herbs in a large stock pot (or two), cover with water (allowing for room to boil), bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer for a couple hours. Then, strain out the vegetables, and simmer the stock for 1-2 hours before canning.

I hope to make at least a couple more batches before the winter, as I know that stock this good won't happen again until next year's celery and carrots start coming in.

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