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Practically Free Vegetable Stock

It's said that there's no such thing as a free lunch, but this recipe comes pretty close.

During my recent visit to the Dirty Apron Cooking School, Chef David Robertson mentioned a great home cooking tip that I've tried in the past, but had forgotten about in the flurry of learning other things. With winter being the ideal time to have soup simmering on the stove often, it's also the perfect time for making Practically Free Vegetable Stock.

Instead of throwing away or composting all the left-over bits and pieces of vegetables that you peel and chop off throughout the month, they can be frozen and saved to make into fresh and flavourful vegetable stock for soups and sauces.

Using a large freezer bag, collect and freeze the vegetable scraps left after cooking throughout the month - the bottoms of onions, the tops of celery, carrot peels, anything that will flavour your stock. Chopped ends of ginger root and past-their-prime garlic cloves are always a great addition, and turnips can add a nice bite.

Once the bag is full, put all the frozen vegetables in a large pot, and cover with water. Add 2 teaspoons of salt, 10-15 whole black peppercorns, and dried or fresh herbs. I went outside and raided my herb garden for this batch, using fresh oregano, thyme and sage.

Another great addition to this stock is dried mushrooms. I have a huge container of dried wild mushrooms I picked up at Costco which seems to last forever. A mere ten pieces of dried mushroom added at the same time as the herbs is enough to both enhance the flavour of the stock and give it a rich brown colour. (This addition of mushrooms makes the stock a tiny bit less 'free' but only by a few cents.)

Bring the stock to a boil, then turn down and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour.  Strain out all the vegetables with a sieve or strainer, then add additional salt and fresh ground pepper to taste and the stock is ready to use, jar or freeze for future soups and sauces.

Emmy Cooks has some great tips on the best (and worst) vegetables to freeze for this stock on her blog, as well as some good advice for the cooking process of making your homemade stock.

Go conquer your own Practically Free Vegetable Stock, it's worth the effort and the price is right.

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