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Easy veggie soup stock from scratch

Updated on November 8, 2014
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A long-time whole-grain baker, Kathryn discovered the thrill and ease of cooking with whole, fresh foods decades ago. Still chopping!

A pot of tomato-vegetable soup stock just coming to the boil on top of the stove
A pot of tomato-vegetable soup stock just coming to the boil on top of the stove | Source

Make homemade soup in 30 minutes with this easy-to-make vegetable stock

With this easy method, you can have homemade vegetable stock always on hand and ready to add to your soup pot any day of the year.

Just a young bride, more than forty years gone, I learned this veggie soup stock trick, and it has never failed. With it, you will save time in the kitchen, save money, and make a delicious soup at the drop of the stock-pot lid.

It's so easy to do, highly economical, and sure to provide you with the most flavorful and densest nutrients of any soup stock you can make or buy.

How to build your veggie stock

Nearly full veggie stock bowl with fresh carrot shavings
Nearly full veggie stock bowl with fresh carrot shavings | Source

What is your favorite winter-time soup?

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Every time you cook, save the odd bits of vegetables in a freezer bowl

Here, I've tossed in a few carrot butt ends & shavings to the bowl I keep in the freezer to catch the trimmings. No matter how small the bits, I add them each time I cook.

Today it might be a few peas and the small amount of (cooled) water in which I cooked them. Tonight it may be trimmed bits of celery, radish and lettuce that just aren't pretty enough for my salad. Tomorrow morning, when I peel sweet potatoes for my Crock Pot mash, I'll add the trimmings to the bowl.

That will fill the bowl and that means soup's on! As soon as the bowl is full, I drop it down to the refrigerator compartment where it thaws slowly. When I'm ready to make soup, I pour the goodies into my stock pot, season them a bit, and let it simmer for ten minutes or so.

Toss in whatever trimmings or leftovers you have each day, on top of whatever is already frozen. When the bowl is full, thaw and make soup or stock.

To build your veggie soup stock, you'll need a container that fits your family size and your freezer

1-quart veggie stock bowl in freezer
1-quart veggie stock bowl in freezer | Source

For just two of us, that's a quart bowl

There are only two of us at home these days, and our mid-sized refrigerator sports a small freezer compartment.

We keep a covered quart bowl in the freezer for the vegetable bits that will become our veggie stock. When my children were at home, I kept a 2-quart container in the freezer.

This bowl contains a lot of finely chopped kale bits and a few carrot shavings. Not visible: a little chopped onion, some potato cuts not pretty enough to serve or mash, and a few other odds and ends collected over the last week.

Pyrex 692264408076 Storage 14-Piece Round Set, Clear with Blue Lids
Pyrex 692264408076 Storage 14-Piece Round Set, Clear with Blue Lids
These are by far the most versatile and useful storage bowls we have.

We use a Pyrex 1 quart bowl to freeze our vegetable soup stock

We're gradually replacing all our plastic ware with glass storage bowls and jars. I love Pyrex ware because the lids fit securely and do not wear out as fast as many other plastic lids.

Pyrex glass is both freezer and oven safe. In the freezer, you always want to leave about 1/4-1/2 inch air space for expansion of any liquids.

Pyrex bowls seem to be better tempered than other glass bowls I have tried. They do not chip as easily and perform very well in the refrigerator, the freezer and the oven.

A word of caution to the brand new cook

If you are using glassware that is safe for both oven and freezer, always bring frozen glassware gradually to room temperature before placing in a heated oven.

Make sure, too, that it is completely dry on the outside before placing it in the oven. Never set a hot glass bowl on top of or next to a damp surface.

Nutrient rich kale stems are a constant in our soup stocks

Chopping kale stems, denuded of their leaves
Chopping kale stems, denuded of their leaves | Source

We eat kale 2-3 times a week during the winter months, and frequently during the summer as well.

The stems are too tough for many of the recipes I use, but I'm not letting those valuable nutrients go to waste! I pay a premium for my fresh, organic produce, and I want every last bite of goodness for my bucks.

It takes only a minute or two to chop the stems of an entire bunch fine and pop them into my freezer bowl.

Save your veggie cooking water too!

Frozen potato cooking water with yellow pepper bits
Frozen potato cooking water with yellow pepper bits | Source

We lose tons of nutrients when we pour veggie cooking water down the drain

When you boil or steam your vegetables, many of the nutrients--and a lot of the flavor--leach into the cooking water. Don't toss those vitamins and minerals down the drain! Freeze them for soup stock!

Let the cooking water cool completely. After dinner, when you're cleaning up the kitchen, pour the cooled cooking water, along with any stray bits of vegetables, into your freezer stock bowl.

Here, we've frozen potato cooking water from the boiled potatoes we mashed last week. That same night, I added some leftover bits of yellow bell pepper. We had more than needed for our dinner salad and not enough to save, so I popped it into the freezer bowl.

Just now, I chopped up some tough beet stems, left over from the tender greens I used in a salad for tonight's supper. They're going into the bowl, too, right on top of the frozen goodies. Soon the bowl will be full, and I'll thaw it to make a hearty kale and potato soup.

Every time you cook

Save all the bits and pieces of your veggies that just won't do in your current recipe--the ugly spots you excise; potato, carrot and squash peelings.

They're all rich in vitamins and minerals, and when they've boiled down in your soup, they'll add rich color and flavor.

Beet greens and stems, rich in iron and antioxidants

Chopped beet greens & stems
Chopped beet greens & stems | Source

Chopped beet greens and stems make healthy vegetable stock

We love roasted beets, but quite often the greens and stems are not as tender as we would like for salads.

When we clean the beets for roasting, we clean the greens too. The tender greens are a tasty addition to our tossed salads. They also make a delicious side dish, braised or sauteed with onions, a tart apple and a little vinegar.

The older greens and tougher stems don't go to waste either. We chop them coarsely and pop them into the freezer bowl.

Beet greens and stems make delicious hearty soups with a darker broth. I have to say, the stocks with beet greens are among the most flavorful. And think of all that iron and calcium!

Thawed veggies soon to be stock

Thawed veggies with added onions, leeks
Thawed veggies with added onions, leeks | Source

Here, you see a quart of veggies in my soup pot. I know, this looks like it belongs in the compost pail, right? But it's going to make the most delicious soup for tonight's supper.

We ate mostly fresh vegetables last week, so we had very little veggie cooking water to add to the bowl. It's almost all fresh-frozen vegetable goodness.

You can see a small amount of thawing liquid in the kettle here.These chopped veggies will cook down mostly to mush, unless you want soup fast, like I do tonight.

I've got about thirty minutes to make a quick supper. After they've cooked tender, I'll puree them right in the pot, with my stick blender.

If I had more time, I'd strain them to get a clear broth, but since it's just the two of us, I'll use the puree as is, add a few potatoes, an onion and some garlic, some cooked black beans, and a pile of chopped fresh kale.

We'll sop our soup with homemade sourdough bread. Yum.

Calphalon Tri-Ply Stainless Steel 8-Quart Stock Pot with Cover
Calphalon Tri-Ply Stainless Steel 8-Quart Stock Pot with Cover
Calphalon is a good, mid-range, stainless steel pot and comes in a number of sizes. This 8-quart holds soup for a family of four nicely. The perfectly balanced, triple-riveted handles are specially designed to be cool to the touch on the stove top

A good quality stock pot makes soup making easy

It's easy to make soup quickly when you have just the right size stock pot.

For just the two of us, I use a four-quart stainless steel Calphalon pot.

With its heavy-gauge aluminum core, sandwiched between two layers of stainless steel, the pan is heavy enough to feel sturdy, lightweight enough to be easy to handle.

It also has a glass dome lid that lets me see how the stock or soup is doing without lifting the lid and losing valuable steam and juices.

Simmering veggie stock, with a few spices, chopped onion & minced garlic added

Soup stock simmering in pot
Soup stock simmering in pot | Source

Simmering stock, 15 minutes later

To my thawing veggies, I added a quart of plain water, 1/2 teaspoon salt, a few twists of freshly ground pepper, 1/4 teaspoon chili powder, 1 minced clove garlic and 1/2 cup chopped onion to get this deep, rich soup base in less than twenty minutes.

If you want a thicker, smoother stock, you can puree this mixture. I sometimes do that for guests, but when it's just the two of us, most of the time I keep it simple.

Quite often, I add all my larger cut vegetables with the simmering stock, raise the heat and cook them together.

That gives me a beautiful rustic soup like my Hearty Kale, Cabbage & Potato Soup.

For clear broth, strain your stock

If you need clear broth for a special recipe, strain and reserve the bits for your next batch of soup.

Want your stock smooth & creamy? Quickly puree your stock with the Breville Cordless Immersion Blender

I love power tools, and the Breville Immersion Blender has plenty of oomph.

For blending the veggie bits in your stock, making a quick cream soup or a smoothie, the Breville stick blender does the trick better than any I've used.

Best of all, it's cordless, with a smart battery that is designed to lose "very little" of its charging time over the life of the blender.

Overall, far more reviewers are happy with this blender than any of the others I researched. It is specially designed to avoid that suction problem you find with so many blenders, and draws the chunks of food in so you don't have to whir it around the bowl or pan.

See the Breville Immersion Blender in action

This is the corded version. I like it because it has the wire whisk--so handy for whisking mayonnaise, meringues and whipped cream.

Rustic Kale Potato Soup starts with my easy veggie stock - Serve it with artisan bread and it's a full meal

Kale Potato Soup with Whole Wheat Batard
Kale Potato Soup with Whole Wheat Batard | Source

Rustic Kale Potato Soup with crusty Pumpkin-Sesame Seed Whole Wheat Bread

This soup, which started with the freezer stock simmering above, took about 20 minutes to prepare, counting the time to prepare the stock, start to finish, and simmered another 10 minutes while I played at other things.

Sure, I could have simmered the stock till the bits turned to mush and thickened the broth, but we were in no mood to wait. It is so good!

While the stock simmered for 10 minutes, I washed and coarsely chopped a pound of Yukon Gold potatoes, 2 medium carrots, half a leek, and 3-4 large kale leaves. Dumped 'em all in the pot, turned up the heat to a soft boil and let them gurgle gently for another 10 minutes.

In the last 5 minutes, I added 1/2 teaspoon Garam Masala, which is a delightful blend of Indian spices and gives the dish a delicate nuanced flavor and fills the house with that "What's cooking! Yum!" factor.

For the yummiest most nutritious soups

Always start with the freshest, most vibrant-colored produce you can find. Best flavor-plus-nutrients punch for your buck: Locally grown and in-season. Wins every time.

Remember coming home from school on a cold, windy day--the kind of day that sends stinging rain into your face--and opening the door to the scent of a hot pot of soup or chili on the stove? Perhaps fresh baked bread warming on the counter top? What is your favorite childhood soup story?

© 2012 Kathryn Grace


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