I use Better Than Bouillon and Rapunzel brands the most (Rapunzel is the better choice, I think). Between the two, you will find Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Yeast Extract, Sugar, Maltodextrin, Soybean Oil, Palm Oil, and lots and lots of salt. Maybe I'm not so virtuous eating my split pea soup if it's got these ingredients floating around in it. Plus I think each of these bouillon brands are around $4 or $5 at the grocery store.
Well I can save my $5 for my next vacation because I now know you can make a great low sodium vegetable stock for FREE in just an hour at home. The trick is finding a large bucket or plastic container and some freezer storage space. Why? Because you are going to start saving all your vegetable and herb scraps from now on (if you compost, this is nothing new to you!).
For the past month or so, I've saved up two frozen plastic containers full of carrot, parsnip, and sweet potoato peelings, onion skins and ends, broccoli and cauliflower stems, old parsley that was starting to turn slimy, a bunch of limp celery, a few cloves of garlic starting to sprout, chard and kale stems, and fennel fronds. If it doesn't have fuzz or mold growing on it, add it to your collection. It's past its prime to eat fresh, but it's still got flavor left that you don't want to toss out in the trash. I also save all my parmesan cheese rinds in a separate plastic storage bag in the freezer (that's what is in the ziploc bag in the photo above), and adding one adds a great depth of flavor to your stock.
To make the most flavorful stock, I like to go heavy on the onion, carrots, and celery scraps, but a mixture of many vegetables is best. Each batch will turn out a little differently depending on what you add. For example, this batch turned out pretty dark in color, thanks to a bunch of red Swiss chard stems which leaked out their natural dye.
So here's the recipe: put lots of veggie and herb scraps in a big pot, cover by 2 inches with water, add a parmesan cheese rind (optional), 3-4 bay leaves, a small pinch of peppercorns, and a large pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, partially cover and simmer for 1 hour, then let cool. That is literally all you need to do!
Once the stock is cool, put a colander over a large bowl and line it with a kitchen towel. Ladle the stock into the towel and pour the broth through. Squeeze out all the liquid and discard the boiled veggies - they have fulfilled their veggie destiny and have no more flavor or use.
Pour stock into plastic containers or mason jars (make sure to leave room for expanding) and freeze until ready to use. I use the thawed out stock to make soup, or even more often in place of water when making rice, quinoa, farro, or other whole grains to add more flavor.
ONE YEAR AGO: Potato and Greens Gratin
TWO YEARS AGO: Roasted Vegetable Tart
THREE YEARS AGO: Spicy Asian Salad Dressing