Monday, June 27, 2011

Asparagus Stock

Makes 6 quarts

Stock is so easy to make if you have an active kitchen that buying it is like paying top dollar for other people's throwaways.  Add in the confidence of knowing what's going into your food and being less wasteful the advantages of making it yourself become apparent. 

Asparagus stock in particular is a rich, subtly flavoured foundation for vegetable soups and dishes that cannot be had any other way than making it at home.  Generic off-the shelf vegetable stocks can't really compare to it's spring freshness.  Don't overcook, or the flavour can become unpleasant, just like overcooked asparagus.  Note that we also don't salt our stock while we're making it, only when we use it.  This allows finer control of the flavour of our recipes.  Finally, thanks to Julia Child we know the secret to great stock is to never let it come to a boil, only a simmer...

Heat a large stockpot over medium heat:
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons butter
Add and cook, stirring until softened:
The woody ends of 12 pounds of asparagus
2 large chopped onions, with their skins
8 chopped or broken celery stalks
4 chopped or broken carrots 
A handful of lettuce
12 parsley sprigs
36 peppercorns
Cold Water to cover
Bring to a simmer over high heat, and then reduce the heat to maintain the simmer for an hour mostly covered, and then taste the stock.  It should have a noticeable flavour, but don't expect a richness yet.  If it tastes watery, cook another ten minutes and try again, repeating as neccessary.  That said, never cook it for longer than an hour and a half.  Strain into a large bowl and mash the vegetables to get every last bit of liquid out.  The stock can be used immediately, frozen, or canned in a steam pressure canner.

Tip: If you have any loose vegetable trimmings while the stock is simmering throw them in, as there's no point in wasting them!

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