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Soup’s On With Low-Salt D.I.Y. Veggie Stock

October 6, 2014

High blood pressure runs in my family. While some of us lead or had led more healthy lifestyles than others, family history shows that hypertension seems to not care whether we jog and watch our sodium intakes, or whether we smoke cigarettes and empty the salt shaker on every meal.

Always mindful of additives in food, my kitchen is well stocked with fruits and vegetables, but the few packaged items I keep on hand used to include soups. Lots and lots of soup. I thought that soup was safe, especially the organic brands.

Nuh-uh! At least when it comes to the sodium content, almost every brand has crazy high amounts of sodium. That tasty, yet damaging ingredient can sneak into many foods, as my family is well aware of.

So I started making my own soups from scratch. But to do that, you still need a base of broth or stock, which still has just as much sodium as the already-made canned soups. As a vegetarian, I studied how to make my own vegetable stock. It’s easy, delicious and economical.

And you can control how much or how little salt goes in. Yay! Let’s get started:

Root vegetables are the key to great veggie stock. Grab two each of: potatoes, onions, carrots, parsnips, celery stalks and turnips. It doesn’t matter what varieties, whether it be Yukon Gold or red potatoes, or classic orange Imperator or white carrots – use whatever you prefer. You can also throw in a couple of beets, which will add a good flavor, but will tint your stock a shade of maroon that may not be appetizing to some.

Peel the vegetables, cut them into quarters and place in an eight-quart stock pot. Add six cloves of garlic, peeled and halved. Fill the pot with water until the vegetables are covered and the water level is about two inches from the top of the pot. Add a couple of bay leaves and parsley sprigs, place the pot on the stove, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and let the stock simmer for about three hours or until liquid is reduced by half and the color fades from the vegetables.

Let the vegetable stock cool, then strain into jars or freezer-safe storage containers. I measure my stock out in four or eight cups per container to make it easy when cooking. Then freeze it. The stock will keep in the freezer for a couple of months.

The strained leftover vegetables won’t have much life left, having been drained of their nutrients, flavor and color for the stock. Compost or discarded the veggies.

When I first started making my own stock, I had concerns about wasting vegetables, so I started to throw veggie scraps into a freezer bag to use specifically for stock. The ends of carrots and celery stalks; a forgotten, wrinkled potato that rolled to the back of the refrigerator; onion tops – they all go into the freezer scrap bag to eventually be made into stock. I later got creative and threw in the tough ends of asparagus and pieces of peppers that couldn’t be used in a fresh dish, but were still salvageable. When you get about three pounds of scrap veggies, they can go into the pot for your veggie stock.

If you go the freezer scrap route, the stock will turn out slightly different each time, but it will always be healthy and delicious!

Sheila Julson is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Natural Awakenings. Connect with her at sjulson@wi.rr.com.

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