Making your own vegetable broth, often referred to as vegetable stock, allows you to control the ingredients and create the flavor you want. Not only do you determine the type of vegetables you add, you decide on the amount of sodium, too. Once made, freeze the broth or store it in the refrigerator for a day or two. Vegetable stock is indispensable when you want to make stews, casseroles and soups.
Onions, carrots, celery, garlic, fresh herbs and peppercorns typically form the base of vegetable broth. Other veggies, such as tomatoes, mushrooms, broccoli and leeks, enhance the flavor of your broth. As a rule, nearly any veggie can be thrown into the pot to create a unique flavor, but use caution when adding strong-flavored veggies such as turnips or parsnips, as they may overpower the flavor of other vegetables. Determine the vegetables that your family enjoys -- or detests -- and adjust your recipe accordingly.
Wash -- but don't peel -- the vegetables before cooking to remove any residue. Your broth may retain more vitamins and minerals if you add unpeeled carrots or potatoes from your garden. The peels of vegetables purchased at the grocery store may contain pesticide residue or other contaminates, however. Wash them thoroughly or peel them before adding them to your vegetable stock. Chop the vegetables to reduce the cooking time, and allow them to soften and add rich flavor.
Sauteing the onions, garlic and celery before starting the broth softens them and enhances their flavor, but other veggies can be added raw. While the Harvard School of Public Health recommends a whooping 27 cups of chopped veggies per gallon of water, not all broths require this many veggies. Some recipes call for 2 to 4 cups of chopped vegetables per 2 quarts of water. Of course, the more veggies you add, the more flavorful it will be and the more vitamins and minerals it will contain. Simmering time may vary, but typically ranges between one to two hours in a partially covered kettle. Add seasonings, such as salt and pepper, at any time to adjust the flavor to your liking.
Storage and Use
When the broth has finished simmering and the vegetables have softened, strain the broth using a mesh strainer. This creates a clear vegetable broth suitable as a base in soups, stews or casseroles. Blend the strained veggies and add them to heated cream to make a creamed soup, or discard or compost them instead. Store cooled broth in the refrigerator for two days or freeze it for as long as four months.