Homemade Vegetable Broth in the Crockpot
A big part of my journey towards a real food diet has been learning to make ingredients I would normally have bought in a can or box from the grocery store, which usually contain at least one or more food additives or objectionable ingredients. I was amazed when I started finding recipes for all kinds of things I never even thought about how to make. And so many were so simple and could be made in batches ahead of time and frozen for the convenience I loved about these ingredients. Sometimes making these ingredients from scratch is cheaper than buying the boxed or canned version from the grocery store, but sometimes it is not. Regardless, I feel better knowing I’m not loading my body with chemicals.
I’ll be sharing some of the ingredient recipes I’ve had success with over the coming weeks. Here is also a great post with 30 things to make instead of buy!
One of the ingredients I use a lot, especially in the colder seasons, is vegetable broth. I used to buy those bouillon granules from the local coop…until I looked at the ingredients in them. MSG?! Yep. Ugh. Thankfully, I found a great recipe in this book for making veggie broth in the crock pot, and then got the idea from another blog (though I can’t remember now which one) to use vegetable scraps for making broth instead of fresh vegetables. So, here is the combination of those recipes/ideas.
I leave a quart sized freezer bag in my freezer to accumulate vegetable scraps as I cook over time. I save things like carrot, potato, and sweet potato peelings (washing the unpeeled veggies well), broccoli or cauliflower stems, celery tops and leaves, that outer layer of onion that doesn’t look as great as the rest of the onion, scallion tops that I’m not using, the bottom parts of asparagus, etc. Basically anything that won’t turn to mush when cooked for a while. I have used small amounts of bell pepper, and it works but makes the broth a little cloudier. If that doesn’t matter to you, feel free to include some! The sky is the limit! The only caution I would make is to not make too high a percentage of your scraps any of the cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, etc) since they may make your broth bitter-tasting. The same goes with anything that has a strong flavor of its own that will overpower the rest of the vegetables (fennel for example).
Once I have about a quart sized bag full of scraps, I make broth!
Any of the ingredients below are optional – feel free to mix it up to find what you like. You will definitely need salt, though, for your broth to taste like anything. And the oil will help pull out those healthy fat-soluble vitamins. So, I do recommend including those in some amount.
Homemade Vegetable Broth
- Vegetable scraps of any sort (about a quart sized freezer bag is a great amount for a 4 quart batch)*
- A couple of onions, quartered (if you have lots of onion scraps you can reduce this)
- 2-3 garlic cloves, crushed and/or cut in half (to release juices)
- 1 tsp oil (coconut or olive)
- 1 large bay leaf (or several of those broken leaves that seem to always be at the bottom of the jar or bag)
- ½ tsp whole black peppercorns
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 2 tsp tamari or other soy sauce
- Water to fill your crock pot
- Place all ingredients in the crock pot (vegetables can still be frozen). Add the water until the crock pot is “full” (leaving the recommended head space for your crock pot).
- Cook on low for 8-10 hours. I’ve left mine go for up to 12 hours and it was fine. I often let mine run overnight using a timer if necessary.
- Allow the broth to cool until you can safely handle the vegetables (this is where the timer comes in handy – have it turn off a couple hours before you are ready to process it!). Using a fine mesh strainer, pull out the vegetables and squeeze as much of the liquid from them as you can (this is where the healthiest and best tasting broth is!). Strain the rest of the broth to remove all the vegetables and spices.
- Store in the refrigerator for a few days or in the freezer for a few months. I package mine in labeled containers in convenient amounts (2, 3, or 4 cups) and freeze them for future use. I find that for some applications, I can stretch the broth by diluting it up to 50% when I use it since the broth is much stronger tasting than what you’d get with the bouillon granules. However, dishes often taste better with the full strength broth, especially soups, so experiment and see what you like.
*If you need broth and don’t have the veggie scraps, feel free to use whole vegetables, cut into largish chunks (~1 inch or so). Carrots and celery are great for this and are things I often have on hand anyway. Any random frozen veggies you may have laying around would also work.