It all started when my boyfriend and I decided to make a concerted effort to eat less meat and more plants. I started Pinteresting like mad to find vegetarian recipes. I found a promising veggie stock recipe, so I popped over to the store to buy the ingredients. Three hours and thirty dollars later, we had 10 quarts of delicious stock and a whole mess of spent veggies to trash. I was a bit disappointed. Not because of the stock itself, but because of the waste. There had to be a better way!
Meanwhile, I was reading An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler. Her whole philosophy is based on cooking and eating responsibly by being thoughtful about the ingredients you buy, how you use them, and how you can utilize byproducts of cooking that you might otherwise throw away. It is an eye-opening read.
In the chapter How to Catch Your Tail, Adler writes of the value of the parts of ingredients we usually throw away: bones, peels, stems. While she describes many strategies for using every last bit of your ingredients, one line stuck out to me. She writes, “The skins from onions, green tops from leeks, stems from herbs must all be swept directly into the pot instead of into the garbage.” I realized that this was exactly what I was looking for: no wasted product, no extra cost!
Though I rarely have the time or need to create a stock on the spot after chopping veggies, since reading this chapter, I keep a scrap container in the fridge. Any time I prep veggies for a meal, I throw the scraps into the container. Then, at the end of the week, I put them in a pot, cover them with water and boil them ’til they’re spent. Depending on the amount of scraps, that makes me a 2-4 quarts of rich, delicious, free veggie stock!
Here’s how you can do it yourself:
Scraps I use often: onion ends and skins, garlic ends and skins, carrot ends (including tops) and peels, parsley stems, cilantro stems, bell pepper tops and seeds, celery ends, cucumber ends
Scraps that I’ve used with success: leek tops, jalapeno tops and seeds, dill stems, cauliflower leaves and stalks, broccoli leaves and stalks, kale stems, radish ends
Scraps that I’ve used without success: none so far!
Put your scraps into a big cooking pot. I also add veggies that I suspect will not be used before they go bad. (Hence the whole carrot in the picture!)
Cover your veggies with filtered water and place over high heat. Put the lid on and wait for it to boil. Dial back the heat and allow to simmer until the veggies are spent. This takes about two hours. During this time, give the whole pot a stir every 15 minutes or so if you can.
Take some tongs and fish out the large chunks of veggies. (My brother tells me that I can still compost these, too!) Taste the stock, and if you need to you can continue to cook the stock to make it more concentrated. You can also season it with salt, but I always leave it unsalted.
Then, pour the stock through a strainer into a liquid measuring cup or directly into a container. If I’m not going to use it right away, I like to store it in quart-sized plastic containers. I label it with “VS” and the date, and pop it into the freezer.
Make something yummy, like this Lifting Lemon-Garlic Lentil Rice Soup from Healthy Happy Life!
And there you have it, a rich, flavorful vegetable stock made from what you would normally throw away. That feels nice.