Contributed by Megan Brosterman, Co-Founder and CFO at Victoria Road
It’s getting chillier, and now’s the time when a nice warm, hearty stock is a welcome addition to any comfort meal – whether it’s to be used as a base for a soup, for braising, for a sauce, or just as a drink!
Many SC readers may already know this secret, but it was a revelation to me when I learned about it in a cooking class I took about 4 years ago: you can make a delicious vegetable stock from your own vegetable scraps! Yes, carrot peels, those hard onion peels, mushroom stems – these are what you should be using in your stocks, not the “edible” parts of the vegetables. In fact, if you get into the habit of keeping and freezing all of your vegetable scraps that are appropriate for stocks, you’ll never again need to buy stock! I always keep 1-2 gallon-size ziplock bags of vegetable scraps in my freezer to collect scraps, and when they are full (or when I need more space in my freezer), I dump them into a big pot, fill it up with water and simmer, and voila! I have stock! Don’t worry, I re-use my ziplock bags for more veggie scraps after emptying them.
Ready to get started? Since this recipe is largely determined by what vegetables you’ve used over the course of 1-4 weeks, this is more along the lines of instructions or a guide than a recipe, and your stock will always be unique. I’ve included some suggestions at the end of different things you can add to add depth to the flavor, as well as a trick to saving it in smaller, concentrated cubes that take up less space in your freezer. Here it is!
Instructions for making no-waste vegetable stock:
1. Keep 1-2 gallon size ziplock bags or other freezer-safe containers in your freezer
2. Every time you cook with herbs or vegetables, wash the full vegetable before you begin peeling/chopping, and save the scraps that you cut off and don’t use in your cooking in the freezer containers. This can be almost any kind of vegetable or herb, but here are some ideas:
- Onions, garlic and shallots: the top and bottom that you cut off, as well as the hard wrapper
- Scallions: The root end and any part of the green tops not used
- Carrots, parsnips, turnips: the ends and the peels (I always like to try to have some of these in my stock for sweetness and richness.)
- Celery: the ends/bottom piece of stems
- Celery root: the outside peel, the stem end
- Broccoli, asparagus: the hard stems
- Mushrooms: the hard stem ends (mushrooms add a really rich, yummy flavor to stocks!)
- Kale, Chard, other leafy greens: the unused stalks
- Fennel / fennel leaves (remember, this will add an anise flavor to your stock)
- Parsley, dill, other herbs: the stems you’d otherwise throw away, and also any herbs that have been sitting in your refrigerator leftover from recipes, which you’d otherwise throw away – throw them in the freezer instead!
- The more variety of vegetables that you include in your stock, the better depth of flavor, in my opinion. So go crazy! The only vegetable scraps I don’t generally keep for stocks are potatoes and tomatoes.
3. When you’ve filled up your freezer storage with all the goodies above and are ready to make a stock, dump it all into an appropriately-sized pot, fill with water to a couple of inches over the veggies, cover, and bring to a boil.
4. Once the stock has come to a boil, reduce to a simmer and let it go for about 6+ hours. You can also put it in the slow cooker and let it go overnight or while you’re out at work.
5. When it’s finished, take out the veggies with a big slotted spoon (I like to use a big wire ramen strainer), squeezing the extra juices out of the veggies back into the stock with a big soup ladle – don’t want to lose any of that delicious stock! You can compost the veggie scraps to truly bring them full circle.
6. Strain the remaining liquid by pouring through a mesh sieve into a large metal bowl.
7. Strain a second time by washing out the pot, placing some cheesecloth in the mesh sieve, and pouring over the cheesecloth/sieve back into the pot.
If you’re using right away in a soup, it’s ready to go! Otherwise, you can place into freezer-safe containers to keep. If you are short on freezer space and want to save it as concentrated “frozen bouillon cubes”, boil the stock in the pot until it’s reduced to 1/8 its current volume. Cool and pour into 1-ounce ice cube trays. This is perfect for adding flavor to vegetables, using in braises, etc., though I don’t love it for reconstituting fully back to plain soup.
Some other ideas of things to add, depending on your uses for the stock, your tastes, and what you have on hand:
- 1-2 bay leaves
- 5-10 whole peppercorns
- Dried mushrooms
- Other dried herbs
- Corn husks
- Kombu, for a delicious ramen-style umami flavor (you may want to remove this from the pot after about an hour or so of simmering, as it does have a strong flavor)
- If you eat seafood – shrimp, etc. shells
- If you eat meat, of course you can save your chicken, beef and pork bones in the freezer in the same way as your vegetables and include these to make chicken, beef or pork stocks
I hope you enjoy and get creative! The sky is the limit and the fall and winter are such great seasons to have stock on hand.
p.s. Natalie of SC wearing the Lattice Fitted Shift Dress - because you can still dress to the nines while you cook, right? ;) use code VRXSC for 20% off your entire purchase!