Sunday, September 9, 2012

Vegetable Scrap Stock

I'm baaaaack. I know it's been a couple of weeks since my last post and that is my own fault. There'sbeen a variety of things going on including a period of time where I did not have my laptop, a move, and a period of time where I've failed to have internet connection. Can I just tell you that having no internet connection is really one of the hardest things to experience? Don't get me wrong; on vacation, not having internet is one of the best things to happen, but when you need to, erm, work, it gets frustrating fast. 

So as my apology and olive branch to those of you who might've been getting annoyed that I haven't been updating, I shall offer up my method for making vegetable stock. It's simple to do and perfect to make for these rainy, cold days we've been experiencing in the good old Cleveland-Akron area. Obviously most of you can't make this immediately because this depends on using vegetable scraps from all those days of making dinner, but it's a great recipe to have on hand once you do decide to start saving all this ends of zucchini and skins of onions.

Vegetable Stock Made From Scraps
The yield varies with the amount of scraps you have.

What you need:

  • Washed vegetable scraps that you've kept in a bag in the freezer. They can be corn cobs, green onion ends and tops, onion skins, carrot peelings, tomato seeds and juice, parsley or other herb stalks/stems, any ends or peelings from tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, peppers, celery, asparagus, green beans, kohlrabi, swiss chard or other greens stems, and other produce that's still okay but you're not thrilled about eating it in it's whole.
  • Do not use anything from: beets, eggplants, cabbages, mushrooms*, or anything with a strong, undesirable flavor or color. Note: onions will turn the stock dark so eliminate if you want a clear stock. Also, do not use any produce that is rotten. If you won't eat it in its original state, don't eat it any way else. 
  • Salt, pepper, and various herbs such as parsley or oregano. I've heard rosemary can make it bitter but haven't experienced that myself.
*Do save the mushroom scraps in a separate bag because they make a delicious mushroom stock.

To make the Vegetable Stock:

  • In a large stock pot, pour in the still-frozen vegetable scraps. Fill with enough water to cover.
  • Bring to a rolling boil and season with salt, pepper, and a bit of herbs either dried or fresh. Just throw the fresh in whole since it will be strained. Use a light hand since this is your base for whatever you make it with be it soup, stew, risotto, or whatever else.
  • Lower it to a simmer and let it simmer for about an hour and a half. Longer won't really do much so don't waste your time. Then, let it cool.
  • Cover a colander or a strainer with some cheesecloth or even a double layer of paper towels just in case you weren't able to get all the dirt out when you originally washed the vegetables you got the scraps from. Then, place it over a large bowl and pour the soup through it. You may need more than one bowl, you may not.
  • Squeeze as much water out the vegetable scraps as you can. Either compost or toss them when you're done.
  • Divide and pour the stock into cups, pints, and/or quarts either in ziplock bags or bottles or whatever, and freeze. (Or be like me and pour most of it into a gallon sized ziplock and guesstimate whenever you cook with it.)
  • To use: either let it defrost in the fridge or in a bowl of or under warm water until melted. Use as normal stock.
I filled up an average-sized soup pot to make my first batch of stock. It yielded enough for two soups and a batch of risotto. I was kind of wary about it because I had added green bean ends and they have a very strong flavor. However, it disappeared and all I had was this very fresh-tasting stock that added a depth of flavor to the dishes I made with it. You may taste your stock and think the flavoring is subtle. I certainly did; but when I used it, I realized that homemade stock really was the way to go. Plus, I save a ton of money since I didn't even need to go buy new vegetables for the stock. 

I keep all my scraps in a large ziplock bag in the freezer. Whenever I'm prepping for dinner, I bring the bag out and throw my scraps in it as I go. When I'm done, I put the bag back in the freezer. Easy!

So start saving your scraps and the next time you get a blah type of day, it's the perfect time to start simmering your own easy homemade stock.

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