Waste Not Want Not

Last week, we spoke about how to get more from your veggies by saving seeds. I hopsoup-pice those of you who received those beautiful German Striped Tomatoes did just that, they are an heirloom variety that are delicious, pulpy, and tasty! Well, this week, we have another frugal tip for you – veggie stock!

Don’t throw away the trimmed ends of tomatoes, and squash. If you cut corn from the cob, for goodness sake, keep the cob! Broccoli, chard, or kale stems, potato skins, and carrot peels are not only good for the compost, and celery leaves, onion skins, and herb stems are really treasures. I keep a gallon bag in the door of my freezer, and all these tidbits I add to the bag, until the bag is full, and then we make magic together.

Put a little olive oil on the bottom of a big stock pot, if you have some onions that are starting to go soft, add them along with a little garlic. Once the oil has softened the garlic and onion, add your freezer bag of scraps, along with ten cups of water, a pinch of salt, and bring to boil. After about half an hour, you can taste your broth and start playing with other ingredients to change the outcome of it. For instance, if you want to use the broth for Asian inspired cuisine, try adding some lemongrass and ginger, you can also add left over wine, cheese rinds, or soy sauce.

After it has been boiling for a total of 45-60 minutes, remove it from the stove and allow it to cool. Once it is cool, pour it into a bowl through a fine mesh strainer to remove the left over veggies – which are now good for the compost heap! You can then put it in jars for the fridge, or freezer (just leave some space at the top of the jar because liquid expands when it freezes), you can also use freezer bags. I portion it out to about two cups per serving for the freezer, I find it gives me a lot of control over how much I defrost and use.

Now that you have your beautiful stock, what to do with it? Veggie stock adds a lot of flavor to soups, stews, and risottos. You can also use it when boiling up a pot of rice, in stir-fries, to cook up dried beans, or to make stuffing. One of my favorite uses is to just warm it up in the winter, pour it into a big mug, season with a little salt and pepper, and drink it. It makes for a warming, nutritious, low calorie, satisfying beverage.

What not to do when making veggie stock: don’t add too many cruciferous veggies (cabbage, Brussel sprouts, broccoli) as it can make the stock bitter. A few stems are fine, a whole cabbage, not so much. Also, if you are using peels, make sure they are clean – you don’t want dirt in your stock. And never, ever use food that has passed and has mold on it. Over-ripe, sure, no problem, but not moldy.

Other waters you can save and freeze and use for cooking are water from your pasta (it will have gluten in it, I’m assuming if you are cooking wheat pasta, you are not sensitive to gluten, but if you are making a pot of soup or a stew for a gluten sensitive guest, you want to be mindful). Water left over from boiling or steaming corn makes a delicious base for a chowder. Water left over from boiling potatoes is terrific in stews and will help produce a lovely thick, rich gravy.

Oh, and in closing, did you know the difference between a broth, and stock? I only just learned this, but stock is plain and unseasoned. Broth is seasoned. So the difference lies in salt and pepper! I hope you feel inspired as the weather cools, to put a bag for veggie scraps in your freezer.

by Pam Denholm

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