It’s just a guess, but I’m betting that vegetable consumption across the U.S. is at an all-time high.
When you eat lots of veggies, you end up with lots of veggie scraps. I always strive to reduce food waste in my kitchen, so instead of throwing those scraps in the garbage, I use them to make delicious homemade vegetable stock.
I first started making stock in culinary school. My school processed hundreds of pounds of veggies a day, which, in turn, created mountains of scraps. There was always an industrial-sized batch of stock in the works. It was simple to take what I learned in school and adapt it for home use. Now, I bring the wisdom to you.
How to Save Vegetable Scraps for Stock
Choose a plastic bag or plastic container to be your designated scrap saving place. I happened to have an extra pop-top container laying around, so I put that to use. Each night, after cooking, I add scraps to the container, then store it in the freezer. Keep putting scraps in the same container until it’s full, then use the whole mess to create your vegetable stock.
Vegetable Scraps to Use in Stock
There are SO many scraps that make for great stock. Here are the ones that turn up most frequently in my household:
- Outer layers of onions—While I don’t save onion skins (they retain quite a bit of dirt), I do save the outer layers of onion flesh for stock. Hang on to those layers that are slightly too tough to eat, but still have some moisture and onion flavor.
- Dark green parts of leeks— Have you ever noticed that 99% of leek recipes call for “the white and light green parts only”? Ummm hello… leeks are expensive! Throwing away half of each stalk (the dark green part) breaks my heart. Into the stock bin they go!
- Corn cobs—Not the ones that people have gnawed on at a barbecue. Just the ones you’ve cut the kernels off of for soup.
- Mushroom stems—Making a recipe that calls for just the mushroom caps (like stuffed mushrooms)? The stems have SO much flavor – put them in the stock bin.
- Celery and carrot leaves—These aren’t really part of my regular diet, so they go right into the stock bin.
- Veggie peels—This one is a judgement call. If a carrot or a parsnip has REALLY dirty skin, and looks musty even after a good scrub, I won’t save the peels, as they’ll give the stock a muddy flavor. But if the peels are pretty clean, game on.
- Herb stems—Parsley, in particular, has plenty of goodness in its stems. They’re a bit woody for using in a delicate dinner, but they’re perfect for stock.
What Not to Use for Making Vegetable Stock
While most everything is fair game, there are a few things that aren’t optimal for stock.
- Moldy or rotten vegetables. Vegetables that are just a little bit past their prime (such as bendy celery) are fine, but if anything is REALLY old and looks terrible, it’s best just to introduce it to the garbage can or compost bin.
- Anything with a very strong, specific flavor (or color)—Cabbage, broccoli, artichokes, and beets are a few examples.
Steps on How to Make a Vegetable Stock
Here’s the big secret: if you throw everything into a pot, and don’t measure anything, it will probably turn out fine. Who has time for measuring cups? Here are the very loose instructions.
- Grab a big pot.
- The base of a good vegetable stock is carrot, celery and onion, so make sure these three ingredients are well represented, even if you have to add a few whole (chopped) vegetables to your scrap mix.
- Drop in all your precious scraps.
- Add some herbs – A few sprigs of parsley and thyme work well. Also, throw in a couple of bay leaves.
- Whole black peppercorns – Exactly 12. No, just kidding. A small handful is sufficient.
- Garlic cloves – If you want. Don’t even bother chopping them. Just smash ’em and throw ’em in.
- Pour cold water over everything until water just barely covers the veggies.
- Simmer uncovered, over medium heat, at least 1 hour, but preferably 2.
- Strain stock through a fine-mesh strainer; discard solids.
- Use stock immediately for soup, poaching fish, risotto, or any vegetarian dish. Or, refrigerate stock up to 3 days or freeze up to 3 months.
Feeling inspired? Put your new stock to use in homemade chicken soup.