Taking Stock: Borrow the Best from the Past

The act of making stock is the first, best place to start.

Making stock is one of the ways we can save money, or at least feel virtuous by reducing what we throw in the trash. But, it is more than that. This is one of those simple steps that involves a way of thinking, and then doing, until it becomes second nature.

If you have been in the kitchen for a long time, you already know this. But if you are just starting on your food prep journey, you might not have thought about the gold that so many of us discard. With many municipalities now requiring the saving and composting of food “waste” you may already be sequestering these bits, so giving them a second life is the next step.

We hear a lot about making use of all parts of an animal, we should also be thinking about using all parts of our fruits and vegetables as well, root to leaf tip. If we can compost our produce only after it has given its all, we’ll be ahead of the game.

Stock Basics

If you’ve never made stock before, plan to start on a day when you are making a vegetable-filled dish such as a quick stir-fry, soup, or curry. Save every bit of your trimmings, carrot peelings, all parts of the onion, skins and roots, the end of that bunch of celery, tomato tops and ends (NOT any of the green parts of tomatoes, they are toxic) the stems from the bunch of parsley or other herbs, green bean tips, etc. Often, you’ll find that every bit you usually throw away can go into the stock pot. AND, these all freeze beautifully to use in soups, stews, sauces, even when making rice!

Here’s an added bonus, whether you are making mushroom, vegetable, or chicken stock, you house will smell wonderful!


Vegetable Stock:

Gather together the scraps from vegetable preparation and save them in a container in the refrigerator or freezer until you have enough to make a quick stock. Use the trimmings from mushrooms, stem ends from beans, roots and peelings from onions, leeks, garlic, carrots, parsnips, zucchini and turnips. There is no recipe, just use what you have, but I usually always want something from the onion family in the mix, as well as celery and carrot. If you have any dried mushrooms, throw a few in as well. They add a wonderful depth of flavor.

When you have a panful, cover with water, add some pepper, a bay leaf, and any herbs you like. I always the bay leaf and usually a star anise, and bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer. Add salt when you make the recipe, or you could over-salt your dishes.

Let cook gently for an hour or so, then strain. Use this in soups, sauces, gravies, or even as the liquid in plain old week-night rice.

This freezes beautifully! Make a big pot, use what you need, and tuck the rest away in the freezer for another day. You will thank yourself.

You can also clarify your stock to a beautiful cloud-free state. It’s easy: Instructions on  clarifying here.

When making stock, these should be avoided or used sparingly as noted:

*Beet trimmings (unless you want that flavor and color in your stock)

*Potato peels, especially those that are green which can make you sick.

*Tomato leaves and stems, these can make you really sick, as can rhubarb leaves. Downright poisonous! Don’t worry, the rhubarb stalks are fine to eat.

*Cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower, etc. use these sparingly unless that is the flavor you are looking for.

Chicken or Turkey Stock

Mushroom Stock

Seafood or Fish Stock

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