The act of making stock is the first, best place to start.
They say everything old is new again. Making stock is one of the ways we can save money, or at least feel virtuous by reducing what we throw in the trash. 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.
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 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, they are poisonous) 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, turnips and parsnips, zucchini and turnips. There is no recipe, just use what you have, but I usually always want something from the onion family.
When you have a panful, cover with water, add some salt and pepper and any herbs you like, always a bay leaf and usually a star anise, and bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer. Let cook gently for an hour or so, then strain. Use this in soups, or even as the liquid in plain old week night rice. I always add salt and pepper and parsley (a great place for the stems here!) if I have it, and the woody parts of any other herbs that would normally go in the trash. If you have any dried mushrooms, throw a few in as well. They add a wonderful depth of flavor.
This freezes beautifully! Make a big pot, use what you need, and tuck the rest away for another day.
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 and cauliflower, use sparingly unless, again, that is the flavor you are looking for.