05 November 2012

Turn Vegetable Garbage into Vegetable Gold

by Kelly Merrick

When the weather starts to turn cold and rainy like it has been for the last few weeks, I turn to hearty soups and stews to warm me up. And where there is soup, there is stock. Whether it’s vegetable- or meat–based, you need it to make a great soup. But why buy a high sodium variety from the store for $3 a quart when you can make it yourself from scraps and trimmings of farmers market veggies you would have normally discarded?

Along with saving money, there a few other good reasons to make your own vegetable stock. First, you can control what’s in it by adding the types of veggies and seasonings you like. Second, you will make your delicious farmer’s market veggies go further. Third, you’ll generate less packaging waste and the fourth and final reason: it’s really, really easy.

So how do you make this delicious, easy and low-cost stock? Follow these simple steps:

Get scrappy in the kitchen

Homemade vegetable stock

 1 large stockpot

1 gallon-sized freezer bag full of vegetable scraps (see below)

10 cups water

Seasonings of your choice (see below)

Containers for storing your stock

As you chop your vegetables throughout the week, save the scraps and store them in a one-gallon bag in your freezer.  You’ll want to use scraps from veggies you might put in a regular pot of soup – onions, leeks, carrots, garlic, herbs, etc. While you are saving your scraps, you’ll also want to start saving containers to store your stock in.

Once you have collected enough scraps to fill your bag, fill a large pot halfway with water and bring it to a boil. Once it comes to a boil add your veggie scraps (no thawing needed) and let it return to a boil.

Once the water reaches a rolling boil, add seasonings. You can use bay leaves, dried oregano, dill, or whatever else you have in your pantry. I add about a teaspoon of each, but you can adjust the amounts as you like. I recommend leaving out salt, as you can add it in later.

Once you’ve added your desired seasonings, simmer for 20-25 minutes. Unlike meat stocks, simmering longer won’t extract any more flavors.

Once the time is up, cool the stock for about 15 minutes. Carefully scoop out any large pieces (don’t forget to compost them!) with a slotted spoon.  Once you’ve removed the large pieces, use a fine-meshed strainer or a colander with cheesecloth and pour the rest of the broth into the strainer and into another pot.

Let the stock cool to room temperature and then taste. You can add more salt now (but remember you can also add it when you’re making the soup this will be the base for) and more seasonings if you want.

Once your stock has cooled, fill up the containers you’ve saved. If you plan to freeze your stock, leave about an inch of room at the top to allow for it to expand. I also recommend measuring out how much you put in each container and then labeling the container so you have pre-measured amounts for cooking. You could also freeze the stock in ice cube trays and then transfer the cubes to a freezer bag.

The day I made my stock I used it to make this potato cheddar soup that was absolutely delicious! Plus, it was 100 percent homemade and you can’t beat that!

Kelly Merrick lives in Portland with her husband Josh. Kelly is a Master Recycler and a self-proclaimed locavore. She has been a volunteer at the Portland Farmers Market since the spring of 2012 and says the market is her favorite place in Portland. She is a marketing assistant at PECI for Energy Trust of Oregon’s New Homes and Products team and loves to talk to others about ways they can conserve resources to protect our environment. In her spare time she enjoys exploring Portland’s many parks, cooking, reading, blogging (you can check out her blogs here and here) and spending time with family and friends. She can often be found volunteering at the PSU Farmer’s Market so stop by and say hi sometime. She’d love to chat.