Are you looking for a natural and environmentally-conscious activity to try in the kitchen? Make your own vegetable stock. It's economical, has many uses, and the benefits (including the delicious aroma that will fill your kitchen) are well worth the time.
It’s also an easy solution to cutting down on waste.
The ingredients are vegetable scraps, which you would otherwise toss. They may not be visually appealing, but they're still chock full of flavor and healthy nutrients. Vegetable ends, peels, unused herbs, stems — almost everything's game. I’ll sometimes add unused bags of wilting, non-bitter greens like bibb or baby lettuce.
Storing vegetable stock is a piece of cake.
I keep a large resealable plastic bag in the freezer for storing food scraps, which I then pull out when it's time to cook. When the bag is full, I dump the frozen vegetable scraps into a large stockpot, rinse it out with hot water, air dry, and use it for the next batch.
Stock storage is just as easy with these two methods:
Freeze it in ice cube trays: Once the vegetable stock is drained and cooled, pour it into empty ice cube trays and freeze them. A muffin tin will also do the trick.
Stock-pile in storage bags: I like to transfer the frozen cubes to large storage bags. It’s a great space saver and keeps the vegetable stock accessible for me to use only what I need. The rest will keep in the freezer for up to three months.
You can skip the first step and freeze the vegetable stock directly in the storage bag; just make sure to freeze upright to avoid spills. You can also nix the plastic altogether and use mason jars instead, leaving about an inch of space at the top for the vegetable stock to expand.
Making vegetable stock costs virtually nothing.
You're using ingredients that you already have in the fridge, so, really, it just costs a little bit of your time to make a flavorful stock. Be mindful of the costs associated with adjunct flavors like salt, pepper, bay leaves, and other spices. They're all great additions, but not necessary if you don't already have them on hand.
The flavor of homemade vegetable stock is unbeatable.
You can add what you want, leave out what you don't want, and the longer you let it all cook, the more concentrated the flavor you'll get. YOU are in control here.
What works: Mirepoix (carrots, celery, and onion) are the crux of all vegetable stocks, and alliums are the stars. Extra onions, leeks, garlic skins, scallions, and shallots — all are divine! Fennel leaves? Jackpot. Broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, green bean ends, kale stems, and pepper remains are also great additions.
What doesn't work: Potatoes are a start. Small portions are okay, but too many, and their starches make the vegetable stock cloudy. Bitter greens (arugula, dandelion greens) should also be left out; their flavors don't carry over well and will dominate your stock. And beets, while full of character, will turn your stock an unsavory hot pink.
And it couldn’t be easier to make at home.
I mean that. Homemade stock takes just three simple steps:
1. Toss the vegetable scraps into a stockpot and fill with water. You can also add your adjunct flavors here.
2. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for a minimum of one hour. I typically shoot for around three hours. The goal is to cook down the vegetable stock and concentrate the flavor as much as possible. I'll cook until the pot contains around half of its starting volume.
3. Remove from heat, cool, and drain. That's it! But, before you call it a day, toss the vegetable remnants from the bottom of the pot into the compost so that they can finish their lifecycle.