Kitchen Scrap Vegetable Stock

One of my favorite things in the wintertime is a hot, steaming bowl of soup. Ever since I was a kid, my go-to sick food has always been rice in a bowl of broth; it's simple, heartening and goes down easy. Though my mom always defaulted to a can of beef or chicken broth, this vegetarian is ready for an adequate alternative. Nobody wants to sacrifice flavor and with this homemade veggie broth, you certainly won't have to.

Kitchen scrap vegetable stock is full of flavor and nutrition from vegetable bits that would normally be discarded, thus stretching your food dollars that much further. My guilt at throwing vegetable scraps away is satisfyingly remedied by carefully placing every tomato stem, onion skin and carrot top in their designated freezer bag, awaiting the afternoon when they'll be transformed into a warm, salty broth. So say goodbye to overly salted boxes or cans of water that cost a precious $3 (and countless molecules of carbon in our atmosphere thanks to the processing plants and the trucks that bring those boxes to your store) and instead wave hello to an easy, house and heart warming recipe that will give you a kick all winter long.

Kitchen Scrap Vegetable Stock

Cook time: 1.5-2.5 hours

Ingredients for about 64oz of stock:

  • 1 gallon zip-loc bag full of frozen scraps
  • 64+ oz of water (use your to-be stock container to measure, then add a cup of water)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp peppercorns
  • 1 tsp fennel seed
  • other optional spices: ginger, star anise, cinnamon, coriander, galangal, turmeric, bay leaf, rosemary, thyme.....

Directions:

  1. Save up veggie scraps over time, store in the freezer. When your bag is full, you're ready for a stock day!
  2. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  3. Transfer the contents of your scrap bag into a baking pan or dutch oven. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and other spices then drizzle with olive oil
  4. Cover and place in the oven for 20-30 minutes.
  5. If you used a baking pan, now is the time to transfer your roasted scraps into a large pot. Fill your pot or dutch oven with enough water to cover the now-roasted scraps, which should be just a bit more than the amount of liquid that will fit in your stock container.
  6. Bring the water to a boil, then cover and let simmer for at least an hour and up to two. Avoid letting it simmer for much longer than two hours as the extra time can cause the flavors to cook off, leaving you with a dully flavored stock.
  7. After simmering for 1-2 hours, take pot off the heat and let cool until you can safely touch the vegetables without burning yourself. Then, with a large bowl and colander, start to strain the stock from the scraps. You will probably have to do this in a few batches as the bowl will fill up and make a mess. Toss (or, ideally, compost) the used vegetable scraps and transfer your strained stock into its designated container.
  8. Stock will keep for 2-3 weeks if kept in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Add different seasonings to mix up your flavors depending on the type of soup you are making - I love using lemongrass to punch up the flavor for a Pho-inspired noodle soup. Though, I will often use my stock instead of water to simply cook rice or roast vegetables as it rounds out the warm flavors really nicely.

Avoid the scraps from these veggies as they will make your stock taste bitter and gross:

  • kale
  • cabbage
  • broccoli
  • cauliflower
  • brussel sprouts
  • lettuce

Optional veggies for stock:

  • beets (tend to take over color and flavor)
  • corn (tends to take over the flavor)
  • jalapenos (so spicy)

Veggies that will make the best stock:

  • onion skins
  • garlic skins
  • potato skins
  • sweet potato skins
  • carrot tops
  • celery bottoms & tops
  • leek bottoms & tops
  • green onion bottoms
  • tomato stems & scraps
  • mushroom stems & scraps
  • bell pepper stems, seeds & scraps
  • parsley stems 
  • cilantro stems
  • rosemary stems
  • thyme stems

What do you put in your vegetable stock? Show me what you make!

A Quick Guide to Shopping at the Farmers Market

This article is written by Collin Philips and was originally published on Selva Beat, an online, environmental magazine with a strong focus on the palm-oil industry and conflict-free living. Selva Beat will be publishing some farm to table recipes in the upcoming weeks, so be sure to check back for more Farmers Market fun! 

Image courtesy of Selva Beat.

Image courtesy of Selva Beat.

One of my goals this year was to transition to completely local perishables. I made this mostly lofty goal after noticing that the apple I was eating in Houston, Texas was from New Zealand, and possibly over half a year old. To lower my carbon foot print another 4-5%, I would have to eat local and seasonal fruits and veggies. I already make my own vegan dairy like milk and butter and can buy rice, flour, nuts, and legumes at my local grocer or co-op. So, how hard could it be?

Well, there's certainly a lot of trial and error. After all, how many times have you dropped by the store after work to grab an extra tomato or garlic? To get you started on the right foot, here are five tips I wish I had kept in mind before making the switch:

Be (And Stay) Realistic

The market where I live has the best organic fruits and vegetables, most of which I would never see at a national chain grocer. Nothing beats the atmosphere either! But, I have to be realistic about what I can make with what I buy. If you have a routine where you make similar dishes each week, shopping this way may be a little jarring at first. I can always find amazing herbs, gourds, mushrooms, etc but sometimes I can't find good citrus. How does that affect the dishes I will make? Eating this way requires adaptability but thankfully, that is just something that strengthens with time. 

If you're not great at cooking on the fly, consider buying a seasonal cookbook for your area or city. Here's one just for Connecticut! General farm to table cookbooks are great too but note that most of them are not vegan. If all else fails, food blogs are your friend!

Simply put, start out with an open mind and a little patience.

 
Image courtesy of Selva Beat.

Image courtesy of Selva Beat.

 

Pick The Best Market For You

If you’re looking to transition your home too, you first have to become well-versed in the farmer’s markets in your city. If you don't know where to start, here is the USDA Farmer's Market Directory. Sometimes googling your 'zip code + farmer's market' is all you need. Chances are your area has more than just one and each is going to have a different array of vendors, some more suited to your needs than others. In Houston, the two I love are only on Saturday and Tuesday. Back in Austin, there was a farmer’s market five days out of the weekAll markets have fruits and veggies, most have eggs, meat, fish and cheese, and some have bread loaves and flour, etc. You can also find kombucha, pickled goods, coffee, and likely a variety of food trucks. 

Make note of your favorite stalls and take a photo of their banner to keep in mind for later (more on this below). Introduce yourself whenever possible, though some stalls get really crazy; how often do you get to say you know the people who grow your food?

 
Image courtesy of Selva Beat.

Image courtesy of Selva Beat.

 

Stay Connected

Okay, so you’ve found the perfect fit for you, and your stomach. Now you need to stay friends.  I recommend adding your farmer’s market on Facebook or Twitter, as they’ll likely post tidbits on which vendors will show or highlight certain fruits and veggies (like the best watermelons!). The same goes for your favorite vendor —  it’s a real bummer when you really need something special like vegan bread or kombucha and that stall is a no-show. Be the first to know about sick days and early bird specials. The more informed you are, the more positive this process will be and you’ll be less likely to burn out six months down the line. 

TIP  → Scope out each market’s cash or credit options. The markets in the last city I lived in were practically all electronic and card friendly, whereas Urban Harvest, my current beat, leans way more towards cash transactions. It can also get really crowded, so sometimes handing someone a five dollar bill is just more efficient.

Read the rest on Selva Beat!