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!