I love to cook, and this year I am trying to cook more meals at home.
I find chopping vegetables — like weeding — to be truly cathartic, and preparing a tasty, elegant meal for myself is one of life’s simple pleasures.
While recently cooking a mushroom barley soup, I thought of making my own stock.
We chop our veggies and add them to meals. And, some of us are smart enough to save those kitchen scraps and throw them on the compost pile, with the understanding that our kitchen scraps will add nutrients to the compost pile, rendering them into a rich, fertile soil we can later add to our vegetables or our landscape beds.
To make those kitchen scraps go even further, use them for stock first and then compost them. This provides two uses for the same valuable “scraps.”
Making stock is easy, and it lends a delicious base to soups.
When I cook, I keep a zip-top bag next to the wood chopping block for tops of carrots, onion skins and tomato cores.
For my soup, the bag was stuffed with onion and garlic skins, carrot tops and bottoms, celery stems and leaves, and mushroom stems. (As an aside, I love to use celery leaves in dishes and as a garnish.)
If you have space in the freezer, you can gradually accumulate a good mixture of vegetable scraps over time, to get a better blend of flavors.
Remember: vegetables in the cabbage family in particular – turnips, cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli – are quite strong-flavored and can be overpowering.
Once you have a bag of frozen scraps, follow these directions, by Dr. Mary Keith, an expert in nutrition and health, to make your stock:
- Place clean kitchen scraps in a pot and cover with water.
- Bring to a boil and then simmer uncovered from 15 minutes to 1 ½ hours. (The longer cooking will release more flavor if you have the time).
- Squeeze or strain all the water out of those vegetables. (Just straining them makes a clearer stock, while pressing them will often make a cloudy but thicker stock.) You can use a wooden spoon in a sieve for pressing, but a potato masher would work well, too.
- Use the stock immediately in soups or freeze and save for later.
Stock will keep for three days to five days in the refrigerator or eight months in the freezer. Freeze it in quantities that you will use at one time, so that you can thaw just enough for your next recipe.
After you’ve made your meal with fresh vegetables, use the pieces to make your stock.
By making homemade stock, you’ll create delicious meals, add more minerals and maybe a few vitamins to your food, and use more of the produce you’ve purchased. You will also be able to make it with little or no salt, a big benefit since most commercial stocks and broths are very high in sodium.
Once you’ve made stock with your veggies, you can discard them on your compost pile — giving you more bang for your buck.
You can also enjoy enjoy a trio of accomplishments — cooking meals at home, making fresh stock and composting.
Nicole Pinson is an Urban Horticulture Agent in Hillsborough County. Dr. Mary Keith is extension agent emeritus, Foods, Nutrition and Health, University of Florida, Hillsborough County Extension.
Published July 20, 2016