There are lots of ways in which I could improve my green quotient. But one of the things earth-friendly things I’m proud of is that I often make my own soup stock from scraps, and that it’s delicious. We eat mostly veggie here, so I’m talking about vegetable stock.
I never used to make stock, thinking it the domain of fussy or high-end cooks. Also, I could never bring myself to take perfectly good vegetables, which would basically make a dish in themselves, boil them to death, and then throw them away.
But here’s the rub: stock really does add depth and flavour to homemade cooking.
I started making my own stock when I realized that the expensive, not-MSG-as-the-principal-ingredient bouillon cubes that I had sought out still contained .1 gram of trans fat per cube. That’s not a lot, I guess, but it just ticked me off. I decided there had to be a way to make good veggie stock on my own without sacrificing food. And there is!
Here’s what I do:
- Collect veggie and fruit scraps in a dish and keep in the fridge or freezer
- When I have half a pot’s worth, I put them in the pot and cover with water
- I add a bay leaf or two, some peppercorns and some salt (but this is optional)
- Simmer for an hour or more (the longer you simmer the deeper the flavour will be, but you can get away with even 30 minutes)
- Strain scraps, pour stock in jars, store in fridge or freezer.
The original Moosewood Cookbook (old and still loved) is the only recipe book I’ve seen that talks about making veggie stock from kitchen scraps. It gives the following tips:
- fruit scraps make great additions to veggie stock (apples, pears, melons, and pineapple)
- cabbage-flavoured veggies (which I think includes broccoli and cauliflower) dominate, so use just a little
- eggplant makes bitter stock
You should also test stock before using it as occasionally you’ll get a bitter batch. I forgot to do this and once served some bitter stock to the kids in a Chinese noodle soup. They ate it without comment. I love my forgiving eaters.
As we buy mostly organic vegetables and fruits, we are getting mostly organic stock too. Bonus!
Full disclosure: I still have store-bought bouillon in the pantry and will use it in a pinch. But I love making my own stock and I do it as much as I can. It’s so easy and so yummy and so… satisfying. With the scraps from the stock then feeding the compost in our backyard, it feels like using and appreciating the vegetables to their fullest. It feels like gratitude.
Even my mom has kind of gotten into it, and will often save some of her scraps and bring them to me for stock-making. She grew up in rural Malaysia with 10 siblings and knows much more than I do about the reasons to despise waste. When she brings me the cores of her pineapples and the tough outer skins of bok choy, I think she is acknowledging my desire to be resourceful, and acknowledging it with approval.