Like many cooks, I use stock and broth all the time to boost the flavors of the food I make. It’s not too expensive — I like to buy the cardboard containers from Whole Foods for about two bucks. But what I never knew was how easy it is to make your own stock. And you don’t even have to buy new ingredients for it! Just use scraps from the veggies you use in your everyday cooking. So as somebody who hates wasting ingredients and loves experimenting in the kitchen, I had to try it.
All I do is add my food scraps into a gallon-sized bag in my freezer. Once the bag fills up, it’s time to make stock! It’s so easy — there’s almost no work involved. Just get in the habit of throwing your vegetable scraps in the freezer instead of the garbage and then boil some water. Let it sit over a flame, strain it, and you’ve got delicious homemade broth from nothing but odds and ends. Essentially, this is a free way to flavor your food.
Here are some suggestions for vegetable scraps to include in homemade vegetable stock. Make sure that everything has been well-washed before putting it into your freezer bag!
- Papery outer skins from onions (they will give your stock that rich, brown color)
- The “butt end” of carrots, onions, green onions, garlic cloves, celery, zucchini, squash (ed note: I think I’m on the only one that uses the term “butt end”)
- Dark green leaves from leeks
- Asparagus stems (but go easy since these produce a very distinct flavor)
- Ribs and stems from bell peppers
- Leaves from radishes, dandelions, carrots, beets, celery
- Corn cobs with or without kernels
- Artichoke stems and tough outer leaves
- Pulpy insides from squash and pumpkin
- Fennel fronds
- Eggplant stems
- Pea hulls (or ends and strings from sugar snap peas)
- Peels from carrots, potatoes, white asparagus
- Peels from apples (I know it’s weird, but try it! The flavor is actually pretty nice)
- Vegetables that have gotten too soft or wilted to use in cooking, but haven’t gone bad or started to grow mold
- Of course, you can also use sliced up fresh veggies, but that defeats the whole purpose of stock from scraps, doesn’t it?
Scraps to avoid:
- Anything from cruciferous vegetables (like cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts or broccoli) since it releases an unpleasant smell and the flavor can be overpowering in the stock
- Vegetables that have gone bad, grown mold, or smell rotten
Homemade Vegetable Stock
makes 5 quarts of stock
1-gallon freezer bag filled with vegetable scraps (make sure there is a good amount of onion, carrot, and celery scraps or add fresh if you don’t have enough frozen)
1 large bay leaf or 2 small ones
3-4 fresh parsley stems
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
2 tablespoons salt (optional)
- Put all ingredients in a 6-quart stock pot and add enough water to cover (for me, this was about 12-14 cups). Cover with lid and bring to a boil over high heat.
- Lower heat to a simmer. If you want a more diluted or watery stock, simmer covered for 45 minutes. For a more concentrated stock, simmer uncovered for 45 minutes. Make sure to add water if levels get too low.
- Strain the mixture into ice cube trays and discard vegetable leftovers. Press the vegetables to get all the liquid out.
- Freeze the stock, then transfer cubes to freezer bags for storage.
- Stock will keep a week in the fridge, or about a year frozen.
Visible in this bag, there are zucchini rounds, papery skins and butt ends of onions, slices of turnip and rutabaga, and something that’s either a green onion or an asparagus stem.
Have you ever made your own stock or broth? Is there a difference between stock and broth? Please share any tips or insights in the comments!