We’ve composted in our household for about as long as I can remember. Well now we just have a compost bin but we used to have an actual compost in our backyard that my mom used for the soil in our garden. So I’m used to designating my food scraps to a specific spot. But then recently it occurred to me; Why am I designating my vegetable scraps to my organics bin when I could actually get more use out of them? The audacity of me! When we were actually composting, the food scraps served a purpose for my family but now that we just have an organics bin (after moving houses) those food scraps are simply separated to be discarded of. Well, no more. To be clear, I still discard of fruit scraps (banana peels, avocado pits etc.) – I haven’t found a use for those yet. But I no longer immediately dispose of my veggie scraps and I feel so darn good about it. Here’s what I’ve been doing…
Collecting Food Scraps
This is the easiest part. Actually, there’s nothing particularly “not easy” about this whole process. That’s what makes it great. But anyways, I’ll stop selling you now. I’ve been using a medium Ziploc bag to collect all of my scraps. At first I thought; “This is going to take a long time to accumulate and I’m probably not going to remember to put my scraps in here” Wrong! Once I put that first scrap of kale stem in, I was hooked. And then when I added scrap of tomato in the mix… oh wow. I felt like an artist. Mixing colours and textures and flavours, oh my!
So in short, it didn’t take me long to fill up my freezer bag. Every time I had leftover veggie scraps I was excited to put it in my little bag of goodies. And if I was ever so careless to catch myself accidentally throwing a perfectly good scrap of veg in the compost, I would make myself take it out, rinse it off and add it to my bag – provided it wasn’t too gross. I’m not a savage.
A couple of things to note… I want to switch to using a glass jar instead of a plastic Ziploc because well, plastic. But, I didn’t want to prolong the process of starting this endeavour just because I didn’t have the receptacle I wanted. My advice: Start with what you have! You can tweak and adjust as you go.
What kind of scraps can I save?
Good question! Pretty much everything, but not everything. Make sense? Okay, let me clarify. You know the bits of vegetables that are perfectly good but you don’t necessarily want to eat? The top of a tomato, celery leaves, the stems of herbs like cilantro, carrot tops, vegetable skins etc. I would normally just discard of these things but there are still wonderful nutrients that live in these parts of plants, so why not use them!
Here are some ideas of things to save:
- end nubs of garlic cloves
- top part of an onion, onion peels
- bits of herbs that you don’t want to eat
- spinach that has maybe gone wilty – not great for salad but not yet mouldy and gross
Things you shouldn’t save:
- Anything that has actually gone bad (mouldy etc.) – this seems obvious but pointing it out just in case
- That’s it!
Let’s get cooking!
Once you have filled your freezer bag, jar or other container of choice, it’s time to cook your stock. From reading some other people’s experiences with making their own veggie broth, it seems like there are lots of little alterations you can make to this process to make it your own. So feel free to use the method I’m sharing as a template. All I did was dump my bag of frozen veg into a large pot, pour a bunch of water in, cover it and let it simmer on low for about an hour.
The amount of water you’ll need will vary based on how many scraps you’ve put in and how strong you want the flavour to be. I would say I used anywhere from 4 to 6 cups of water for a medium freezer bag of frozen food scraps. In terms of cooking time, I think the standard is about 45 mins to an hour, from what I’ve read. I believe I will be learning more about how cooking times/temperatures/methods etc. alter a food’s nutrients in school so I’m excited to share that information when I do. But for now I would say stick to just simmering on low for 45 minutes to an hour. Again, from what I’ve read it seems as though keeping the temperature low rather than boiling will help your broth retain more nutrients.
What about taste?
Because your broth is going to taste like whatever you put in it, make sure you like what you put in it. (Duh.) That being said, if someone in your house has veggie scraps of a vegetable that you don’t like, consider adding it to your broth anyways. Use your judgement here, but if you hate mushrooms for example, those don’t have a strong flavour and you won’t get any of the texture in the broth, but they offer great nutritional value. So maybe you can consider putting mushroom stems/scraps in your broth.
Another way to add flavour is herbs, herbs, herbs! And spices. Herbs and spices for the absolute win. I am sort of obsessed with cilantro so I made sure I had lots of cilantro stems in my freezer bag. If you don’t really use fresh herbs at home, that’s cool. You can add dried herbs and spices to your broth at the cooking stage to enhance the flavour. I even added in a fresh clove of garlic.
What to use your veggie stock for
Alright, so you have a beautiful, homemade veggie stock now what the heck do you do with it? I imagine that if you’re reading this post you may already acknowledge yourself as a person who has use for vegetable stock and this may be a dumb question but 1. there are no dumb questions and 2. there’s always room for more ideas.
You can use your homemade veggie broth for any recipe that requires vegetable stock – imagine that! I make butternut squash soup fairly often during the Fall/Winter and I would normally buy vegetable stock to use as a base. Well, with my first batch of homemade broth I made the same butternut squash soup and not only was it delicious, but it saved me from having to buy vegetable stock. I also used the broth as a base for a homemade pseudo-ramen I threw together one night. You could also enhance the versatility of your broth by making a nice and simple version with just veggie scraps and then adding in different herbs, spices etc. depending on what recipe you are using it for.
Advantages of making your own veggie stock
- getting the full amount of nutrients out of your vegetables (not throwing nutrients away)
- saving money! no more buying salty, expensive vegetable broth
- YOU control the taste
- Less waste – not only are you using more of the food you already have, but you’re eliminating the containers that grocery store broth comes in
So, there you have it friends! My first (and second go) at using my vegetable scraps for homemade broth. This is a super easy process to incorporate into my meal prep/cooking routine. I mean all you have to do is dump your scraps and water into a pot and let it make your house smell delicious for an hour and you’re done! I feel like such a little homemaker. Stay tuned for more updates on this process as I learn more about using glass containers to freeze scraps, how the food’s nutrients are impacted in this process and (hopefully) much more.