Freezer Scrap Stock
I’m going to let you in on a little secret in cooking that will literally make the taste of your homemade soups fly off the charts with flavor. And if you’ve never made homemade soup, you may just be inspired to do so now.
And not just any homemade stock. I’m talking about ridiculously easy homemade stock that does not require a separate trip to the grocery store or even a ravaging of your refrigerator drawers.
I had known for years that making homemade stock was instrumental to delicious soups. For some reason however, I failed to do it more often than on Thanksgiving or Christmas with the holiday turkey. This all finally changed when I read a tip mailed in to Mother Earth News several years ago.
The idea is simple. Put a plastic bag in your freezer. As you slice off the ends of your onions, peel your potatoes and remove celery tops, put the “waste” in said bag and return it to the freezer. You now have the ingredients to make homemade stock on demand.
Wait… what?? Really? You mean I don’t have to purchase celery, carrots and onions to make stock?
Oh no, no, no… Stock made from this hodgepodge of vegetable “waste” turns out incredibly complex and dynamic. It all depends on what veggies you’ve been eating the past few weeks, with a few added herbs and spices. Once you have enough scraps to start your stock, fill up the stock pot with these soon-to-be delicious purveyors of lovely liquid, top it off with water and a few herbs, and voila! Amazing stock that will change the way your cooking tastes for the better, I kid you not.
This isn’t limited to just vegetable stock either. We also do a separate bag in the freezer with chicken bones, adding in the necks from our purchased organic whole chickens. Once the bag is full we empty it into the pot, throw in a few handfuls from the veggie scrap bag, add in a few herbs and BAM. Insane chicken stock. If you do a search for “how to make chicken stock” the main ingredients beyond chicken bones is carrots, onion, celery and a few herbs. And while this basic stock continues to be lovely in and of itself, the reality is your stock will be… plain.
Now if you like plain, than by all means continue on! It still beats anything out of a can or easy open carton hands down. If, however, you decide you’re ready for a change than read on, because it turns out adding a whole variety of vegetable scraps to your chicken bones makes a stock that will blow your taste buds out of the broth.
And it’s not just tastier. Freezer Scrap Stock appeals to me on several different levels.
- If we didn’t already compost, and were a family that regularly put this “waste” in the trash can (perish the thought!!), I could start with the fact that it would be a diversion from the dump. This is something to consider if your family doesn’t currently compost, or doesn’t think they’re able to compost (I’ll post more on small scale vermicomposting another day).
- I get another level of value on my organic vegetables and chickens. I don’t just get first run meals, I get second and third and sometimes even fourth run meals, with those original ingredients. With the cost of groceries nowadays, making my food dollar stretch farther is always a plus.
- I’m using EVERY part, not just some parts. This speaks to value again of course, but it also speaks to something much more that I‘ll touch on in minute.
- Having prepared stocks in the freezer makes cooking up a quick soup easy and fast. Two words I love on a rainy autumn or snowy winter’s weekday.
- I have to say it again. My food tastes better. We cook with whole foods from scratch. It takes time and effort and planning to prepare each meal, so I want it to taste good dammit. Call me crazy if you need to…
I mentioned before the idea of using EVERY part of our vegetables and chicken for more of a reason than just value. Our house is an avid composting house with zero discarded vegetables or grains going into the trash. However, my former dedication to only making stock with rinsed and peeled carrots, onions and celery with ends carefully cut off, just goes to show that here in America we’ve become accustomed to only using the choice pieces from our food stock.
There was a time (and not even all that long ago) when not a thing was wasted when it came to food preparation. A butchered animal had every piece utilized, from the blood and entrails to the hooves and ears, which is why we have things like sausage and stews. Vegetables were not much different, where everything from the roots to the flowers and seeds were taken advantage of, instead of just the fruit itself.
This can lead to ethical issues when it comes to meat. I’ll save why I believe eating humanely butchered meat is right for our family for another blog post. I will say that I believe if we are to kill animals to eat their meat, then the ethical thing to do is utilize as much of the animal as we can. Nothing is wasted.
Stock by its very origins, was always meant to use up the “less usable” parts of our food. Bone marrow and cartilage were important sources of fat, vitamins and minerals throughout history. The use of vegetable peels and ends in broths would only make sense in a world where “whole foods”, “zero-waste” and “natural and unprocessed” were just called daily life instead of being a catch phrase.
Freezer Scrap Stock is one step in our family returning to that lifestyle of mindful and conscientious eating. Scraps go into the stock to nourish my family, and once they are cooked go on to the compost to nourish my garden. Beautiful.
Now let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of how I make my Freezer Scrap Stock…
Veggie scraps is an incredibly lose term. In no particular order, here are many of the scraps we add.
- Onion, celery and carrot ends are a must, but only as a base. P.S. I *ALWAYS* cut out the frilly leafy tops of my celery to save. They are essential to homemade stock and Chicken Noodle Soup in my opinion, as well as in our Homemade Ranch Dressing (recipe coming soon!). It really doesn’t taste the same without celery tops…
- Garlic skins once you’ve pressed the cloves. I also throw in any dried, bruised or sprouted cloves after giving them a quick smash,
- Mushrooms past their prime and the bottom bit of the stems cut off,
- Fresh herbs, especially parsley, bay leaves, rosemary and thyme. If I have to purchase them, I will make sure to throw a few sprigs or leaves into the freezer scrap bag,
- Potato and sweet potato peels and ends,
- Leek and green onion tops and outer peels,
- Peels from broccoli stalks,
- Tough asparagus ends,
- Cauliflower leaves,
- Squash ends,
- Old dried spices… the list goes on.
The next list is of veggies and spices you should only add to your scrap bag in moderation as they are quite strong in flavor, or omit all together. If you are making a specific dish with your stock, you may wish to incorporate some stronger flavors that will complement your recipe.
- Cabbage core and outer leaves
- Greens like kale, spinach and mustard
- Broccoli or cauliflower
- To add sweetness, add sweet potato peels and ends, butternut squash ends, and deseeded apple cores
- Spices like fresh ginger, cumin, cardamom pods, basil, oregano or coriander (cilantro seeds)
For chicken stock, do NOT throw away ANY of the bones. If we ate roasted chicken, all bones from our dinner plates go into the stock bag. They will be in a freezer, then boiled. They’re ok to use after someone was gnawing on it. The cartilage is also wonderful to include as that is an important source of things like glucosamine. You may have heard of glucosamine mentioned in one or two thousand articles about joint health. Yeah, that glucosamine. Turns out you can get it from natural sources like bone stocks, or the seasoned version of stock, bone broth.
Once I’m ready to make my stock I fill up the crock pot or stock pot about 3/4 full of veggie scraps. If I’m making chicken stock, I’ll fill it about ½ full with chicken bones then fill the pot another 1/4 full of veggie scraps. Fill the pot almost to the top with water, adding about 1 Tablespoon of vinegar. Throw in a handful of peppercorns, a few bay leaves, and a bit of parsley, rosemary and thyme if you didn’t have any in the freezer bag. I like to set my crock pot and forget it, leaving it to cook for at least 24 hours on low.
For my own house, I tend to leave the lid cracked on my stockpot while I cook my stock. If you do this with a starting point of 2 quarts of water, you will end up with approximately 6 cups of stock, which is the average amount in a large can of stock purchased from the grocery store. Usually we just do an entire stockpot full though, as soon as our scrap bags allow it. From there we use immediately what we need, and freeze it in usable portions for future meals. If we filled all of the storage containers and have a bit left over, Annie McLicklick the dog is more than happy to take care of this for us. This stock has become a regular base in our meal rotation, and we’re able to make at least 4 quarts of stock every month. My stock is cheaper (free if you consider these were parts going in the trash and compost previously), healthier and tastier. Win win in my book!
Coming soon will be a recipe for homemade chicken noodle soup that will knock your socks off…