Buying veggies and meat specifically for making stock adds up: as a result, many people opt for using stock powders instead. But not only is the flavour of homemade stock far superior to the powdered version, the nutritional value is far greater. Homemade stock is full of vitamins leached into the water by vegetables; it is also free of the MSG, which flavours most commercial stock powders.
The frugal answer is to use vegetable peelings and trimmings from the kitchen as the basis for homemade vegetable stock, and leftover chicken or beef to make meaty stocks.
How to Save Leftovers for Stock
Keep a ziploc bag or plastic container in the vegetable crisper. As you peel and cut up veggies for meals, add the appropriate trimmings to the bag. Not all vegetable trimmings are suitable – avoid potato peelings, which will turn the stock starchy, and brassicas which give a bitter taste. Suitable additions to the stock bag include:
- Carrot ends and peelings
- Onion trimmings
- Celery leaves and trimmings
- Leek leaves and trimmings
- Pumpkin or squash peelings, or leftover roasted or mashed pumpkin and squash
- Garlic trimmings
- Tomato cores and flesh (not too many, or they will give the stock an acid taste)
Some cooks also like to add onion skins, which lend veggie stock a bright golden colour. It’s worth while ensuring there is a good quantity of onion in the stock bag before using the veggies, as onion adds a good deal of flavour. If you don’t go through vegetables very rapidly, keep the bag in the freezer instead of the fridge.
How to Cook Veggie Stock From Scratch
When the container is full, you’re ready to make stock! The exact quantities aren’t important – if your stock seems pale or not very flavoursome, simply boil it down to condense the flavours. Tip the veggie scraps into a saucepan of water and simmer for an hour – veggie stock is fairly quick to make, and long or hard boiling does not improve the flavour. If you wish to add herbs, do it towards the end of the cooking time to avoid bitterness. Salt, bay leaves, and peppercorns can also be added to the stock, although some cooks prefer to keep their stock plain for versatility and in order to avoid oversalting soups.
To get a darker, richer stock, briefly saute the vegetables before adding the water.
Adding Calcium to Veggie Stock
One great way to recycle leftover eggshells is to crush them and add them to the stock before cooking. Eggshells are almost pure calcium carbonate, and leach some of their calcium into the stock while cooking. To help this process along, add a dash of vinegar to the stock.
How to Store and Freeze Vegetable Stock
Once the stock has cooled, strain it into containers to freeze. If you’re planning to use the stock in small quantities – say, to thin reheated baby food or add to sauces – freezing it in muffin trays or ice cube trays will save time later on. Freeze the stock solid and then tip the cubes into a ziploc bag for storage.
Larger quantities of stock for use in soup bases or risotto can be frozen in larger containers. Make sure you don’t freeze it in a container bigger than your saucepan – it’s handy being able to dump the whole chunk of stock into a pot for quick melting if necessary.
How to Use Vegetable Stock
- Use instead of water in soups to add an extra dimension of flavour.
- Make bread dough with veggie stock instead of water. Better yet, use water left over from cooking potatoes – the starch acts as a bread improver.
- Use in risottos, casseroles, curries, and stews.
- In small amounts, use to thin baby food.