Gentle Readers, having grown up in the country, I was used to having a compost pile the old-school way. Basically we gathered scraps and put them outside in a designated area and put some dirt on it occasionally. Not very scientific or very useful for me in the suburbs. Last year, I learned that my good friend in Austin had compost as a municipal service. Game changer, I wanted that.
Fast forward to a breakfast get-together with friends, and someone told me about Compost Now, a service here in North Carolina where you get a bucket, put in all your scraps (meat and dairy and soggy pizza box included) and affix the lid, and they just magically take it away every week and turn it into compost. It doesn’t smell, it removes friction and waste from my life, and I love it.
**I don’t get paid for this, but with current economic times, services like this are suffering from a loss of restaurant and commercial clients. I encourage you to check out Compost Now or similar services in your area and support local business and the earth all at once!**
So why are we talking about rotting food on a cooking blog? Because the step between prepping vegetables and forgetting they’re in your crisper drawer is vegetable stock. Yes, you can make something great out of something that you’re going to compost (resist the urge to throw it away, go watch all the documentaries on that to be convinced).
Start today by washing your fruits and veggies (a doubly good practice now, I like the Trader Joe’s vegetable wash). Just keep a plastic bag in your freezer ready to receive the bounty of peelings, stems, and scraps.
For this recipe, I highly recommend busting out your slow cooker, but you can do this in a large pot on the stove as well.
Note: I don’t add salt to my stock, preferring to adjust and add it to the final dish. I also don’t typically add garlic, but many good cooks do and have recommended it to me. Experiment! Each stock is a unique blend of what you have been eating and have leftover or are end of life-ing (for all my tech readers).
Makes 6-8 cups of vegetable stock
3-5 cups of vegetable scraps, peels, and ends (they can be end of life but pre-compost—wilted is fine, rotting is gross, use some judgment). Skip the cabbage and the cauliflower, too strong for anything but each other. Go for carrots, onions, parsley stems, asparagus tips, celery bits, and even potato peels. Save mushroom scraps separately and make mushroom stock from them.
1/2 onion if you don’t have onion or scallion scraps included
1 generous teaspoon of black peppercorns
bay leaf (optional)
garlic cloves or some garlic powder (recommended to me, optional if you want some additional garlic flavor)
- Place everything in a slow cooker and cover with water. Cook on high for 6 hours, taking the lid off for the last 30 minutes or so to reduce the stock. (If you cook on the stove, use a large pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for at least an hour, watching the water level as you go, and adding more if you need it.)
- When stock has reduced and is as flavorful as you’d like, remove from heat, let cool a bit, and strain out the vegetables and spices through a colander, pressing the veggie solids to get all of the liquid out. Compost these scraps!
- Now if you want to go next level, and I think that you do, break out your old ice cube tray. I’ve found ice cubes are around 1 tablespoon. Nothing is more annoying than a recipe that calls for this amount of stock. Freeze your liquid gold in the ice cube tray, a batch at a time, until you have several tablespoons. Pop them out and store them in the freezer in a zipper bag. Problem solved, thank me later.
- Impatient or lack an ice cube tray? Check your container drawer (not a Kubernetes joke for the tech folks) and select some of your small size containers. This works best in the flimsy plastic Ziploc style containers. Freeze the stock in small portions and pop them out of the containers and save in a plastic zipper bag. Now you have pre-measured stock in rational portion sizes.
Coming up next: Vegetable Risotto Two Ways