Have you ever noticed how much produce gets thrown out in your house? Cores, peels, wilted greens, too-long-frozen vegetables, stems, stalks… the list goes on! I scoured the ‘net for a solution to this waste and found a couple of answers. The first is to compost your kitchen scraps. That sounds great, except we don’t have a garden or anywhere to keep a compost pile. The second is to make homemade veggie broth. Ah! now that’s something I can do! I read through dozens of recipes and methods and compiled the most pertinent information, and started saving scraps to try it myself.
The first step is to save kitchen scraps, of course. Here are a couple of things to consider:
- How much produce does your family eat in a week? If you eat enough produce to fill a gallon-sized plastic freezer bag with scraps in one week, then you can keep this bag in the coldest part of your fridge (bottom shelf towards the back) and add to it throughout the week. If, however, you won’t fill up a bag that quickly, you can keep your gallon-sized plastic freezer bag in the freezer, adding to it as you go.
- What are you going to keep? You can keep almost any vegetable core, peel, stem, stalk, or scrap with a few exceptions. You don’t want to keep anything that is rotting, moldy, or sour; these just need to be thrown out. You can (and should!) keep things that are nearly bad, those that are not palatable, but not rotting. You can also save herb trimmings/stems. Be cautious with the quantity of hot pepper and garlic scraps–these may overpower the broth. Onion skins and beets will discolor it (onion = brown, beet = red), so if you want a clear broth, skip them. Some vegetables should be avoided because they will overpower the broth or make it bitter: cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, rutabaga, artichokes, and turnips.
Until you are comfortable with the “to avoid” list, you may find it helpful to keep a list in your kitchen somewhere. I saved scraps in a bag in the freezer for about a month until I had a nearly full bag, then threw in some veggies from the freezer I knew we’d never get around to eating (frozen squash is just NOT my thing, I’ve learned). My finished bag contained:
- 2-2.5 quarts chopped/sliced yellow squash
- the core of a green bell pepper with seeds + about a cup of frozen chopped bell pepper
- 1 quart chopped celery
- about 2 cups carrot ends
- 1 quart lima beans
- handful of lettuce trimmings (dark green tops + core of one head of Romaine)
- potato peels from about a pound of red potatoes
- 3 tomato cores
- 1/2 cup onion trimmings (no skins)
When you get ready to make the broth, dump all of your frozen (or refrigerated) veggies into a large stock pot.
Fill with enough cold water to cover the vegetables. My pot required 5 quarts of water.
Next, bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and keep it at barely a simmer uncovered for one hour. If you let it go longer than that, the flavor of the broth will break down. Much less and the vegetables won’t give up all they’ve got to the water.
While it’s simmering for an hour, you can contemplate straining methods. You can use a colander lined with paper towel (will have to change the towel occasionally as it gets full of gunk), a colander lined with cheese cloth, or a couple of fine mesh strainers. I first strained the broth through a large mesh strainer set in a big pot. I ladled enough of the chunkies to fill the strainer, then used a flat wooden spoon to press as much broth out of them as I could.
I transferred the pulpy remains to a bowl to cool before throwing out. I used a small measuring cup to dip into the broth and pour to plastic containers for freezing, passing it through a very fine small mesh strainer. The squash created a lot of pulp in my broth that the second straining removed.
I ended up with 4.25 quarts of fairly clear, yellow-tinged broth that smells strongly of squash and lettuce…
… plus 1.5 quarts of dingy kitchen scraps.
I left all of the containers on the counter partially lidded to cool to room temperature. Then they spent about 6 hours in the refrigerator before being transferred to the freezer. After freezing overnight, I was able to pop out most of the bricks from their containers. Three of the bricks had air pockets in the middle, so I left those in containers. The juice concentrate containers were a bad idea–the cylinders of broth could be loosened, but not removed. I’ll use those first. I put the frozen bricks into a labeled freezer bag and returned them to the freezer.
My containers ranged in size from 1.25 – 4 cups.
My husband wanted to know what in the world I’d do with vegetable broth. It’s not something I’ve ever bought–I usually use beef or chicken broth. I plan to use it in vegetable-based soups or stews in place of water. It will add flavor and nutrients. Plus, unlike store-bought broth, I know exactly what’s in here (for sure, no added salt!) AND it’s essentially free, other than the water and the time to cook it.
Next time, I will try for something more balanced. I would have liked more onion, carrot, and celery, and less squash. And when I use it, I’ll try to let you know how it cooks up.