When Mrs. Vino first started receiving her Cal Poly CSA produce box, she found herself using many more veggies than usual (a good thing). Unfortunately, it seemed to take a VERY long time to clean and prep the veggies after a long, hard day slaving in the tasting room (a not good thing). And sometimes the veggies got a bit wilted before she could get to them (a really not good thing). Then Mrs. Vino remembered something her friend Roxanna had told her about saving the wilted veggies and veggie scraps/off cuts to make stock. Now, Mrs. Vino has a freezer full of delicious, nutritious veggie stock to use for soups, stews, crockpots, risotto (particularly delicious), etc. AND, cleaning veggies is no longer a chore, it’s Cooking! Here’s what to do:
Start with two one-gallon freezer bags. These will be your scrap bags. You will keep them in your freezer – yes, I keep the empty bags in my freezer too, so I know they will always be there. Everytime you go to prep a vegetable – put the peelings and off cuts in the bag in your freezer. These are just some of the things I put in there: onion peels, potato peels, peelings from carrots, cucumbers, beets, rutabegas, beet tops or other greens that have wilted beyond wanting to eat, cilantro stems (be careful how many of those you add, they are strong), wilted basil leaves, peelings from ginger root, tomato tops-not the stem-just the tomato part, cabbage cores, ends and strings of string beans . . . you get the picture! Put any clean, non rotten/non moldy piece of veggie into the bags in your freezer.
It won’t take long for you to fill up two freezer bags (takes me about a week). I usually start my stock when I start making dinner. Take a large pot and put your veggie peelings in it. Rinse out the empty freezer bags and put them back into your freezer. Add water to the pot to cover the veggie peelings (about 6 cups). Add 1 t. salt, 3 garlic cloves split in half (you don’t even need to peel them), 3 bay leaves and a pinch of red pepper flake. Bring the water in the pot to a simmer. Then ignore it for 2-3 hours. OK, the first time you make this, keep your eye on it so it doesn’t boil over. After that, you’ll know the right burner setting to just keep it at a simmer.
After 3 hours, pull the pot off the stove and let it sit there to cool down a bit. Before you go to bed cover the pot and put it in the fridge to steep overnight. And, clear a little space in your freezer, you’ll need it the next day.
The next morning, AFTER COFFEE, pull the pot out and strain it into a container. Pull out your muffin tins (come on, we ALL have them buried in a cabinet somewhere). Use a ladle and ladle the broth into the muffin tins – you will find that each muffin tin holds about 1/2 cup (one standard ladle full) of broth. Place the muffin tins in your freezer and go to work.
After work, pop the broth ice cubes out of the muffin tins and put them in a clean new freezer bag and store them in your freezer. Now anytime you need broth for a soup, stew, risotto, or just to add a bit of liquid to a pan, you can just add a broth ice cube and know that it is approximately 1/2 cup of broth.
I know it seems complicated and seems to take 2 full days. It’s really easy and the end result of the broth is healthy and delicious. QUICK NOTE: If you use beets in your veggie broth it will end up a very interesting pinkish color. I used that to make a risotto that ended up being a bit . . . unusual to look at, but tasted delicous. Just to be aware, in case you don’t like pink food.
Frugal doesn’t mean cheap, it means using the best possible food products and using them to their fullest.