Why throw out what may be the most healthful and flavorful parts of the foods you prepare regularly? Toss them together into the stock pot first to brew up a tasty, nutritious broth that adds a gourmet kick to a soup, stew, chowder, or casserole.
You bet! Potato peelings, for example, concentrate most of the potato’s potassium, a nutrient deficient in many American diets. Onion skins and celery leaves contain lots of the antioxidant/antimicrobial phytocompound quercetin. Bone broths, as well as those simmered from shellfish shells and eggshells, recover many of the minerals that gave them structure and strength.
What goes into the pot?
Besides potato peelings, onion skins, and celery leaves, use cast-offz such as the tough outer leaves of cabbage or lettuce,leek tops, carrot foliage and scrapings, pea and bean shells, broccoli leaves and stems, the pomace left over from tomato processing, the tops and innards of green or red peppers, wilted (but not spoiled or moldy) greens. You can probably think of more.
Keep washed and rinsed eggshells (I actually bake or boil empty eggshells to ensure safe storage and handling) and meat/poultry bones in another container. (Make shellfish-shell broths immediately after removing the meat from them.)
How to make it
Save a week’s worth of vegetable scraps in a container in the fridge, then make stock on the weekend. Add a bay leaf or two, a handful of your favorite fresh or dried herbs, a few cloves of garlic if you like it, and a little salt (or not). Simmer on the stovetop for at least half an hour or in a big ovenproof pot when you’re baking something else. Strain the broth and toss the residues into the compost.
I keep the animal-product broths separate from the vegetable broths. The acid from a splash of cider vinegar added to the pot will help draw more minerals from a broth made from shells or bones.
Unless you plan to use your stock immediately, cool it quickly by adding a tray of ice cubes, then refrigerate immediately. Freeze whatever you won’t use within a week. Leave half an inch of headroom at the top of the container and don’t forget to label.
Don't forget the corn cobs
We’ve entered our brief fresh corn-on-the-cob season here in New Hampshire, and I don’t like to consign those cobs to the compost before simmering them into a delicate corn-cob broth.
Once I’ve eaten or sliced off the kernels, I plop the cobs into a pot of water, bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes with a bay leaf. Corn-cob broth provides a subtle, fresh-corn flavor to just about any soup or stew.
One more frugal tip
Take the clean leg and foot from a discarded pair of pantyhose or knee-high, add a cup or two of rice or barley to the foot, tie it loosely to allow the grain to expand, and add it to the boiling broth. As it cooks, the grain will absorb the liquid and the flavor, and become the basis for another tasty, nutritious meal.