“Baskets!” moment: Your veggie scraps are actually delicious soup in the making

Guest post by Dootsie Bug

For our newbies: “Baskets!” moments are that moment when you think of something so obvious that it’s amazing you didn’t trip over the simple solution years ago.

chopped vegetables
By: Andrew TaylorCC BY 2.0
Next time you’re chopping up some veggies, get out a gallon-size zip-top bag and toss in any edible pieces that you’re trimming. This includes peels, end bits and weird fleshy bits that wouldn’t look appetizing, but are harmless. You can even toss in veggies that have gone limp in the fridge, but aren’t icky yet.

The bulk of the bag should be stuff like: carrots, potatoes, eggplant, mushrooms, garlic, onions, green beans and bell peppers. You can also include stuff like celery, parsley, sage, corn, cilantro and lettuce. Just avoid or use sparingly vegetables that will impart a terribly strong or specific flavor.

Avoid: cabbage, broccoli, turnips, brussels sprouts, artichokes (these can be bitter or overpowering), and beets, which can cause your stock to turn a funny colour. (If you must have clear stock, avoid potatoes and corn; their starches will cloud your stock.)

To make the stock:

  • 4 cups veggie scraps
  • 3 quarts water (or enough to cover the veggies)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons of kosher salt
  1. Bring water to a boil in a stock pot.
  2. Tie the veggie scraps up in a cheesecloth (optional) or just dump ’em on in the water.
  3. Return to a boil. (Note: no need to thaw, if the scraps are frozen.)
  4. Add bay leaves and salt.
  5. Reduce temperature and simmer for up to 1 hour (but no longer!)
  6. Allow to cool slightly.
  7. If you wrapped your scraps in cheesecloth, extract the bundle and squeeze with tongs. Otherwise, pour the stock though a fine mesh strainer into another pot; press the vegetables in the strainer slightly to wring out extra juice.

Then store it in an airtight container in the freezer for up to four months. (Note: it’s helpful to store it in two-cup portions or so.)

Comments on “Baskets!” moment: Your veggie scraps are actually delicious soup in the making

  1. I totally do this too. Except I throw mine in the crockpot and let it go either all day or overnight before I filter and store.

    Also I really like the flavour of cabbage in my broth so I usually include a few peels if I’ve got some around, and it tastes way better in the summer when my veggie consumption is more varied. Tomato pieces are your friend.

    • The best stock I ever made had tomato in it and pole beans from my garden that got too big and tough to eat (amongst other random veggies).

      And the smaller the pieces of veggies, the more surface area for flavor extraction, and the easier they are to strain.

    • Oh, slow cookers. First, let me say that for the majority of uses and many combinations of veg, the following isn’t going to matter in the least. But many sources I read feel like slow cookers keep the veggies on heat too long (resulting in bitterness and breakdown) and that they muddle the flavours or don’t extract enough flavour.
      Since most people use their stock in another dish, already have bitter/strong flavours or just don’t care about cloudiness/breakdown, it’s probably the mootest point of all the moots. But it’s worth mentioning that if you want a really clear, bright, perfect perfect perfect stock, you may want to stick to the stovetop method.

      If you intend to make any kind of meat stock, don’t use a crock pot. Serious Eats did a test and their verdict was that slow cookers just don’t get hot enough to release the deliciousness. I completely agree there.

  2. I keep a gallon zip lock bag in my freezer and dump all the scraps from my scrap bowl in it after I’m done with my prep work. Once it’s full I dump it in the slow cooker, fill it with water and toss in a couple of bay leaves and some spices. It’s so easy that I’m never going back to paying for stock again. I also keep bones in the freezer for meat stock.

    • And you can totally use veg scraps in meat stock for delicious glory! I tend to prefer carrots and onions in my meat stocks with a little cilantro and save the really exciting scraps for vegetable stock.

  3. I am all about the homemade stock. I find the easiest way to store is to freeze it in muffin tins and then pop the little disks out and keep them in a large ziplock. Then when it’s go time I can just grab a couple out. Each one is about a half cup…

    • MUFFIN TINS! Thank you for saying this. I’ve always seen the ice cube tray thing instead and with my large family, I’d be popping out like 30 of those damn things for each meal. So I’ve been storing it in jars or tupperware and thawing it out but it’s cumbersome and takes up a ton of space.

      But muffin tins! Yes!

    • Silicone muffin “tins” work great for this (and for freezing surplus eggs if you have chickens) because they can be turned inside out to remove more stubborn disks.

  4. For even smaller portions, you can use ice cube trays. Then once they’re frozen, you can pop them out and put them in a ziplock and back in the freezer, use however many you need without having a half-filled tray in there. I haven’t done this yet, but I think it will be most useful for me, because the fridge at my new place has an ice-maker so I have unused trays lying around, plus for just me and Mr. Chi we need smaller amounts of stock when we’re cooking.

  5. We have a zero food waste policy in our house, and this is one of the things we do!
    I do things slightly differently and leave the salt out.
    I’ve found that if I end up using some pre-seasoned ingredients (example: left over roast chicken) then a soup can be over salted.

    As others have said, you can add in the bones from cooked meats to make a meat stock!
    And the leftover strained veg can go to the compost!

    • Yes same here, I don’t add salt until I absolutely need to 🙂

      I love cooking with scraps, left overs or items about to expire and turning it into meals. As a result I have a ready supply of quick dinners frozen that can go from freezer to dinner plate in 15 minutes or less.

      As well as freezing veggie scraps, I freeze milk just before it goes off. Once I have enough frozen milk I turn it into paneer, then use the left over whey in my stocks. I’ve also gotten into buying whole chickens and breaking them down for cooking with the added bonus of having the backbone for stock.

  6. This is great! Unfortunately, though, we don’t often have much in the way of useable food scraps. We end up with some egg shells, apple cores, citrus peels, the dry outer skins of onions, and occasional bits of weird/questionable items, but aside from now and then having the kale ribs/stems, we wouldn’t have much to use for stock, as we already try very hard to avoid food waste. Maybe when the growing season kicks up a little, we’ll have more odd bits to save for stock.

    We should start saving the meat bones we have on rare occasions, though, for use, as we do buy a lot of chicken stock and could totally use things like chicken and lamb bones to make some good, low-sodium stock…

    Also, I love the ideas of using muffin tins and ice trays to portion out the stock! Thanks for sharing!

    • My parents and several friends have gardens, and in the summer, I often get left with vegetables that I just don’t care for or can’t possibly use before they go bad. That’s when I think this idea REALLY shines.
      I don’t tend to make a lot of scraps, either, but in the summer? There’s always a glut of veggies that I just won’t get to use and can’t foist on anyone else. So stock it is!

  7. So, I appreciate this post however, I have two pretty important things to point out about making stock — first, celery is actually a pretty key ingredient for stock! It’s one of the ingredients in a mirepoix, which is the base for most stock, especially chicken / veggie. Second, you should not use the truly scrap parts — peels, blemishes, end bits (but limp veggies, the inside pieces of celery, and odd shaped pieces like the top of a bell pepper after you cut out the stem, or the outer layer of an onion after removing the papery part are totally good to use!). The quality of your ingredients affects the quality of your stock.

  8. I’ve said it before all over the internet, but pressure canning your own stock is a life-changer. It takes all damn day, but if you’re home doing chores and such, it’s not a constant-attendance sort of thing.
    The result is jars of stock that are in your cupboard instead of your freezer, and can be used on a whim instead of thawing and waiting around.

    • Confession? I don’t like either of those things, so I can’t tell you. Somebody else probably has some experience here! Guys?
      I Googled around on these and it sounds like other people have used them. I’d go much more heavily on other vegetables. If the outcome is a bit bitter, freeze it and combine it with the next stock you make/buy.
      If you’re really unsure, just bring a little water to a boil and let some of your scraps simmer for a while. Check the smell and take a sip after a while. If you like what you’re getting, go with it.

    • I eat a ton of kale chips and toss the ribs into my stock. It’s not bitter, but it does have a different flavor from other variations (especially compared to mirepoix). When I DO use kale or broccoli I pair that stock with a beef stew or mix it half & half with a beef stalk. The flavors seem to complement each other well.

      And any time I feel like I “ruined” a stock I just add some seaweed!

      edit: Never tried chard because I can’t remember if it’s rhubarb or chard that has an inedible component.

      • It’s the rhubarb leaves that are poisonous. Not good for compost either. But do try chard; not as bitter/tough as kale, and the leaves don’t turn grey when you cook them. Plus the rainbow variety looks luvverly in your garden.

    • This sounds weird, but I eat broccoli stalks >_> On the occasions that I don’t eat them in a stir fry, I mince them and add them to other dishes (meatball type things) because I find that they help to keep the meat moist.

  9. This is a great idea – I’ve been wanting to come up with ways to reduce food waste! The other thing I do is, when I cook things like broccoli, beans, peas – any veges you boil – is save the water when I drain it off. Then I stick that in the freezer and use it as stock. Works great for soup and risotto.

  10. I always found it odd growing up that my friends’ families didn’t do this. My Dad made a batch of “garbage soup” every weekend (except in the summer) from scraps, bones and whatever else needed to used in the fridge. Now that I’ve moved out (and gotten married) I don’t make stock/soup as often for two major reasons: we don’t make enough scraps and my husband refuses to eat/drink hot liquids unless he’s sick (and then only cocoa).

    I’m aiming to do stock once a month-ish (which I freeze in muffin tins for now, while I’m looking for silicon molds to use instead) to use for rice, vegetables or adding to soup. I probably need to make another batch of soup now, since I’m running out in the freezer. We’re hoping to do a Community Shared Agriculture share this summer so I’m sure I’ll have more “what the fuck do I do with this?!? Eh, throw it in the stock pot.” moments.

  11. I would love to do this. Too bad most of my favorite veggies are on the “not recommended” list! I can do carrot ends and peelings, though.

    Does anyone know if the sprouted bits of potatoes are OK to use? That’s all I cut off. What about sweet potatoes? I suppose they’d make an even cloudier stock…

    • I am pretty sure that potato sprouts are a tiny bit toxic. It’s probably not enough to be dangerous, but it’s not recommended that you ever eat them. Plus, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t impart much flavour.
      Sweet potatoes would offer a lot of starch and they’re obviously going to be on the sweet side. I’m used to seeing people use those strictly in soups that are intended to be sweet. The peels would probably be a fine ingredient in your stock, but I would probably then not include any carrots or other sweet veggies.

    • i actually love making stock with beet skins/greens in it (sometimes i use the water i boiled the beets in as the stock liquid for more oclor). it’s not a good all-purpose stock, but it makes a very pretty (cute, even) and flavorful pink winter squash soup (just don’t, for example, sub zuccini because it’s in season: grey-brown sickly soup is hard to appreciate the good flavor in). so, not multi-use, but nice to make once in a while.

      i wonder if you could use some of the brassicas if you cooked them for a shorter period, not giving them time to make the stock bitter? i imagine it would yield a pretty mild stock and you’d want some other stuff in there as well to flavor it up…

  12. Most of the bits I cut off veggies are very dirty and/or rotten, so they wouldn’t make a very delicious broth… However, I will keep this in mind for summer, when veggies are plentiful. I already make my own chicken stock and freeze it (we can get chicken backs at the market for 59¢/lb), so extending that to veggie stock makes some sense. If I’m making a vegetarian soup, I usually wind up starting with water, and then seasoning it as I go (heck, I do that sometimes with meat soups, too…).

  13. This is such a “oh yea!” moment for me! I’ve always wanted to make soup stock, but for some reason, in books, it’s always like, “take a million fresh veggies and pretty much waste them by boiling them in water.” I’m totally going to to this method!!

    • EXACTLY! I totally get that using fresh, whole vegetables would produce a more consistent, better-quality result. Having the right ratios and ingredients produces a stock that will always be right with every recipe. But with a little tasting of your scrap stock product, you can anticipate what you’re getting into and have very little problem.

  14. Ha! What funny timing. I just started doing this a couple of weeks ago, and it was awesome. The only problem I’ve run into is that I have so many veggie scraps I couldn’t possibly make broth from them all. LOL. But there are harder things in life. 😉

    I know the article mentions peels, but just want to specifically point out that you can use onion skin and garlic skin, too. They add a really nice flavor. Just wash them before you stick ’em in the bag to freeze to get any dirt or weirdness off. I’ve also found that adding a couple of mushrooms rounded out the flavor really well, and I used the rind of a butternut squash that added a nice sweet balance.

    I make mine in the crock pot, and just let it go on low for 24 hours. So easy, and it comes out sooooo much better than store-bought veggie broth.

  15. I think I’ve used almost all of the not recommended stuff, and it’s been fine. For my personal tastes though I oddly don’t like bell peppers in there. it over sweetens it for me! Love the cheesecloth and bay leaves ideas! Also I always throw in the stems of all of the fresh herbs I use. I first saw this on Post Punk Kitchen, and had the biggest “oh duh! moment.” love seeing it shared here!

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