Vegetable broth is a staple for home cooking. Essential for soups, it also adds flavor to things you might otherwise just cook in water, like beans, quinoa, and rice. Canned or boxed stock can get a little pricey (especially if you want something organic). Bouillon is cost-effective, but I always feel like it ends up giving all of my dishes the exact same flavor. These days, I rely on a great trick I learned from my cooking-savvy friend: save your scraps to cook up your own broth! It’s essentially free, totally easy, and as with most home cooked food, it tastes better and offers you greater control over its contents (especially salt).
Recipes for homemade veggie broth will tell you that you need specific amounts of certain ingredients, but I’ve had plenty of success just making do with whatever scraps I can manage to save up. Whenever you cook, simply freeze anything you would typically toss (gnarly ends, trimmed greens, broccoli stalks, that pesky part of an onion that you can never dice) in a gallon-sized Ziploc bag. You can also save any veggies that you forgot about that are starting to go bad (but don’t keep anything that is actually spoiled).
Once you have a full bag, you are just about set. You’ll need:
- One full, gallon-sized bag of frozen veggie scraps
- One or two bay leaves
- Three cloves of garlic
- Any other spices you already have (I’ve thrown in rosemary and thyme)
Then just follow these simple steps:
- Throw your veggies in a large pot, and cover them with an inch or two of water. If there are still skins on any onions, peel them off before adding them to the pot.
- Add a bay leaf, three cloves of garlic, a teaspoon or two of salt (you can always add more salt to your main dish later), and any other spices.
- Bring the water to a boil, then turn down the heat and let your pot simmer for about an hour.
- Strain out the vegetables, using a slotted spoon or a mesh colander.
- Let the broth cool to room temperature.
- Pour your broth into freezable containers. I like to measure it out by the cup and then label the container with some masking tape with the amount of broth and the date. I’ve also frozen broth in ice cube trays, so that you can add just a little flavor to some dishes. Of course, you can use your broth right away or keep it in the fridge if you think you’ll get to it soon, but it’s safer just to freeze it.
Scraps of carrots, onions, and celery offer some of the best flavor, but almost anything will work. I cook about three meals a week at home, and it takes me one to two weeks to fill up a gallon-sized bag with scraps.
Do you have any money-saving tips for those who cook at home?
Image courtesy of theswedish/SXC.HU