Composting is a topic of great contention in our household. Not because my husband is against the idea of it, but he objects to my composting practices. He calls it the outside garbage. The pile is too close to the house and within reach of the dog cables. Kiki scavenges at night. Her favorite items to rescue are eggshells, but for a dog who does not like toys, she gets lots of mileage from playing with potatoes on the lawn. So really, it is spread everywhere which is why when I get lazy in the winter and pitch items towards it, I worry little about missing the fence since I will have to rake it all up anyway. He unreasonably thinks this is just a mess.
Then I rediscovered the original Moosewood Cookbook and their concept of making vegetable stock from scraps. The idea is simple, save the skins, innards and ends of certain vegetables and when there is enough to fill a pot, add a couple of quarts of water, simmer for a hour for a rich stock. Strain it to use for a recipe or store it in the freezer for up to 4 months.
I tried keeping the scrap bag in the fridge as suggested, but it turned to mush pretty quickly. So I relocated it to the door of the freezer and started again.
To remind me what I can save, I stuck a copy of page 2 from the cookbook to the outside of the fridge.
There is not a recipe so much as a formula. First we start with the dos and don’ts. Aromatic and starchy root vegetables are good. So are tree fruits, legumes, squash and melons. Greens add a wonderful flavor as do herb stems. Eggplant makes it bitter. Citrus and bananas are out too. Anything cabbage family needs to be used with caution. I still do not have an opinion on peppers and tomatoes.
The recommendation is that when the bag is full, throw it in the pot, cover it with water and simmer away.
It works great if you love a surprise, but I have been exercising a bit more control over my mix. At this point I have four separate bags in the door of the freezer, one for each of the major categories, so I can make a more balanced broth. This has led my husband to referring to it as freezer garbage. Ultimately everything still lands in, or near, the compost, it just takes a while longer getting there.
As you make a few batches, you will find your favorite combinations. Also, the time of year will dictate the kind of scraps you have. After Thanksgiving, I already had everything I needed to make the turkey stock. Since we don’t eat celery outside of holiday meals, I froze the rest and used it with chicken legs later in the winter.
This process has also made me rethink how I purchase vegetables. I am much more willing to buy heads of lettuce or bags of carrots rather than the processed ready to eat versions because there is now no waste. I’m excited for summer now and have every intention of stockpiling bags of scraps from processing bushels of peas, beans, corn and apples for the freezer. Don’t tell my husband.