In your day-to-day cooking, you are likely throwing away valuable flavor and nutrients every day without even realizing it.
You cut an apple, peel an onion, and cut the hard skin off of a squash before baking or boiling it, or scrubbed the brown bits out of a roasting pan.
If you’re frugal, you’re composting the vegetable scraps, or adding it to a worm bin. If you’re super-frugal, you’ve discovered this goldmine of nutrients can be used one more time before heading for the compost heap.
You can make and freeze stock made from either meat or vegetable bits and scraps and use it as a base for soups, stews and chilis, or even to add flavor and nutrients to those frugal staple potato, rice or pasta dishes.
You can also use stock instead of water to add flavor to a recipe, or instead of beer or wine to reduce cost without losing moisture.
Perhaps you’ve seen stock in the supermarket (or *gasp* perhaps you’ve even bought it?). Usually stored near the soup, you can find fish, beef, chicken, vegetable and mushroom stocks in the supermarket, with prices ranging from $0.10-$0.79 per ouncet. But why buy what you can make for nothing?
How to make soup stock:
The best way to make a vegetable stock is to save scraps. Peels, from onions, husks from garlic (my garlic press leaves little “skins” inside, so I always save those.) Ends of celery, extra mushrooms and any produce nearing the end of its life in the refrigerator. Shells from peas, stems and even apple cores go great in vegetable stock. (Never use spoiled/moldy produce).
If you have a few cups of vegetable bits, just cover them with water, simmer for 45 minutes, strain and freeze. However, if you’ve only got an onion skin here and a stalk of celery there, just throw it all in a big bag in the freezer until you have enough vegetable bits and time to boil it all at once. Strain and store.
Bones, ends, and drippings! Use pan drippings, or bones to create a fantastic stock. The easiest way it to start with the brown bits from the bottom of a pan. First, pour off any grease/oils and then heat the pan quickly on the stove. Add a small amount of cold liquid to the hot pan (water, beer, wine, fruit juice, brandy, or even water that you cooked pasta or vegetables in), and as the liquid rapidly comes to a boil, scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon or heat-safe spatula. This will free up the flavorful bits from the bottom of the pan, and allow you to use them again. As an added benefit, the pan will be much easier to clean.
If you have bones or tough meat scraps to use, add the bones and enough water to cover them, and simmer for 45 minutes (fish is the exception—heads and bones go in the water, with the gills removed, but remove as soon as the bones become opaque). Large bones such as hamhocks or entire turkey carcasses may take longer—cook covered in water until the bones come out free of meat scraps. Strain and store.
To freeze, pour into plastic containers leaving some head-space (frozen liquid takes more space than solid, so if you overfill your container will break), cool completely in the refrigerator, and then freeze. Alternately, pour your stocks into muffin tins or ice cube trays and freeze, and then pop them out and into a plastic bag for storage until you are ready to use them. If you store your stocks in glass jars like I do, use only wide-mouth jars, and fill no more than 2/3 full, leaving the lid open until the liquid is fully frozen. Be warned that any attempts to rapidly freeze or thaw a glass mason jar will likely result in breakage. They are temperamental buggers.