Many people don’t think of spring and summer as a time to make stocks, but in reality it is the best time to do so. UC and I have been saving our peels, unused veggies, tops, etc. for vegetable stock, our bones and meat scraps for meat stock, and bones and shells for fish stock. We toss the parts into large freezer bags (we have separate bags for each) in the chest freezer, and when we have enough we make stock.
This is frugal, I suppose, on some levels because you throw away much less and get the maximum value out of your food. You do use energy simmering, but still less than what you’d spend purchasing this much stock at the store. You also get a much better flavor, and certainly a higher nutritional value from making your own stock. To me, that last one is worth the effort. Funny, though, that it’s really no effort. When we cook, we just keep a scrap bowl (or two, if we’re doing meats and veggies) nearby and toss stuff into that instead of the trash. Those scraps get tossed into the appropriate freezer bag, and the lot gets tossed into a large pot when there’s enough. Cover with water, add some salt, pepper, or other spices and simmer until you get tired of it (at least 2 hours). Strain. If you are doing a meat stock, you can skim the top to remove fat. Done! You can use it immediately, or freeze it for later use (say, in a nice, hearty winter soup).
One of the things I love about this is that your stock is always a little different. I couldn’t even tell you everything that is in this particular stock, but I do know it was a lot of greens. A couple weeks ago, we had some grape tomatoes that were getting soft, so I tossed them into the stock bagm too. There were beat greens, leftover cabbage, red and yellow onion peels and parts, some carrots, jalepeno bits, eggplant tops, squash tops, green onion and leek tops, and…well, you get the idea. So, this stock was pretty richly “green,” with a lovely reddish color and a homey warmth. As the year progresses, the ingredients in the stock bag will change. Summer will probably see less greens and more peppers, cucumbers, squash, and herbs. In the fall, there will probably be more tomatoes, garlic, and root vegetable trimmings. If all goes well, there will also be wild-found mushroom trimmings in some of the stock! Morels run and hide from me, but I am pretty good at hen-of-the-woods and some of the other edibles.
I am considering starting a fruit bag, too, for fruit stock. Sounds weird, but it’s a wonderful thing to use in jams, jellies, and sauces instead of water. It’s also great for poaching other fruits. We don’t usually peel our fruits, but we do sometimes miss the peak and have to throw them away (especially pears–they just go bad so fast!). I could also make ice cubes with the stock to use in punches and drinks, so that as the ice melts the flavor of the drink is enhanced, not watered down.
I’d love to hear your stock ideas, too!