Last summer I spent a week in July bundled up in San Francisco. It was much colder in San Francisco than I thought it would be in July. I had one sweatshirt and too few pairs of socks. We stayed at a friend’s home on a hill with a huge back window overlooking the city and beyond to the ocean. My friend appropriately had a cozy rocking chair (one of those gliders women buy to nurse their babies in comfort) right near the large window. In the late afternoons when the fog came rolling in, I would brew a cup of tea, wrap my lower half in a soft blanket and open up An Everlasting Meal, Cooking with Economy and Grace by Tamar Adler. The book was food for my soul (it is not explicitly a book addressing spirituality). We were considering leaving Denver, Colorado for the Bay Area of Northern California. The foggy cold with occasional bursts of midday sunshine fit my ambivalent feelings well. I had moved to Colorado eleven years prior to be with my husband. For eight of those eleven years I had been homesick. I was born and raised in Southern California. The opportunity that presented itself seemed like that “one and only chance” that I would have to return to the beauty and warmth in my memories of California. I had come to call Denver my home and had made many wonderful friends. Still the longing to escape what I found to be cold winters for winter warmth and summer beaches rose to the surface. Friends and transplants to Colorado from the East Coast laugh at my idea of cold winters, I know. We jumped in with both feet, as I always do (my husband being pulled in by me). “No regret” is pretty much a policy for me in life. Regret is wasted energy. I am very good at making lemonade. Go ahead! Give me your lemons! This is one of the bigger choices I (we) have made that I actually do regret. Not because I cannot handle all the change and that Northern California is not what I remember California to be like, but because the life my children had in Denver was the life I want for them. The life here is good in many ways. They are at one of the best schools in the state, but even I the education prophet have to concede that there are more important things in life than the scores your school gets. If we were childless, it wouldn’t matter as much. My husband and I could both adapt. Our children have adapted, but I don’t want them to. Our street is not treelined with kids running back and forth from one friend’s house to another. We cannot walk to school or more importantly to play dates. As the season cools and we are finally settled and settling. My heart turns to the therapy of soup and its foundation.
Vegetable stock has become a foundation in my cooking in an attempt to use less meat for environmental and health reasons. Tamar’s book is about using the “ends of the meals that come before them.” Since reading this book, I have been saving bits of carrot, onion (all types), parsley stems, carrot tops, apple cores, celery, yam, potato and squash peelings and vegetables that are just about to go bad (beyond fresh but before rot) in a plastic bag in the freezer (yes the same two emptied, washed and used again).
Now, if you are going to try this you have too know that each batch comes out differently and that you cannot expect consistency in taste. I make Scrappy Stock for environmental reasons and to pinch pennies. You can experiment with what goes in and what goes into the compost over time. We compost so one set of carrot tops is enough for a batch of stock. The rest feed the worms. Avoid bitter greens. Tomatoes change the taste of the stock drastically. Yams can add a profound sweetness.
You want everything you put into the freezer to be washed prior to tossing it in the bag. Washing is hopefully done before you start cutting up produce to cook a meal. I tend to cut out nasty pieces or the roots at the very ends of onions. It is laborious to remove all the dirt and the worms don’t mind the dirt when I toss it into the compost bin.
After a few weeks of freezer collection, I put it all into a tall 11Qt. stock pot. I pour warm water in just to cover, pressing the scraps down as I fill the pot. I put one full bag of vegetable scraps and one full bag of herb scraps and carrot tops in the pot with about seven quarts of water, a half tablespoon of peppercorns, one and a half tablespoons salt, a few cloves of garlic and two bay leaves. This batch yielded six and a half quarts.
Bring the water to a boil over high heat and then reduce the heat to simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes. The longer you simmer the stronger the stock. Strain into bowls through a fine mesh stainer or a coffee filter. The coffee filter gives you clearer broth as a result, but it is much more tedious and time consuming. Toss all the strained gunk into the compost. Once you are happy with the clarity and the broth has cooled, pour into freezer safe jars and freeze.
Previously, I used gallon size ziplock freezer bags to store the stock. I just switched to the glass freezer jars which I hope to be much more sustainable.
Recently, I heard an article on National Public Radio by Michael Krasny that “forty percent of food produced in the United States goes uneaten.”
Would this reduce your food waste in a manageable way?