Stock Oversaving?
January 25, 2014 3:10 PM   Subscribe

Settle an argument about making stock for cooking. One half says that you should save every odd and end from vegetables and keep them in a big ziploc bag in the freezer for when you make stock so it can get the most varied amount of flavor possible and "recycle" kitchen waste. Other half says that since we're not making vegetable stock and only ever make stock with left over bones you should just keep to the basic recipie ( carrots, onion, celery, etc) and not introduce all these unknown cauliflower ends and parsnip bits and it's a false economy anyway. Who is right? Is anyone right? Are they both right?
posted by The Whelk to Food & Drink (20 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Certain vegetables taste quite bad in stock - for instance, cabbage and broccoli. There's no point in making stock out of those vegetables if you want an edible stock.

I think this depends on what you're trying to make. For a chicken noodle soup, I don't want an aromatic stock with many vegetables. I want a simple stock that tastes like chicken. For a vegetable stew, a more complex stock is entirely appropriate.

A simple stock is compatible with more dishes than a more complex stock, so I'd go for "the other half's" stock. However, I tend to dislike dishes that are a mishmash of vegetable flavors.
posted by saeculorum at 3:18 PM on January 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

the cauliflower ends and parsnip bits will take up room in your stockpot which is better occupied by meat, water, herbs and peppercorns and the good, aromatic vegetables.
posted by bruce at 3:18 PM on January 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

I save carrot ends, bits of onion, celery, zucchini, peppers, mushrooms, etc. for my vegetable stock. I once tried making some stock with left-over kale - that was a mistake (the result was quite bitter). What I've read since suggests avoiding using the leafy vegetables.
posted by lharmon at 3:23 PM on January 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd keep cauliflower out of my stock. It tastes great on its own, but it doesn't play well with the other kids.
posted by musofire at 3:30 PM on January 25, 2014

Generally, cabbagey vegetables (brassica oleracea) such as leafy greens, broccoli, and cauliflower are a little overpowering for stocks.

I generally make combined chicken-vegetable stock, but I tend to use meat as an accent rather than the central ingredient, so my chicken stock based soups are usually pretty vegetably anyway. Your mileage may vary if you're making chickeny chicken soups.

So my answer is that it depends on what you are using the stock for, and on your own preferences. For most of the things I use it for, I prefer chicken-vegetable stock.
posted by ernielundquist at 3:48 PM on January 25, 2014

Settle an argument about making stock for cooking. One half says

unless you're going to go with a democracy decision, I don't think you've got a resolvable query here. By which I mean, I disagree with pretty much everybody so far. I do the freezer bag everything-that-isn't-made-of-plastic-don't-waste-anything thing ... and have never noticed a problem, nor had one pointed out to me (and trust me, the people I cook for would point it out).

Though to be clear, I generally don't go for anything too specific when I'm working with stock. It's just something I add to something -- usually a soup or some kind of slow cook mish-mash (is it still "correct" to call it peasant food?). I can see how a more defined recipe might get sidetracked by such a method.
posted by philip-random at 3:54 PM on January 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

I would only keep those to make vegetarian stock. Meat based stocks have fewer ingredients and are less haphazard as far as what they can accommodate. In any case, cauliflower is barely pleasant in vegetable soup, I wouldn't want to use it as a backbone in a beef or chicken stock, and parsnip is parsnip -- i.e., it's not a substitute for a carrot, it's woodsy and not so sweet, and it doesn't impart any color you'd want around.

But I guess the bottom line: have you tried both? Because while I think random vegetable scrap-keeping isn't a path to success in meat-based stocks, and apparently someone else does too, what the hell--you could try it both ways. Maybe they both have their uses? If you were going to try I'd try roasting the scraps in a roasting pan and then adding water, and then adding bones on the stove top, under the theory that roasting makes it all better.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:05 PM on January 25, 2014

Also, those scraps could be composted if Scrapsaver is kind of just a little frugal and iffy on adding things to landfill--just in case it's not that they really think it makes soup taste better but that they sort of like saving the little bits for future goodness.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:10 PM on January 25, 2014

Other half is right, imo. Some vegetables just don't make for tasty stock. Compost the broccoli/cauliflower/etc.
posted by lovecrafty at 4:10 PM on January 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is what I call the Recipe vs Garbage Scow debate, and you can guess what side I'm on. There are some things that are good in stock, and a lot of things that are weird in stock (especially any kind of brassica), and on top of that, vegetables start to get weird in the freezer unless they've been blanched first. A higher use of vegetable garbage is to feed it to your compost bin or your chickens, so you can later end up with truly delicious vegetables or eggs, instead of weird vegetable garbage stock.
posted by HotToddy at 4:10 PM on January 25, 2014

God, I'm sorry for the triple post: but to add to the roasting thing, you could also roast the bones with the scraps and run it all through a cheesecloth later.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:11 PM on January 25, 2014

Eh. I'm going to go the other way ... But we don't make meat stock - we only ever make veggie stock and then can it in jars. Moreover we almost always use stock in contexts where a melange of veggies work. We do in fact include ends of cruciferous veggies in our freezer stash but we'll usually leave out things like radish ends and greens. In our experience most flavors mellow out quite a bit.

That said, if you're looking for a precise flavor profile every time the ends of everything thing just isn't going to work. Which is why there are recipes for stock.
posted by R343L at 4:28 PM on January 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

My rule is "no cruciferous vegetables, no leafy greans, everything else goes in."
posted by KathrynT at 4:37 PM on January 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

We do both in our house. We save most veggie ends for veggie stock (usually not kale or cabbage, but mostly everything else), and then we buy carrots and onions and celery for our meat stocks. We usually have some of each thawed so we can use the right stock for the particular dish.
posted by freshwater at 4:47 PM on January 25, 2014

For me, it's not an all-or-nothing thing. Things that aren't "traditional" go in if they can: bell pepper cores, apple cores, and potatoes. I would include parsnips.

Things that might make the stock take bitter, like crucifers, stay out.
posted by grouse at 4:49 PM on January 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

I used to do this with leftover meat/veggie scraps, but honestly I've found it to not be significantly worth the time and freezer space vs buying some reasonably tasty stock or Better Than Bouillon. It did make me feel virtuous and thrifty, but ultimately I am now on the side of "false economy", unless you're cooking a LOT of veggies/meats.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 5:11 PM on January 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

Could you try it both ways? Make some effort to use about the same quantity and quality of bones in both batches. Not necessarily at the same time, although that would simplify the comparison.
posted by Bruce H. at 5:36 PM on January 25, 2014

I also used to do the "everything but the kitchen sink" stock process but gave up a few years ago. I found that the resulting stocks were just too random and often didn't taste right in certain recipes. (Also, I couldn't put the soggy lump of cooked mush in our compost bin because of the meat and bones.)

Random stock is fine for things that are already heavily flavored, like chile con carne, but can wreck more delicate dishes. To make a stock that's richly flavored of chicken (or whatever) requires a careful selection of specific ingredients and is just as expensive and labor-intensive as making a soup. So then I started saving my random stock for certain things and using commercial stock elsewhere and it just got too crazy-making.

On the whole, I'm much happier using Better Than Bouillon everywhere for its consistent taste and convenience. You can find large jars at food-service-oriented places (Smart & Final around here, maybe Costco in NYC?) that cost about $8 and last a long time.
posted by Quietgal at 5:50 PM on January 25, 2014

> (Also, I couldn't put the soggy lump of cooked mush in our compost bin because of the meat and bones.)

If your city offers compost/yard waste pickup, double check their rules to see if they've changed. Our public utility compost service started allowing meat and bones in with other food waste not too long ago.
posted by lovecrafty at 6:05 PM on January 25, 2014

This won't settle the argument, but I would say you're both on the right track. Both impulses are Good™ and should be fostered. But just like having one or two cats is a good impulse, you can quickly become an animal hoarder. I suggest a hybrid.

We kind of have a method going on at our house; we're thrifty to the max and hate throwing things out. We use trimmings and leftovers, but only within the recipe that we're using. A good stock can make life beautiful, but an unbalanced thrown together stock (with things, as mentioned upstream, like broccoli and cauliflower…or heaven forbid brussel sprouts, which I have a deep love for, but are horrific in stock) can ruin a meal in short order.

We make lots of different stocks and broths, but rarely are they strictly veg-only. It's a dark day when there is no broth in the fridge. For example, we follow recipes, but we still save everything that could possibly be used in said broths/stocks. Ramen stock uses a BUNCH of the following, so we save as much of it as we can:
-The butts and trimmings of shiitakes from every dinner ever? In a zip-loc in the freezer.
-The butts of every. single. green onion? Freezer.
-Trimmings of less than perfect chanterelles when they're in season? Freezer.
-Chicken feet (they don't lop them off at the asian grocery store we shop at)? Freezer.
-Pork skin and random chunks of trimming? Freezer.

When it comes time to make my ramen stock, I break into this zone and empty out the weights I need. I sometimes have to break out dried or other fresh ingredients to get proper proportions, but its a pretty happy medium. Rarely is a stock made without breaking into the freezer stash. I mean, the green onions are kind of stupid, because they're like .30 cents a bunch at the asian market, but we buy them every week anyway…so probably false economy. However, the ends and trimmings of chanterelles?

Holy sweet goddamn. After a season of hunting, we have enough to brighten up a shitty, lame-ass stock and turn it into velvety glorious mushroom stock that you're soon finding yourself trying to mainline. They're also stupid expensive if you buy them. Even those little nubbins would add up.

Same thing with the chicken feet; they're nothing on their own, but they make the most glorious gelatinous chicken stock or ramen broth around. They're worthless on their own, but totally worth saving to use later. It's a pretty good system, and it takes the pressure off of the 'throw nothing away, or we're going to starve' lobe of my brain. But we also don't end up eating gross stock.

If you need to keep meat and bones away from the rest of the stuff if your municipality doens't allow such items in your compost; get one of these badboys at your nearest brew supply store. We have one specifically for straining out Bonito flakes out of all sorts of broth. It makes it really easy to compost the rest of the stuff, but still allow that lovely liquid to do its work.

Sweet jesus I love stock.
posted by furnace.heart at 6:40 PM on January 25, 2014 [10 favorites]

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