Vegetable Scrap Broth

I have to admit, I’m both saddened and embarassed at the amount of vegetable scraps that I have let go to waste in my lifetime. They deserved so much more respect than I gave them. Yes, scraps.

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For years, vegetable peels and trimmings made their way into the garbage, discarded and disrespected. When the Old Man and I moved to this house and started our journey into large scale gardening, those scraps were given a little more due process by being added to our compost pile. We recognized the value of the nutrients they would contribute to future plants. But that still wasn’t enough.

Over the past few years, I’ve been hearing about people using these scraps to make broth with. I had been using leftover meat bones for making broth for a long time already, but never added anything other than water. My goal with the broth I make was to use up something that would be otherwise tossed and extract as much flavor out of it as possible before adding it to the compost pile. I don’t like using whole chunks of meat for this because it seems so wasteful. Boiled meat just isn’t appealing after the flavor and texture has been drained away.

The resulting liquid is great for adding more flavor to dishes like soups, rice, and pasta even though the taste is rather mild. By having a plain meat broth, I had something that was versatile and wouldn’t overwhelm the dishes I was making. However, there are times when that extra flavor that vegetables would give was desireable.

The problem is that most recipes for broth and stock have you use whole vegetables and herbs and then, get this, THROW THEM AWAY. Uh… no. There’s so much food waste in this world and I have a serious problem with it. I can’t justify using carrots and onions without eating as much of it as possible. Scraps like onion and garlic skins, carrot peels, and trimmed bottoms of celery are the perfect answer. But there was another problem. Of course.

I didn’t often have enough vegetable scraps available when I was ready to make bone broth, and didn’t always have enough bones when I had enough vegetable “trash”. Finally a lightbulb went off in my head and I realized I had been foolishly making this harder than I needed to. No one said they all had to go in the pot together. I could make bone broth, and then get this… make vegetable broth separately. Duh.

I now will use a mixture of bone broth and vegetable broth in my recipes. I like the fact that I can customize how much of each I decide to use and can match the flavor of bone broth to the type of meat or vegetables I’m using. I also have flexibility in making dishes completely vegetarian for those Lenten periods where we are fasting from animal products. And to think I could have been doing this all along. Better late than never?

Some quick notes before you begin.

Clearly, the expectation is not that you will make broth every time you peel a carrot. Just like I do with my bones for broth, I keep a container in the freezer for holding onto those veggie scraps until I have enough material to be worthwhile.

Prepared broth can be either frozen or canned if you have the materials. The advantage of canning is that the broth is now shelf-stable and doesn’t occupy freezer space. The advantage of freezing is that it doesn’t require canning equipment or storage space for the jars. Do whatever works for you!

Not all vegetable material will be good for making broth. Some things will give either an “off” or bitter flavor. The recipe below includes some common items that are good to go, as well as those that aren’t.

Don’t use material that you trimmed away because of mold or that was otherwise spoiled. It’s not only a flavor issue, but possibly a safety issue. Portions that simply dried out, but weren’t otherwise bad, should be okay to use.

Make sure to wash any material that you are intending to use. Dirt is not a good flavor, and just like rotten parts, could also harbor harmful materials.

Depending on your scraps used, your broth may end up with small debris that can pass through a strainer. It is up to you to decide how much you care about this. If it is a lot, or something you don’t want you can strain your liquid through either a “tea towel” type cloth (I use muslin cloth towels that are slightly dampened with water), or a coffee filter. Be sure to strain all the large solids first, otherwise the process will be painfully slow.

The scraps are good to go in the garden after they have cooled. They still have valuable nutrients that your plants will love.

Vegetable Scrap Broth Recipe

  • Difficulty: far easier than I convinced myself it would be
  • Print

Click the picture above to easily pin this recipe!

Ingredients

Use any combination of the following types of materials. The more variety you have, the better the overall flavor will be!

  • onion, shallot, and garlic peels and trimmed cores/roots/stems
  • trimmings from leeks and green onions (scallions)
  • celery stalks, leaves, and base
  • green stems from herbs like parsley, basil, oregano, etc.
  • peels from carrots and parsnips
  • water used from steaming vegetables (but avoid those listed below)
  • trimmed material from tomatoes (you may want to keep this to a minumum to prevent it from overwhelming the flavor of your broth)
  • trimmed material from summer squashes like zuchinni, crookneck, patty pan, etc
  • uncooked peels from winter squashes like pumpkins, acorn squash, butternut, etc (though you may want to taste test these first to see if this would be a good addition for you, also be aware that some may have a wax coating that should not be a part of your broth)
  • anything else that does not have the potential to be overbearing or bitter

Avoid the following:

  • anything from the brassica family which includes kale, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, etc. as these will make your broth bitter (trust me, I tried)
  • anything overly starchy like water used for soaking beans, corn cobs, and potato peels because these can cause bloating and gas in some individuals and don’t impart the kind of flavor best for broth
  • strong flavored items like beets and spinach, a little is okay but they will add a distinct flavor that may clash with other ingredients
  • anything else that you just wouldn’t associate with being good in a broth

Directions

I will usually start this process once I’ve filled an 8 cup container with material. However, I may wait longer if I don’t have a lot of variety or if my container is filled mostly with water from steaming vegetables (which won’t impart that much flavor). Your needs may obviously vary from mine.

Once you have enough material and variety of scraps, simply put them in a pot with enough water to cover everything. Cover the pot and bring almost to a boil. Then turn down the heat and simmer for an hour or until you’ve reached your desired strength. I look for a dark, golden brown color like what you see in the picture.

Unlike with bone broth where you want to simmer until any meat and cartilage has broken down, you don’t want to do the same with your vegetable scraps. If they are cooked too long, the broth can become bitter.

Add water as needed to replace any lost to steam and to adjust to the strength you want. You could add seasonings like salt and pepper, or you could wait till you use the broth in a dish and adjust those spices then.

Allow the liquid to cool and then strain out the large solids with a strainer or colander. The solids will have retained a lot of water, so you may want to let the liquid drain for a while (usually an hour is plenty of time). Filter further through cloth or coffee filter as desired. Your broth is now ready to be used, frozen, or canned!

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