I don’t normally do this – boil my garbage I mean – but I did, and could not have been more pleased with the results.
A mountain of vegetable scraps had been accumulating, and this time, rather than haul them off to the farmers market – where they do the composting, so that I can say I compost, even though all I do is hand them wet garbage - I decided to make stock.
The first time you do it, you might feel a bit odd, which is normal, since it is not normal to stir egg shells and apple cores in a cauldron like a witch. But here’s what you get in return:
- The most nutritious, delicious stock, not replicable in a tin or Tetra Pak
- The knowledge that you kept vitamins out of the landfill and ate them
- The sheer perverse delight of boiling your garbage
Here’s how to do it:
1) Collect the scraps. (I keep them in a bag in the freezer, as seen in photo above.) Use vegetable and fruit remnants (you might want to limit it to apple and pear as citrus does not work so well, nor do banana peels), wilted spinach, lifeless celery, egg shells (they release calcium when cooked) and any chicken carcasses or piles of bones you have lying about (unless you’re going the veggie-stock route). (Avoid any vegetables that have really gone “off” as well as any food with mold or any skins that are flavorless eg.avacado.)
2)To the scraps add: 1 medium onion chopped, 1 large carrot chopped, 1 celery stalk, 2 cloves diced garlic, 1 tbsp oil (oil soaks up flavor better than water), 1 tsp vinegar (helps release calcium from egg shells and minerals from meat bones), a dash of oregano, thyme and rosemary, plus 3 bay leaves and salt&pepper. Throw it all into a large pot, add enough water to cover the scraps and simmer for an hour. (Bring it first to a boil, then turn way down. Do not cover as this will allow for greater evaporation and flavor concentration.)
3) Once it’s cooked, pour it through a sieve…
4) And you’re left with stock! The dark brown spots are the oil and the purple tint is from the purple kale stems that were in the “garbage”.
Don’t worry if the stock doesn’t taste like something you’d want to make a meal of – you’re using it as a base for soup, to which you can add all sorts of other flavors when the time comes.
When you’re done, take the thoroughly expired, anemic scraps - boiled beyond recognition, and drop them in the compost.
A few other interesting bits of trivia about food waste*:
- Americans throw away at least 25% of all food bought. (It doesn’t help that refrigerators sold today, are 50% larger than they were in 1992.)
- Food comprises nearly 20% of landfills
- Food scraps are one of the worst things to put in a landfill, as rotting food releases methane, a greenhouse gas 20x more potent than CO2. (Food that “rots” in a composter gives off CO2 not methane. Methane is produced when no oxygen is present, i.e. in landfill conditions.)
- There is no correlation between income and food waste – when it comes to giving to the landfill, turns out we’re all equally generous
- Only 3% of food waste is composted (comparatively, 64% of paper is recycled**)
So gather your wilted spinach and egg shells and make soup!
Any other tips on stock making, or other “home made” foods that most of us would never consider attempting?
* These stats come from, American Wasteland, a new book that dives deep into the American garbage can.
** American Forest & Paper Association, 2009
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