Kitchen Hack, Volume III: How to Easily Save Peels for Stock
If you haven't figured this out by now, I am a meticulous and compulsive person. I have trouble doing things I think I ought to be doing unless I've figured out a logical procedure for it. And until I wrap my head around that procedure, I do things--as I see them--the wrong way and get aggravated about it until I figure out the right way to do them. Friends, your idiosyncrasies are also known as your personality, so be at peace with them.
Today's logical triumph has to do with how to save vegetable peelings for stock. It seems like an easy enough task, but I see a huge investment of time and effort. I usually don't wash my carrots or potatoes before I peel them, so to save the peelings I first have to add another step of scrubbing the produce. Then, I have to save the peelings. Not a big deal if you're cooking in my mother-in-law's constantly perfectly clean kitchen. (Seriously; you could serve gazpacho from her sink.) But in my kitchen, it's a fair bet that the sink will need to be 1) emptied of dishes, 2) scrubbed with Comet, 3) doused in vodka and lit aflame before you'd want to put anything in it that you plan to cook later. Which makes for five extra steps and frankly, that's past my limit even if I drink the vodka while I wait for the sink to flame. So how to set up a space to clean vegetables and save the peels for their super-frugal use in stock without having to spend all night and clean the whole kitchen?
1. Get a big bowl. I mean BIG. Something you'd use to raise bread dough in.
2. Find a place for a cutting board right next to the sink. Any sink. Do this in the bathtub, at the vanity, in your laundry room, outside on the patio with a garden hose, whatever.
3. Have your vegetable brush, paring knife, and peeler at the ready.
4. Get a bowl, a plastic grocery sack, or if you can swing it, an empty sink to save bits that should actually be thrown away such as mushy spots or carrot tops.
Now don't think I don't know that the photo above suggests that my sinks are always empty. That's because this photo was taken Saturday, and the sinks are always empty for about 8 minutes every Saturday after I do the dishes and before I dirty them all up again cooking. This method will work with my typical two sinks full of the week's dishes.
1. Wash and scrub produce, then place on the cutting board.
2. Place your big bowl anyplace you've got a clear space, preferably near the sink. You could put it on the top rack of the dishwasher if you wanted. I won't judge.
3. Peel the vegetables into the big bowl, then put the peeled bits back on the cutting board.
Ta da! Now not only do you have your nice, cleaned potatoes, carrots, or celery (cut the dirt off the solid base and save the tops and leaves) ready for whatever you're planning, but you have a nice, clean bowl of clean peels to use in chicken, beef or vegetable stock. Really the only extra effort is to scrub the goods first, but the more I read the more I'm starting to believe that you really ought to scrub first anyways to keep from embedding dirt or bacteria from the peels into the meat.