Zero Waste Broth

Someone asked me the other day, what I used in my soup broth to make it so flavourful. My answer was short, “Whatever was in the fridge that needed to be used up”. They seemed a bit shocked that I didn’t use a purchased bouillon or powdered spice packet. I explained that at times I add umami with those items but not very often. I’d much rather build my own broth with ingredients that I have on hand. I thought today was a good opportunity to gather my broth making knowledge and put it into a blog post for anyone to read.

Each morning, I ask myself what is in the fridge that needs to be used up? This is typically how I start all of my meals for the day. Currently, I am cooking for everyone in a household of four working adults and two constantly grazing children. There always seems to be a bit of leftover this, or an extra portion of that. Rarely do they want to eat the same thing two or three days in a row, so I repurpose the food intentionally.

I’m an avid compost maker but I would much rather feed us with our hard earned food dollars than the worms. They are at the bottom of the barrel so to speak 😉 With that in mind, many vegetable peelings, leftovers and scraps get used in my broths, gravy bases and to make cooking water for rice or noodles. After most of the goodness is cooked out, I send the remaining bits to our compost bins. (which are locally made in Port Coquitlam)

On this particular day, I wanted to clean and chop vegetables for snack packages. I don’t typically use plastic ziplock bags. However, we were expecting extra people to drop by this weekend and so I wanted to have individual portions on hand. Gone are the days of offering a large vegetable platter that everyone grabs from and talks over. The pandemic has changed many things.

Containers of ready-to-grab fruit and vegetables are staples in our house
While making vegetable sticks for snack packs, I put peelings in the stock pot.

The celery was looking tired with some brown spots. Any areas that looked particularly bad went into the compost pail but most were just scratches that had browned due to air exposure. After thoroughly washing, I trimmed those ends off and added them to the stock pot. The blemish free celery was reserved for raw eating. I repeated the process for the carrots by sending the dirty ends to the compost pail and giving the remainder a good scrub. The clean carrots were peeled into the stock pot. Sometimes I don’t peel carrots before eating them raw but this batch was bit beyond its prime.

I chopped some of the celery, and a large carrot, to set aside. I planned to add that to the broth after it finishes simmering and gets strained. I also chopped some celery and green onions to mix with chicken for chicken salad sandwiches and thirdly, I filled nine snack bags with equal portions of celery and carrots. I had a small bunch of broccoli to add to the veggie baggies. Any broccoli stalk that I trimmed off went into the chopped bowl, which I’ll eventually use in the soup.

Onions were next on my list. Onion skins are brilliant for adding flavour and rich colour to any broth. I made sure they were clean and cut off the root end for the compost pail. I chopped the inner onion for the soup vegetable bowl.

I also had leftover roasted chickens from the evening before. Rather than leave carcasses in the fridge to be picked at for salads and sandwiches, I find it easier to take a few minutes and remove all the meat. The bones can be frozen for future broth making, or as in this case, I started a pot to simmer on the back burner.

Deboning the chicken is an easy process when the meat has cooled in the fridge overnight. I set my containers up in this order so that I can grab piece on the right. Drop the meat in the centre container and toss bones, skin, etc to the left stock pot.

For additional flavour, I added three cloves of my homegrown garlic (skin and all) and a shrivelled piece of ginger. At this point I thought my chicken broth would head in an Asian direction!

One final check through the fridge revealed a soft, over-ripe tomato and a jalapeño rolling around in the bottom of the crisper drawer. Both were washed, checked for mold and then tossed into the stock pot.

Stock pot of vegetable peelings and chicken bones simmering on the back burner

As the covered stock pot simmered I gave it a stir every 30 minutes or so. I could have used a crockpot, or an Instapot, but I prefer the small burner on my gas range for this sort of thing. After 2 hours I strained the broth through a colander into a large bowl. Make sure you have large bowl under the colander! I hate to admit it but I once poured a beautiful broth down the drain because I wasn’t paying attention 🙁

The cooked down vegetables and chicken bones were pulverized in an old food processor and then added to my compost pile. I realize that not everyone can, or should, compost bones but it is something that I do on a regular basis without incident. The puree is always covered with a layer of brown leaves that I collect and stockpile each fall.

This particular broth was almost perfect tasting after straining. I did add a splash of soy sauce (for salt) and a few turns from the pepper grinder. On other occasions I have swished some water into condiment containers and added that to broths. Leftover BBQ sauce, ketchup, salsa, teriyaki sauce, etc can all be good until the last drop!

I added the chopped celery, carrot, onion, and broccoli stalk pieces to the strained broth and put it back on the range to simmer. Once the vegetables were cooked, I added a few handfuls of frozen potstickers and let that cook for an additional 10 minutes. Served with fresh cilantro and green onion slivers for a fabulous evening soup.

Let me know what creations you make on your zero waste broth adventures!

4 thoughts on “Zero Waste Broth

    • Thank you Ina!
      We miss the Valley and our neighbours too. It’s been a bittersweet move to Coquitlam. If our grandkids weren’t so darn cute we’d still be in Comox!

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