Soup

Broth Basics

Stop throwing out your scraps! Make soup instead!

One of the goals of this feature is to make sure that we cut down on our waste and save some money.  In pursuit of that goal, it is essential that we give you a simple broth recipe.  Broth is literally made from what you would otherwise throw out.  Your would-be garbage (or compost, for you gardeners), can be turned into delicious and versatile broth with very little effort.  You literally just need a pot and some foresight to save your scraps.

If you’re going to start making broth, I strongly urge that you get a good stock pot.  Stock pots are usually taller, high walled pots with a lid and can be found anywhere from 6 to 20 quarts in capacity.  They get bigger, but a 20-quart pot gets stirred with a paddle, not a spoon. You don’t need that much. My kitchen, for my and my fiancée, has a 10-quart pot.  Is it big? Yes.  Am I ever going to tell you that you need 10 quarts of something for one meal in this feature? No.  Do I think you should have one pot with a large capacity for things like broth? You bet your biscuits.

While most of the things we go over here are focused on smaller scale recipes, broth is something you can make in bulk and easily store long term in the freezer with almost no loss of quality or taste.  It’s also a common foundation for a lot of soups and stews, and honestly, you should probably try cooking rice in broth instead of water next time you make rice.  So, it can be a smart strategy to ensure that you have enough on hand if you need it, because 10 cups of broth are just enough to a soup for two to three people with left overs – so we’re not that far out or bounds by getting a larger pot.

That all said, here is this month’s recipe for our basic chicken stock (stock technically uses bones, broth doesn’t – they’re interchangeable though).  One of the first things you might note is that there really aren’t many quantities listed in the ingredients list, and that’s by design.  Because broth is something that’s made from scraps, “Gallon freezer bag of vegetable peels” doesn’t equate out well to “1 carrot.”  I did put some quantities in the notes of the recipe, but this is something that you might just kind of guess and test, and that’s ok.  It’s still going to taste great.  So, when you’re making other dishes that might call for things like onions, carrots, etc. – don’t throw out any unused bits.  Peels you might cut off carrots, the heels and root ends of celery and onions, bits of loose mushroom can all be saved and used for your stock.  Put it in a freezer bag if you don’t have enough right now and just freeze it until you do.  When you’re ready to make your stock, just drop it in the pot.

The next thing you’ll want to note is that when we call for chicken scraps, we literally mean your chicken scraps.  If you just had a cookout and have a bunch of bones left over from your chicken, as long as they are clean, you can absolutely use them. The same thing goes for uneaten/unused chicken that was trimmed for being too fatty or too tough.  As long as someone didn’t put it in their mouth, you can use it.  Drop it in your bag of veggie scraps and keep it in the freezer for up to 6 months.  Also, let’s say you want beef broth instead.  Just use beef scraps and bones instead of chicken and do everything else the same.  It’s important to note for beef broth that bones with good marrow content in it (like short rib or knuckle) will give you the best results for beef broth.  Regardless of meat type, you’ll want a good amount.  Roughly five pounds for ten cups worth of broth will be ideal.

Last, it needs to be noted that we aren’t aiming to boil the broth at the highest heat possible.  We want to bring the broth to a boil first, then reduce the heat to a steady simmer.  Simmers are gentle bubbling instead of vigorous, rolling boils.  Boiling to harshly can break down the bones too much and leave gritty pieces in the final product.  Simmering will be much more effective at pulling the flavors out of the scraps for a tasty finished product.  If you want a veggie broth only, avoid the meat scraps and add in more vegetables like button mushrooms.

That’s it.  It’s that easy.  Save your scraps and then throw them in a pot with some herbs, salt, and pepper.  Making your own broth will get you flavors that you simply cannot get at the grocery store with store bought broths like Swanson.

Some notes to send you on your way:

  1. Avoid using veggies like brussels sprouts, artichokes, and cabbage.  When simmered, their flavor is overpowering.  If you’re adventurous, you can try this for making your own dishes, but it won’t do if you’re trying to get a basic broth.
  2. The best starters for broth will be celery, mild tasting mushrooms like buttons or baby bella, carrots, onions, and potatoes.
  3. You can add onion skins to your broth, just be aware that it will potentially make the stock a darker brown color instead of light golden.  This is purely cosmetic; it will not affect the taste.  Same thing for red onions.  Red onions will give you purple/brown broth, but it tastes great.
  4. Broth is versatile.  You can just sip on it in place of hot coffee, it works as the base of soups, can flavor grain-based dishes like stuffing or rice, make gravy, work in marinades, or reheat left over stir fries.
  5. If you’ve made a broth that produced a lot of fat, you can easily remove it by refrigerating the liquid.  The fat will pool at the top and then harden, at which point you can just scoop it out with a spoon.

Enjoy!

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