I’ll be honest: We’re not exactly the thriftiest cooks when it comes to using scraps and leftovers.
Trust me, I wish we were. Aren’t farm wives supposed to be skilled at saving every last hunk of bread or scrap of meat and turning it into comforting bread pudding or savory stew – or, at the very least, throwing out the scraps to the chickens in the yard? (Alas, we no longer have chickens to throw scraps to – but even when we did, I was quite forgetful about sharing my scraps with them).
While we’re quite adept at weekly meal planning and try our best to limit our waste, we are too often guilty of throwing away parts that could be reused in another way. One way we’ve learned to improve in this area, however, is by freezing scraps of meat and vegetables and making our own broth.
If you’ve never made homemade broth, you’ll find it’s so simple you’ll wonder why you ever made soup any other way. All you do is take water and add beef or poultry bones (or keep it purely vegetable-based for a vegetarian broth) and add a variety of vegetables and herbs and seasonings – onions, garlic, carrots, celery, leeks, shallots, thyme, parsley, bay leaves, black pepper, red pepper flakes, etc. – and then let it simmer all day. The longer you let it sit, the more flavor, color, richness and aroma it develops.
One favorite trick we’ve learned is to take a large freezer bag and put any clean vegetable scraps in there – peelings from carrots and potatoes, leftover herbs that need to be used before they go bad, onion skins, parsnips, celery leaves and any other kitchen scrap that I can find that wouldn’t taste out of place in a basic broth. Stay away from vegetables that might make your broth taste bitter – I’d leave out cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower, for example. Keep these frozen until the bag is full; then it’s time to make another batch of broth. We do the same thing with the bones from the meat we cook – just keep the bones from different meats separated in individual bags.
After you’ve put together your broth and let it simmer long enough, don’t forget to drain the liquid into a bowl, not the sink! One thing I’m always afraid I will do is get distracted and discard the liquid and keep the solids, as we so often do when we use a colander. Be sure to pay attention, or you will left with wilted vegetables and lose all of that delicious liquid you waited so long to get.
Now that your broth is prepared, it’s time to use it. One of our favorite soups to make with this chicken broth is a flavorful chicken noodle soup. Now, this is nothing like the salty, processed chicken noodle soup you will find in cans at the grocery store. No, this uses plenty of hearty fresh vegetables, perfectly roasted meat and thick noodles (we like to use the Amish Kitchen extra-wide egg noodles, but anything will work here).
And don’t forget, broth can easily be canned or frozen to save for future use. To freeze, just pour into freezable containers or fill small freezer bags mostly full with broth, removing any excess air before sealing it shut. Lay bags on a cookie sheet and freeze for several hours until firm, and then stack in freezer as desired.
You can also freeze the chicken noodle soup. Just prepare the soup but leave out the egg noodles, lemon and parsley. Freeze in the same manner as the broth, then when ready to use, thaw, and proceed as the recipe dictates with the remaining ingredients. Season to taste and serve.
Ultimate Chicken Broth
2 medium-large yellow onions, unpeeled, halved
4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed a little
2 large carrot
2 celery rib
4 qt. water
2 lb. chicken bones (from about 2 carcasses leftover from a roast or rotisserie)
1 Tbsp. kosher salt (or to taste)
½ tsp. dried thyme or 2 tsp. chopped fresh
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 bay leaf
Combine all ingredients in a large (6-8 qt.) stock pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer, skim the foam and cover. Simmer for 2-8 hours. Using a fine mesh colander, drain broth into a large bowl (NOT in the sink!) and then return broth to pot.
Chicken Noodle Soup
Broth from above recipe
Better than Bouillon (optional)
Meat pulled from one rotisserie chicken (or 3 bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves, cooked)
5 large carrots, peeled and diced or 1 large carrot and 1 large parsnip, diced
2 large leeks, trimmed and sliced into ½-inch segments
4 celery ribs, chopped or diced
6-9 oz. egg noodles or soup noodles of your choice
½ lemon (or 1 full lemon, depending on your taste)
2 Tbsp. finely-chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Sauté diced vegetables in olive oil until slightly softened. Add warm broth and a spoonful of Better than Bouillon to pot and simmer for about 5 minutes, until firm-tender. Add soup noodles and cook to package instructions (usually 6-10 minutes). After noodles are cooked, return to soup and simmer for 2 minutes, until heated through. Squeeze in fresh lemon juice and stir. Sprinkle with chopped parsley. Season to taste and serve.
Modified slightly from: http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2015/01/my-ultimate-chicken-noodle-soup/