Like many other Americans, I lost my job in March at the beginning of the pandemic.

With all of the newly-found free time on my hands, I decided to put some of my energy into cooking and baking with new recipes and internet-touted hacks. I tried getting on the sourdough train and learned the hard way that, yes, you really do need a dutch oven to make good sourdough. I learned methods for making desserts dairy-free for my intensely lactose intolerant boyfriend. My homemade pizza dough game was upped by letting it rest overnight so it doesn’t tear.

But, the single best cooking hack I discovered was with vegetable broth.

Yes, vegetable broth is super easy to make, and it’s not the first time I’ve done it – many of you have probably done it as well. I’ve always preferred this cheaper, if more time-consuming method than paying $4 for a single carton of broth. However, I always felt guilty about throwing away entire vegetables after letting them boil for broth. That is, until I figured out this hack.

Instead of using fresh vegetables, I keep a freezer bag full of vegetable scraps and freeze them until I have enough to make broth.

No more wasting entire vegetables or paying far more than broth is worth. Now, I’m using all of the bits of vegetables I would normally throw away to make some of the most delicious broth I’ve ever had.

The ends of vegetables, vegetable peelings, the stems, the nubs… All types of onions, all types of squash, carrots, celery, mushroom stems, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, eggplant, kale stems, garlic skin, kohlrabi, leeks, brussels sprouts, stems of herbs like parsley, thyme, and dill… Just throw all of your scraps in the freezer. 

Once I have a full bag, I dump them into a pot and fill the pot with water until there is about two inches of water above the submerged vegetables.

This will give mid-level flavor intensity. If you want it more flavorful, use less water, until there is about one inch of water above. If you want it thinner and milder in flavor, use more water – until there are maybe three or four inches of water on top. I used to add six or seven smashed cloves of garlic and a few bay leaves, but stopped doing that because those are flavors I like to add while I’m cooking whatever dish I’m using the broth in. I also refrain from adding salt because I like to control the amount of salt I’m using while cooking. Same goes for other strong flavors like lemon and lime. But, if you prefer to add these flavors directly into the broth, then go for it! 

Boil it for about half an hour to an hour with the lid on (you don’t want it to evaporate!) Then, let it sit a few hours so that the vegetables can steep. At that point, it should be cool enough to handle. Gather up the vegetables in your hands and squeeze all of the liquid out of them before throwing them away. A second cooking hack within this hack is to put the vegetables into cheesecloth and tie it up for easy removal. I don’t personally do this, but it probably makes it far easier and quicker.

After I have discarded the used veggie scraps, I strain the broth through a sieve to get rid of any small pieces. I usually divide it and store it in 32-oz soup containers. I freeze whatever I’m not using within the next three or four days. Since it’s homemade and contains no preservatives, it will go bad within a week. When I know I’ll need some for an upcoming recipe, I’ll stick a container in the refrigerator to defrost a day or two before.

Aside from the obvious soups and stews, I’ve been using the broth in so many dishes.

It’s great in place of water to cook grains like rice and barley, to thin out sauces that are simmering on the stove, and I’ve even used it to cook pasta. It’s deep, rich, and flavorful.

The last thing I’m going to add is about the celery. I know that there are many people with an aversion to this polarizing vegetable. But, to get that traditional brothy flavor, it does need some celery. Don’t get me wrong, it’ll still taste good if you don’t use celery, but it’ll be missing a very specific earthy, nostalgic, mom’s-best-recipe flavor if you choose to omit it. I promise, it doesn’t taste like you’re eating celery; it just adds that little something-something.

So, stop wasting those flavorful scraps and start putting them to use! It is a little bit time consuming, but so worth the time and effort. Let me know about your success with this cooking hack broth method!

 

Photo by Bluebird Provisions on Unsplash

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