(Note: while Jer is recovering from the tendonitis, I’m doing the best thing I know to take care of him: make really yummy food and watch sci-fi with him. And pray. Your prayers are appreciated.)
In my quest to be both frugal and creative in my cooking and baking experiments, I am making more and more staples from scratch. Most recently I have begun creating my own chicken stock and vegetable stock. This had always seemed to me to be a huge project, not worth the cost and effort when there were cans of Swanson goodness waiting on the grocery store shelves. But I have seen the light.
I roasted a chicken the other day (another cooking activity which is much easier than I always thought it was) and set about carving the bird and using the carcass for stock. Literally, it is as easy as cutting the chunks of meat off, tossing the carcass in a big pot with some herbs, onion, garlic, celery, and carrot, bringing it to a low boil, and then simmering for a couple hours. Let cool in the fridge, and the next day you can skim off the fat and strain the broth. Not only is it super flavorful, but you can easily get a couple of quarts of broth for practically nothing. (On average, cans of broth are usually around a dollar each for 14-16 oz, or about two cups. I made about 10 cups of stock with leftover veggies and bones. The chicken itself was less than a dollar a pound and the four pound bird lasted for several meals.)
After that great success, I decided to try out another tip. To make stock, you don’t even need vegetables in good shape. You can use tops of celery and carrots, tops of onions, the tiny little garlic cloves from the center of the bulb, and other random bits. You can also check the fresh herbs section at the store and see what they have-I got a couple packages of fresh oregano and marjoram for 49 cents each (regularly $2). I started keeping cutoff parts of vegetables from my everyday cooking in a tupperware in the fridge. After a few days I had a nice little pile of castoffs. I tossed them in a pot with some of the herbs and a little salt and pepper, brought it to a boil, simmered for 45 minutes, then cooled and strained (you can strain it right away since there is no fat to skin off). Voila-vegetable broth from what would have ended up in the garbage or compost.
I’m a believer. No more canned broth for me! And this success in the ingredients-from-scratch field has emboldened me to try other ideas. Check out this article on homemade pantry staples. I think I am going to give homemade yogurt a try!