Chicken broth is an ingredient in roughly half of my freezer meal recipes. It’s not a terribly expensive ingredient – if you’re just cooking up one meal at a time. But if you need several cups per recipe and you’re preparing a whole month’s worth of freezer meals, the cost really starts to add up! And of course there is also the question of all the added sodium in commercial broths, which many of us would be happy to avoid.
The simple solution is to make your own broth. Homemade broths and soup stocks are easy enough to make, and if you learn a few easy tips you can pretty much make them for free. But forget the complex Julia Childs recipes! This isn’t gourmet cooling; it’s a matter of survival for your family. You do what you’ve gotta do, and you save the fancy stock recipes for times when you can afford to splurge.
Free Sources for Broth Ingredients
- Vegetable peels and scraps: scrub veggies well so you can save the peels and end bits for your soup bag – just store in a zipped bag in the freezer until it’s time to make broth;
- Cooking liquids: when you boil/steam veggies or have cooking liquid left after boiling a ham, pour this tasty stuff into Mason jars and freeze until you cook up your broth;
- Canning liquids: If you drain a can of tomatoes or olives before adding to a recipe, save the liquid to add to broths or other recipes;
- Bones and skin: Whenever you roast chicken, beef, pork or lamb, save the discarded bones, skin and such, and freeze in labelled bags – now you can make a meat stock!
- Meat trimmings: The bits of fatty or gristly meat you trim off are good for adding flavour to a broth.
Basically, take any opportunity you have to save the “inedible” bits when you prepare your food. Even onion skins and potato peels can be added to your soup bag, in small quantities. They will give your broth a darker colour and richer flavour, so they’re especially good if you want to make a beef or lamb broth.
Remember to add in things like the leaves from the stalks of celery, or the carrot and beet tops (if you don’t use them in your cooking as is.) If you remove the stems from broccoli, spinach, kale, etc., add these to your soup bag as well. The same goes for herbs: if you have just a tiny bit of parsley leftover after making tabouleh, or stems from rosemary or thyme, toss them in the soup bag too!
When you need broth for a recipe, just pull out a soup bag and plop its contents into a heavy stock pot. Cover about halfway up with water and/or reserved cooking liquids, and simmer with the lid on for a few hours to extract the flavour. If you have bones or meat cooking liquids saved up, use these to make a meat stock instead of a vegetable broth.
Broth means you’ve used vegetables with or without chopped bits of meat
To make stock, you must have bones to provide the marrow and gelatin that thickens the stock
Featured Image Credit: Making stock by Steve Buissinne (aka stevepb,) courtesy of Pixabay; CC0