Ever since I started cooking, I end up throwing away leftover ingredients. Doing this always feels somewhat heartbreaking because I’m not only cheap and environmentally conscious but also that there’s flavor there I won’t ever experience. In today’s post, I will discuss three ways to utilize your ingredients in a different way to enhance flavor, minimize waste, and save you some money. Let’s get started.
Food Scraps Make Great Stock
As I got more into cooking, I discovered the difference it makes cooking with stock. With stock, you can make fluffy scrambled eggs, more flavorful rice and sauces, and of course, excellent soups. Therefore, I saw myself buying more boxes of ‘low sodium’ stocks from the grocery store. But then, one day, I saw Massimo Bottura making a stock out of his vegetable peels, and I decided to give it a try. The result was incredible. Then, I got the itches, and I decided to try everything before throwing it into the compost. Green onion roots, onion and carrot peels, root vegetable fronds, and more taste equally amazing! So before disposing, there’s no harm in setting up a pot of boiling water and boiling your scraps for stock.
The same principle applies to bones and skin. Have you ever noticed that boneless, skinless chicken pieces cost more than their bone-in and skin-on counterparts? So, why not maximize your yield while minimizing your cost by using a knife? Even better if you buy a whole bird! I will share more insight when it comes to skin.
Take Advantage of By-Products
In the last section, I discussed buying a whole chicken. There’s so much you can do with it, even if you’re single. For example, you could break it apart and freeze its components to have them ready to go. Then, make pate with the liver, or quickly saute the heart.
Even if you don’t like to eat the skin of the chicken, you could render its fat on low heat in a pan and then use it for cooking the meat; this way, you avoid adding extra oil to your preparation and enjoy a much more pure flavor. This principle of rendering fats applies to many scraps, like steak or pork fat trimmings; instead of buying tallow or lard, you could quickly render it, strain it, and even store it for longer-term at room temperature. For example, I like to save bacon fat and add it when I bake sandwich rolls; it adds mystical flavor.
Finally, do you have fruit peels? While you can’t make stock with them, you can boil them in a little water, add sugar, maybe some pectin, wait until it thickens, and voilá, marmalade, or jam.
Freeze or Dry Your Perishables
Many times, you buy herbs or other components that wilt quickly. While wilted herbs lose their visual appeal as garnishes, they still preserve the flavor. A quick 30 seconds in the microwave will leave your herbs in a dried state; then, you can grind them and save them for later flavoring. Other herbs that don’t dry well, like cilantro or basil, can be placed in ice cubes, and later on, you can use them in sauces or stocks. They will dissolve, but they will keep their flavor.
There are many delicate fruits, including all berries, that you can buy at peak ripeness and freeze before they lose their flavor. The same principle applies to peas, spinach, and other greens. Bread freezes so well too! Not ready to make stock? You can also freeze your food scraps and start accumulating them until you’re ready! The key message is to befriend your freezer.
Finally, if you invest in a food dehydrator, you get additional possibilities. Pit and dehydrate cherries, plums, pineapple slices, or citrus. Make jerky, and much more!
Minimizing waste allows us to optimize our food budget while taking some small care for the planet. I hope you find these tips helpful, and you get to implement them while cooking.
I close my post with this, but I’d like to know your favorite ways of getting more from your ingredients. So please let me know in the comments section below.