you won’t catch me posting complex recipes or really pretty pictures of daintily garnished food much around here, because in the kitchen, i am a pragmatic kinda gal. often quinn and i catch meals in a fairly haphazard manner, frequently in the car on the way to our next activity, so we often eat easily transportable things- made as some form of pizza or sandwich or wrap, or in a bowl in a format a friend of mine once dubbed “hippie glop”. so my angle on the food subject, i’ve decided, is just that: the hippie glop gourmet. the focus is more on self-sufficiency, waste reduction and saving energy. while i may at some point post on using csa veggies creatively this is motivated again from the waste reduction standpoint, and you will have to look elsewhere for the skinny on how to make it all taste good! i think i am adequate as a cook, but what i think i have to offer on the topic is having put a lot of thought into the sustainability basics. some things i might cover:
eating organic affordably- tips on how to make it as economically feasible as conventional foods
self-sufficiency and where things come from- ever wonder where people got things like yeast and fruit pectin before they came in a package?
ways to reduce waste in the kitchen, such as today’s post on making soup stock from scraps
maybe i will think of others as time goes on… it may be something that only gets roughly biannual mention, as there are so many other topics of interest, but i would be leaving something out if i didn’t at least give a few of these ideas a brief shout out.
i’m posting these things, assuming you’re already hip to having a home compost bin as a way of reducing your kitchen waste output. lately though, as i’ve been thinking a lot on permaculture and self sufficiency, i realize that i want to go sustainable 2.0. i have thought of sustainability at times as a question of whether the earth can handle this particular choice, and if so, i decide it’s sustainable. certainly the earth seems to have no trouble handling my dinner scraps, so i feel it is a sustainable choice to compost any food waste that comes along. yet, when i compost food that countless people have labored to grow and that i have labored to prepare, and also labored to provide money to pay for the electricity that keeps the refrigerator running to keep the food cold, or to heat the stove to make the food warm, it starts to feel completely unsustainable to ever waste a drop of food, after all. composting theoretically puts the nutrients back into our food, if we use the compost in our gardens, and our gardens are growing food crops that we are actually eating. still, there is energy wasted by bringing that food to the table and letting it go back into the nutrient cycle uneaten. my poor kiddo knows that there is one single thing i am neurotic about, and this is it: waste. i like to put a more positive spin on it these days and focus on abundance rather than waste-avoidance, but practically speaking we are talking about the same actions.
this is not at all my own original idea, i heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend, who probably learned it from a depression-era survivor grandparent. in fact, i would bet my own grandmother did this. when i cut up fresh onions, celery, carrots, and any fresh herbs (parsley, basil, oregano, etc.) i put the bits and pieces that we don’t want to eat into a container that i keep in the door of my freezer for easy access. this includes carrot heels (not the green tops but the ends of the root itself), carrot peels (when i bother to peel them), celery tops and the bigger too-stringy ends, onion stem and root ends and that first layer of onion that is somewhat peel-ish but more onion than peel, and stems of herbs that have plenty of flavor but are, well, stems. with the onions, i am not super careful to remove all the skin, though i let the outer layer go to compost if there is any funk whatsoever. i do not include anything that is moldy, rotten or otherwise inedible. i do, however, continue to use this method with storage onions throughout the winter.
when my container is full, i dump it into a stock pot, cover with water, and simmer it for a while to make stock. here is where someone with more flair in the kitchen would probably add things, like salt or other herbs, or some extra celery to balance out the mix. i am pretty much “whatever” with that, and the flavor does vary from batch to batch in our case. it also varies nicely when i dump these scraps on top of the organic chicken carcass to make the stock instead of using new carrots and onions that would then just be strained out when the stock was finished (yum! we only eat one or two of those per year but the stock is the best part!). (in keeping with the theme of waste not- i am a stickler for using every part of an animal we harvest for food!)
finally, depending on the time of year, i either can the extra stock in canning jars, using the pressure canner according to up-to-date canning literature, or i fill containers to freeze. in the summer, i don’t have room to spare in the freezer, while in the winter, i don’t want to bother canning and have spaces to fill in the freezer to keep it running efficiently. in winter time i won’t even use the electric stove for this task at all, i’ll just simmer on the top of our woodstove. i store larger quantities for soups but smaller containers also come in handy just to add a little flavor or juice to a stir fry or a batch of beans. i could see freezng it in ice cube trays, if you like having tiny amounts of veggie stock available.
oh and one more thing- after i’ve simmered the heck out of the stuff, strained out the good brown liquid, and stored it away, then and only then do i compost the scraps!
what’s your geekiest waste-saving strategy in the kitchen? (feel free to use horrible run-on sentences in the comments, i’ve set the standard.)