Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tightwad Tuesday

I'm adding a new feature to my blog. Let me know what you think, or how I can improve this feature. I plan to continue posting Tightwad Tuesday tips every week if it proves to be a popular feature of my blog. I'm calling it "Tightwad Tuesday" in honor of my mother, who for years was a loyal subscriber to "The Tightwad Gazette." My sister and I have followed in her path and put to use many of the tightwad tips we have learned throughout the years. Unfortunately we haven't put to use all our knowledge, otherwise we'd both be rolling in the dough right now. Or, at least not sinking in this stinky economy!

Here's my super-cool money saving tip for this week:

Garbage Soup

Sounds appetizing, doesn't it? Well, it's my alternative to buying expensive boxed chicken broth, or resorting to tasteless bullion cubes. Both of which don't have the flavor of a homemade broth, and probably contain ingredients you can't pronounce.

What I do is save all my vegetable scraps. I carefully wash all my veggies, and only save parts that are technically edible, just not something you'd want to put in tonight's casserole. Usually, I end up with a lot of carrot peelings and ends, celery ends and the leafy middle part, and onion skins. I save other veggies, too, but not in massive quantities like the other three. The onion skins actually give a broth a glorious golden color and are essential to a tasty broth, in my opinion. These vegetables are edible, but are usually thrown out because they are tough or difficult to cut up. I hate wasting food, so I collect all these pieces and put them in a container and store in the freezer.

Many of you may remember my obsession with buying whole chickens instead of pieces. For one thing, you have more choices when you buy a whole chicken (some birds only come whole), they stay fresher longer, and they're cheaper (if you buy conventional chickens). Once I've disassembled the chicken, a la Alton Brown, I freeze the carcass to be used at a later date. When I am running low on broth or my container of vegetable clippings runneth over, I put a frozen carcass (and the neck!) and my veggie clippings in the crockpot. I add a sprig of thyme (grown fresh in my garden-- a perennial herb that is very easy to grow, even for those of us who tend to kill plants), a couple bay leaves (purchased in bulk at my local co-op), a few peppercorns, and a pinch of kosher salt, and water to come up to about 1 inch from the top. I leave the crockpot on low all night long and have a beautiful aroma the next morning. Then I strain out the vegetable matter and carcass, put the broth in a bowl in the fridge, and the carcass in a ziploc bag in the fridge to cool. The veggies go in the compost pile-- they have served their purpose.

Eventually I pick the carcass clean of the meat and save it for use in a meal that calls for pre-cooked chicken. I usually end up with between one and two cups of meat, depending on how well I carved the chicken. Then I take out the cooled broth strain off the fat layer that is now hardened. I usually have about 8 cups of broth at this point. Then I put it in a pot to boil on the stove, and simmer it until it reduces down. I like to take my 8 cups of broth and reduce it to 1 cup. Then I put it in a plastic container and freeze it, or store it in the fridge if I am out of broth completely. It takes up very little room, and if I need a cup of broth for a recipe, I just put two tablespoons of the broth reduction into a measuring cup and add enough water to equal one cup of regular strength broth, and it's ready to go. It has the consistency of jelly at this point, so it is very easy to measure it out exactly. It takes a little time, but the flavor is so much more complex than canned or boxed broth, it takes up very little space in the fridge, and is easy to use. And best of all, it is practically free! Just a little electricity for the crock pot, and the cost of water, salt, pepper, and bay leaves. Everything else is "garbage."

Total hands-on for this project is about an hour.

Or, you can always skip the reduction part and make the most amazing chicken noodle soup you've ever tasted. Mmmmmmm!


Kathy said...

Wow you go girl! I do make soup by boiling the carcess once in a while...but that has become rare. With the financial situation of our country being so crappy right now I definately should get back to being more frugal.

Dad said...

Carolyn has an obsession? No way!