How quickly our world has suddenly turned the bright orange, red, and yellow colors of fall. I have switched out my summer clothes for a warmer wardrobe, turned on the heater, and pulled the down comforter out of the basement. The other thing I have started to do as I ease into fall is to start making broth again.
Those of you Holcomb CSA veterans know that I love to use my CSA veggie scraps to make wholesome vegetable broth. But I found I wasn’t using it much in the hot summer and was quickly running out of freezer space for it, so I shut down my production until now. I thought I would share my techniques again for those of you who missed past posts on it. I hope you will consider trying to make your own broth. Not only is it far more nourishing than anything you could buy in a store, it is easy to make and super cheap!
CSA Tip—Make Vegetable Broth with Your Veggie Scraps and your Crockpot
We all want to eat less processed food, but supermarket broth is just so convenient to have on hand and making it from scratch can seem overwhelming. While surfing the net for veggie broth recipes, I came across an ingenious and simple way to use up vegetable scraps and make broth while I sleep! http://www.goodforgreen.blogspot.com/2009/03/crockpot-vegetable-stock.html.
Here is what I learned from this and a few other web posts…
- Simply save most vegetable scraps meant for the garbage or compost pile in a large re-sealable plastic baggie stored in the freezer. Add to it as you cook. When the baggie is full, dump it in the Crockpot and add enough water to cover.
- Add a few peppercorns and/or a small amount of herbs (like thyme or parsley) or dried herbs tied in cheesecloth.
- If desired, add other veggies to round out the flavor (celery, carrot, onion, tomato, turnip, and mushrooms are especially good)
- Turn on low and cook for 6-12 hours.
- Sieve out solids (use them now for compost), let broth cool, then portion and freeze, or use within 4 days.
- Non-waxy and non-bitter scraps work best and can also include onion skins (great for color), garlic and garlic skin, bell pepper scraps (avoid seeds), Kohlrabi stems, stems from greens (beware of beet greens which may color the broth), zucchini and summer squash ends, tomato ends/seeds/pulp, carrot ends and peels, asparagus or green bean ends, choi stems and greens, cauliflower leaves and cores, mushroom stems, and broccoli stems. Sparingly use strongly flavored vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage as they can overpower the taste. Avoid waxy vegetables (cucumbers), bitter seeds and pits, and beet scraps. Potato skins can add a starchy element, so I tend not to use them.
- Just remember to get in the habit of washing all vegetables (even the onions) before you peel or de-stem them if you are planning to use them in the broth. You don’t want any sand or dirt in your broth!!
I have been following this method with great results since I first discovered it. After years of experience with this method I have learned a few other things…
- Vegetable broth can also be made in a regular pot on the stovetop and only takes 1- 1½ hours to cook.
- You can add bones to the broth to make your desired bone broth. Raw or cooked bones (as in leftover cooked chicken carcasses) work equally as well. I also often add chicken necks for added flavor. For a make-your-own seafood broth, add in shrimp shells, lobster shells, and/or fish bones. For a rich beef broth, roast your bones prior to adding them to the stock pot to get a good caramelized flavor.
- The longer the mix cooks, the more bitter the flavors can sometimes be depending upon the particular vegetable mix, so time it so that you turn on the Crockpot right before bed and sieve out the solids right when you get up in the morning.
- Homemade vegetable broth is flavorful enough to use as a substitute for prepared chicken broth, as long as you salt it.
This will easily become a habit. Try it!!
Now that we are heading into frost season, it is time to harvest those perennial herbs (sage, oregano, thyme, lavender, marjoram) before the cold kills the leaves. Harvest a bunch and try your hand at drying or freezing them (click here for instructions). Just be sure to follow the pick your own instructions for the dill, parsley, and cilantro in the fields as they are more limited. The perennial herbs in the herb garden are fair game.
It can take a few extra minutes to pick the herbs but I want to encourage you to do so, not just because they will soon be unavailable, but because herbs are surprisingly good for your health.
In the book The Paleo Cure, Chris Kresser discusses the interesting idea that we should focus less on macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, fats) in our diet and more on foods that are high in nutrient density. Nutrient dense foods contain the highest levels of vitamins, minerals, essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein) and essential fatty acids. There have been several attempts to measure the nutrient density of foods, but what I found interesting is that these measures almost always rate herbs and spices at the top of nutrient dense foods, rating them higher in micronutrients than vegetables. In The Defense of Food, Michael Pollan notes (as an example of nutrient complexity in whole foods) that there are 35 known antioxidants in a single tiny leaf of thyme. Wow!!! Now granted, one tends not to eat herbs in large quantities at one time which limits the overall amount of nutrients we get from this food source, but it is highly likely that adding herbs regularly to our diet can significantly boost the overall nutrient density of our meals.
Further, herbs have been used for centuries for their healing properties. Sage contains romarinic acid, which can reduce inflammation. It is also a potent memory and brain function enhancer and can help reduce triglyceride and cholesterol levels. Oregano and thyme have strong antimicrobial properties and have been used to treat acute infections, as well as digestive issues. Thyme and dill have also been found to be anti-carcinogens. Given these healing properties, why wouldn’t we try to include fresh herbs regularly in our meals?
Using herbs in cooking is super simple. The general rule is that delicate herbs like dill, cilantro, parsley, and basil should be added at the end of the cooking process in order to not “cook off” their delicate flavor. However hardier herbs like rosemary, thyme, and oregano can be used at any point during the cooking process. While we tend to think of herbs as being in savory dishes, they are equally amazing in sweet preparations. I especially love the combination of pumpkin or apple and sage, lavender and vanilla, oregano and tomato, apricot and thyme, cilantro and lime, dill and cheese, and sage and honey, Below are some of the myriad ideas for how to incorporate herbs in your meals:
- Add herbs to soups/stews, chilis
- Add herbs to egg dishes (omelets, frittatas, egg salads, deviled eggs)
- Use herbs for a meat rub prior to cooking meat (see recipe below)
- Sprinkle fresh herbs in salads (dill, cilantro and parsley are especially good this way)
- Bake fresh herbs into breads, muffins, and even cookies (how about pumpkin sage cornbread???)
- Be creative with pestos (sage/walnut, almond/thyme, cilantro/citrus…)
- Add herbs to pasta dishes and all sauces
- Add herbs to casserole dishes (try macaroni and cheese with fresh thyme)
- Try adding herbs to homemade ice cream, drinks, desserts, and jams
- Use herbs in your homemade vegetable broth
- Add to vinaigrettes
- Use herbs as a garnish for stir fries, casseroles, chilis, soups, stews, entrees
- Use herbs in meatballs, meatloaves, and burgers
- Add herbs to the pickling brine when making homemade pickles
If you are not going to dry or freeze your herbs there are some tips for keeping your herbs fresher for a longer period of time. For herbs with long stems, like oregano and basil, place in a short glass with some water. Cover with a plastic bag and leave on the counter. Otherwise, you can wrap herbs in a damp paper towel and keep in plastic in the refrigerator. Herbs are best used within a few days of being cut.
Here are some of my favorite recipes using herbs:
This is my top go-to dip for fall crudité platters. The pesto on it’s own is also great with pasta or tossed with roasted winter squash.
Sage Pesto Dip
– 1 large bunch of sage (about 1 cup), washed
– about 1/4 cup toasted walnuts
– 1 or 2 cloves garlic, chopped
– about 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
– extra virgin olive oil, to taste
– salt and pepper to taste
– 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, about
– 1/3 cup sour cream or yogurt, or more to taste
– fresh squeezed lemon juice, to taste
Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process until crumbly. Slowly drizzle in olive oil while machine is running until you have a thick paste. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer pesto to a small bowl. Mix in mayonnaise and sour cream to desired taste and consistency. Add a bit of lemon juice to taste, if desired.
This butter goes great on fish, baked regular or sweet potatoes, freshly cooked corn, or roasted winter squash.
– 2 sticks butter, room temperature
– 2/3 cup minced shallots
– 1/4 C minced fresh thyme
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in heavy small skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and saute until brown, about 4 minutes. Cool. Combine remaining butter and thyme in a small bowl. Add shallot mixture and blend well. Season well with salt and pepper. Place a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper on a work surface. Starting on the long side closest to you, spoon prepared butter in a line about 1/3 of the way in down the long side of the wrap/paper. Fold the piece of wrap or paper closest to you over the line of butter and using your hands, shape as best as possible into a long cylinder. Then roll the cylinder towards the opposite end (away from you) until you have a log totally surrounded in wrap/paper. Refrigerate butter log for up to 5 days or freeze. Bring to room temperature before serving.
This recipe is slightly adapted from Bon Appetit, October 2002 to be little lighter. It is wonderful served with beef.
– 1 cup Italian parsley
– 1/3 cup olive oil
– 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
– 1/4 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves
– 2 cloves garlic, peeled
– 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
– 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
Puree all ingredients in a food processor. Transfer to a bowl. Can be made 2 hours ahead. Cover and let stand at room temperature.
I used this rub recently to make a delicious lamb roast. I didn’t measure my ingredients, but it is easily made to taste. It should taste salty, as it will be spread over the entire surface area of the roast and you want the salt to penetrate into the meat, which helps not only with flavor, but also with tenderization.
Herb Rub for Lamb, Pork or Chicken
grated lemon peel
Kosher Salt and pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
Place ingredients to taste in a food processor and process until a paste forms. Rub over meat and refrigerate overnight before roasting or grilling.