Sunday, March 11, 2012

Waste Nothing

Bones. They make me nostalgic. Strange? Probably. But they remind me of times when I was forced to be more frugal and resourceful. When there was no money for cable television, there was a wealth of conversation or time for reading, solitary contemplation and discovery. When gasoline expenses soared and I opted to stay at home, I found myself spending time with family and neighbors (yes, you’re reading this online...go offline when you’ve finished reading this! It’s where real life happens). Bones and spare times take us to where souls and their expressions most creatively reside. Almost anyone reading this article can name a point in their personal lives when times got a bit financially tight - when you ate leftovers a few more times than you preferred, if you even knew with certainty that your next meal was indeed assured. Such times leave us with a confidence that we can endure another round of paltry circumstances should they occur. They leave us feeling empowered and happy for the lasting it all out. And they certainly serve as a long-lasting reminder of the definition of waste (read here as “don’t!”).

 Bones. What’s left when the meat is gone. All that remains when the energy is seemingly spent. But bones are still capable of providing sustenance and a tasty round at that. Now imagine my delight on a recent grocery trip when I found a 7 pound hen priced at $5.50 USD! The bird’s freshness was set to expire a scant 2 days from my date of purchase, and would have frozen well for later use, but I had more immediate plans for it. The temperatures were frigid and I had no homemade chicken soup on hand - a must in this household. My point here is not the meat on that chicken...nor the soup I eventually made from it. It’s the bones and what I did with them that matters and how my food dollars stretched their legs like a thoroughbred.

 I’m relatively sure that a few readers at this point may deem my frugality in cooking a bit overzealous and simple. If you’re a “foodie”, then will you give me a bit more credit if I tell you that Saveur Magazine’s March 2012 issue features an article on bones and what to do with them? Bones make stock. Stock is the backbone of countless recipes - not just soup. I keep quart-sized plastic containers on hand precisely for the purpose of freezing various kinds of broth for future use.

 To begin, always roast bones before tossing them into a stockpot. Rub them with a bit of oil before putting them into a roasting pan and then into a hot oven (400 degrees F/roughly 204 degrees C) unless you’re using duck bones which are fatty enough on their own. If you’d like for your stock to have a roasted garlic flavor, remove as much paper as possible from a garlic head, trim the pointed end of each clove with a paring knife, and throw it into the roasting pan along with the bones. The longer you roast the bones, the darker your resulting stock will be. When bones look a bit charred and dark, remove all from the oven and deglaze your pan with some water, scraping the bottom of the pan to remove the clingy brown bits. Transfer all contents to a stockpot, squeezing the now molten garlic cloves into the mix (discard papery garlic remains) and cover everything with water. Bring the pot and its contents to medium-high heat slowly, skimming off any foam and reduce the heat to simmer for a few hours. If you want to salt your stock, now’s the time to do it or to add herbs if you want. If desired, one can add chopped vegetables. Simmer for another hour or so, then ladle stock into containers, avoiding sediment at the bottom of the pot. If you have cheese cloth on hand, lining a large colander with it and capturing the broth without the sediment makes the task easier. Fat in the stock will rise to the top of your containers once frozen, and is easy to remove with a paring knife should you prefer a low-fat version. 

Here is a senryu by fellow Frugal Poet, Curtis Dunlap.

All Hallows’ Eve
a blues man dances
to the rhythm of bones

Curtis was inspired to write his short poem after watching Dom Flemons, a musician with The Carolina Chocolate Drops. Flemons often employs the use of bones in his music.


  1. Love this broth. Good in soups, in rice instead of water, etc. Brings a homemade richness that the store-bought stuff just can't bring.

  2. I think Basho said, "Prefer vegetable broth to duck soup" (in Hass's translation). . . but maybe that's because he never had Susan's chicken soup (with roasted bone broth) ;-)

    1. will try to bring something using it next time at Kate's!

  3. Love this! I've always been a great believer in making stock from bones, but I never knew the trick of roasting them. I'll be doing that from now on :-)

  4. I'd just like to add that the video blew me away.

  5. I'm always blown away when I see Flemons playing those bones. Just...awesome... They are a very talented group of musicians.

  6. Thanks for the roasting tip. Love that dark flavor. The musicians here are incredible. Blew me away too. So simple and rhythmic. Love this post and Curtis' haiku. Andrea

  7. Thank you stopping by, Andrea. And thank you for your kind words. :)