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Herb broth

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  • Herb broth

    So, I got to thinking the other day (dangerous prospect, I know).

    After considerable study, I've finally figured out that the reason virtually any soup that you get is heavy on the sodium is actually because most every soup out there has, at its heart, broth of some sort or another as a base. What is chicken noodle soup? Pretty much just chicken broth and pasta, right?

    And that's a problem for me to solve because virtually every commercially-available broth on the market has a bunch of salt in it as a part of making the broth in the first place. And it takes a bit of work to figure out a way to come up with a broth that doesn't wind up with a bunch of salt in it. I've made broth for years out of my Thanksgiving turkey, for example, though I haven't cooked a bird in years and have exhausted my supply that I kept frozen primarily to use for the next year on the next year's bird, mostly for basting but also to moisten pan stuffing and such. Same for ham at Christmas: take the ham bone when everyone has picked off all of the usable meat off of it and then simmer that sucker with some spices and you have some really good stuff. But even though I didn't typically add much if any salt to the broth that I made, it still inherently had a sizable amount of salt in it because I used salt on my bird, which then necessarily transmits into the broth, which is doubtless the same thing that happens at Swanson's: they're using some manner of chicken carcasses from some other commercial chicken processing procedure and the people who did the original chicken processing used salt because it makes their product taste better.

    So, anyway, as people should be picking up from what I've been posting so far, we grow some of our own herbs here (thyme, sage, basil, a ridiculous amount of rosemary, and I'm trying my hand at seeing if I can get tarragon to grow somehow), and I've been using those pretty extensively in my new non-salt cooking. As an example, when I roast my lemon-herb chicken, I actually put it into the roasting dish on a bed of rosemary, as the stiff rosemary stalks will keep the chicken breast out of the liquid lemon mixture. Same procedure goes for my herb-encrusted pork tenderloin, and I'll do the same using basil when I make chicken parmesan (which reminds me that I still need to post those recipes; coming soon, I promise). I've been just throwing away this rosemary after I'm done cooking because it's essentially free (spent something like $2.69 on a seedling about four years ago and now we have enough of it to last until the Second Coming and still have plenty for seconds if Jesus wants them), and it dawned on me that we make broth all the time with other stuff, so why not just make a broth out of these herbs? There's still plenty of oil in them (what gives them their taste and smell) when I'm done because I can easily smell it even from across the room, and that's ultimately what broth and stock are: oils and fats from something rendered after it was cooked. So, I figured I'd give it a shot. It's not like it would cost me anything other than stuff I was otherwise throwing away anyway and a little bit of time to see if it worked, and if it didn't, then I could just pour it down the drain and nothing really lost.

    Therefore, for a few days, I just saved up enough of these herbs, and I would de-glaze my pans when I was done cooking and saved that liquid instead of just tossing them into the dishwasher. I threw it all into a pot, added enough water to cover over the herbs, and simmered for about 45 minutes. And I'll be damned if it didn't come out pretty damned good.

    You may want to give it a shot and see for yourself how you like it. There's no real recipe here, just whatever you decide you want to throw together and simmer for a little while to see how it tastes. Remember that pretty much anything can be a broth or used in a broth, within reason: that rusted-out hulk that was once the transmission for a '73 Vega that your asshole neighbor just won't get out of his yard is unlikely to make a tasty broth, as are things like cell phones, construction materials (especially used ones out of a construction trash bin), junk mail, or the oily residue from a tire fire. So as long as you're not picking through a landfill, just save this sort of stuff in a bowl or even just a ziploc bag in the fridge and when you have time, toss it into a pot with whatever liquid you'd like (water is the most common, but like I said, I've been saving other drippings in a de-glaze and you can always throw in wine or some kind of fruit juice if you think that might taste good), simmer it during the course of a TV show you're watching, and then see what happens. Worst case scenario is still that you're just throwing out something that you were going to throw away anyway.

    Now, here's how this scenario is applicable to me: none of this stuff has any sodium in it to speak of: it's coming from stuff that I'm already cooking salt-free. So, what I 'm going to do is make some of this non-salt broth, then I'm going to cook a beer can chicken on the grill and use this broth to baste, with a drip-pan under the chicken. Then, I can use that to make a salt-free chicken broth, and voilà! Now I can make soups without a bunch of salt in them.
    It's been ten years since that lonely day I left you
    In the morning rain, smoking gun in hand
    Ten lonely years but how my heart, it still remembers
    Pray for me, momma, I'm a gypsy now