In our home, we use the waste prevention hierarchy Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot as described by Bea Johnson in Zero Waste Home. Applying these bit by bit has made a huge difference in the amount of trash we produce as a family.
In my post about compost, I explained why composting is an essential part of a zero waste lifestyle. However, recycling and composting are still the last resort on the waste prevention hierarchy. So what are some things you can do with fruit and veggie scraps before composting? I’m glad you asked 🙂 I make my own broth and apple cider vinegar! There is an intangible reward when creating value out of a resource which would otherwise be thrown out. Plus there is the tangible reward of saving money! Both recipes are entirely the idea of The Zero Waste Chef. Directions for both are below:
This is so easy, I can’t believe I haven’t been doing it my whole life. Things that normally aren’t eaten, like onion and garlic peels, tomato and squash tops, celery leaves, leek greens, ect. make a great broth when boiled together. When cutting your veggies, put aside some of the prime scraps (meaning, anything not moldy or covered in dirt). Keep them in a container in the freezer. When the container is full, you have everything to make your own broth! Simply cover the scraps with water and boil for about 20 minutes. I usually do this when I’m in the kitchen cooking anyway–it’s not any extra trouble to have a extra pot on the stove. If you have animal bones they can also be added. Before switching to a plant-based diet, I would use the a bone once to make bean soup and then again to make broth–and that made the bone easier to compost afterwards too! Fill mason jars with the broth and put it back in the freezer to use when needed (keep the liquid level at least 1 inch below the shoulder of the jar or it might break!). Note, unless adding a ham bone, this broth will not have any salt like most commercially prepared broths, so take that into consideration when cooking with it. This is a plus, really, because it also helps control how much sodium you are consuming!
Apple cider vinegar
Its best to eat the peels of your apples, its where most of the nutrients are. Even when making applesauce or pie, I leave on the skins and no one seems to care! Some people eat the whole apple, core and all, but my daughters aren’t too keen on that. So what to do with the cores? I make apple cider vinegar (ACV). Below is how I do it, although there are other methods for making ACV, including using a second jar to keep the apples submerged in water and adding a mother culture. You are welcome to experiment with what works best for you! I do it this way because The Zero Waste Chef does it this way and I found it is the simplest–no fussing with keeping those pesky apple slices submerged. Here is a link to her description of the method, but the basic idea is below:
- Put cut apple cores in a jar with about a TB of sugar–I mean cut vs an apple where you bit around the core, you don’t want your mouth germs in the ACV!
- Cover with non chlorinated water (leave your tap water out for 24 hrs and it will be non chlorinated). Cover with a cloth and rubber band–see pic below (not plastic, the yeast has to breathe–plus, you know how I feel about plastic…)
- Stir once or twice a day for about 1-2 weeks. You will see white bubbles at the surface–that is the wild vinegar culture eating your apples!
- Once it has stopped bubbling, strain out the apples and compost them. Keep the liquid in the jar and wait about a month as it continues fermenting and becoming more sour. When it is sour enough for your taste, put in the refrigerator where it will keep for a year.
I will say, I’m a forgetful person and about half the time I forget to stir twice a day and the batch goes moldy. It is VERY obvious when your batch has gone bad–it will look and smell moldy. If this happens, no big deal. Compost the whole thing and try again next time.
This method also works for making vinegar from other fruit scraps such as pineapple and strawberries, although I have only tried apples…yet.
And if making your own ACV doesn’t sound like fun to you, then continue composting your apple cores and buy ACV from the bulk section at EarthFare. Life is too short to do something you don’t love 🙂
There are lots of other ways to create value out of scraps that would otherwise be composted–carrot top pesto comes to mind! For citrus peels, check out my posts about a great all purpose cleaner and –no kidding–hair gel/spray/mousse made with lemon peels.
What are ways you try to put food scraps to work in your home? Please let me know in the comments below!