We’ve written a reasonable amount about pressure canning in recent weeks (expect even more this summer as I anticipate significantly increasing the amount of it that we do) but sometimes it’s so easy to miss the obvious.

If you’re looking to get caught up, here’s a few key posts on the topic:

  • Should I buy a pressure canner?
  • Advice on buying/ choosing the right canner for you
  • An example: Pressure-canning peas
  • An example: Pressure -canning Moose stock

Pressure caning allows us to preserve low-acid foods (almost all vegetables) without turning them into pickles (and without consuming the limited space in my tiny freezer).  We buy the produce in the peak season (when it is at the rare intersection of superior quality and cheapest price) and store it away packed in lightly salted (an option) water.  The canner brings the heat up to a high enough temperature that the food is safely preserved for a long time to come (we are eating beans that are 18-months old this week).

I generally considered my final product to be the vegetable itself – and often discarded the liquid down the drain.  This meant that I was enjoying the awesome flavor of the vegetable year-round and essentially throwing away vegetable stock.  Yes, the ‘secret’ is that the water you preserve vegetables in is very, very usable.

I’ve thought about freezing the stock in a big ziplock bag until I worked up enough for a pan of soup.  The truth is that it’ll never last that long.  I’m often using it in the same meal – here’s a few examples:

  • We had stir-fried rice with peas.  The water from the peas was used as part of the water to cook the rice in.
  • I warmed Romano beans in their own broth – the broth was later added to a pasta sauce and added a depth that would have been otherwise lacking.
  • Broth from jarred tomatoes (not pressure canned) was added to the bottom of a Shepard’s Pie to stop it from drying.
  • I re-hydrated homemade celery salt, mushroom powder and dried parsley in the water used to preserved long beans.  The resulting ‘paste’ was super-flavored vegetable gunk which was used in a pasta (and could easily hide multiple portions of veggies for kids who are shy of them).
  • The liquid can also be added to polenta which I am still ridiculously addicted to.

These are just some simple examples – the point being is that it’s very easy to find a use to this ‘vegetable tea’ and another example of getting more out of less in the kitchen.

Any other secrets on how to extend ingredients in your kitchens out there (they don’t have to include pressure canning)?  Is there something you used to waste and now find as a useful ingredient in the kitchen?  We’d love you to share.

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