Cooking with the Leavings

My sister-in-law was over yesterday morning, and she commented on the dried orange zest that I was adding to a recipe, wanting to know where I had purchased it.  Now, it is certainly possible to buy dried orange peel at many bulk food stores, and I have done so myself, but this was zest that I had dried myself, something that shocked her a little.  She had always just tossed her orange peels, and the process of zesting and drying that much peel seemed onerous to her, which is fair.  Our conversation got me thinking, however, about the leavings of things that I used to throw away but now use regularly in my cooking, and I thought that I might list them here, first, to share something of my own kitchen practices, and second, to solicit ideas about any other leavings that I could be using in my cooking.

1.  I zest and dry the peels of any citrus that I will not be using immediately: orange, lemon, lime, even grapefruit when I have it in the house, which is infrequently.  I add these things to desserts and to curries and to stirfries, and I use them as toppings for things like puddings and custards and icecream, and I sometimes add them to some jams and preserves.

2.  I strip and dry the tops of carrots, which can be added to soups and stews to provide carrot flavour without actually using carrots.  They are also great in making soup stock.  You can even steam them with butter and lemon and eat them as a green vegetable, though my family does not exactly love this.

3.  I dry and grind stale bread into bread crumbs for breading meat and using as toppings on casseroles and whatnot.

4.  I save the leavings of certain vegetables for making soup stock: carrot and onion and celery, certainly, but also sweet peppers, garlic, broccoli, mushrooms, anything that is not too starchy.

What other leavings could I be using?

  1. TC said:

    I can’t think of anything else you could be eating. Walnut shells filled with plasticine, toothpicks and paper sails make very good boats.
    I’m sure you already know about grinding your egg shells for garden lime
    and using your onion skins for easter egg dyeing.

    How is it that you dry the citrus peel Luke?

  2. TC,

    Onion skins for Easter egg dyeing is a new one to me. How exactly do you go about that?

    I take the zest or the chopped peel and spread it on a cookie tray, then I place the largest empty tray I have on the lowest shelf of the oven and put the tray with the zest above it. I turn the oven on to its lowest setting, leave the door of the oven cracked as if I was using the broiler, and I stir or shake the tray frequently.

  3. TC said:

    Ah, I’ll try that thanks Luke.

    I have wrapped onion skins around eggs and tied them with string and then boiled them in water to which I’ve added some vinegar. I boil them for a long time.

    This recipe here makes a dye first – I might try this next time.

    I have a neighbor who dyes wool with onion skins and perhaps this is how she does it:

    These eggs look a deeper and more consistent color than ones I have made, though ours often have attractive speckling.

  4. TC,

    Thanks for that. I will give it a try when we do our egg decorating this year.

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