Even though it’s almost spring (finally!), there’s still a slight chill in the air, so why not make soup? It’s surprisingly easy to use leftover veggies, bones, shrimp shells, and even cheese rinds to make your own broth for soups, plus it’s free. Wait—better-quality broth costs less? You bet! All you need is a little patience while your broth simmers away. (And a watchful eye from time to time.) Once you’ve made your broth, you can use it right away or freeze it for later use.

  • Bone broth is made from—you guessed it!—bones. You can use bones left over from roasting a chicken or slow-cooking a beef roast, or you can purposely buy oxtails, leg bones, or any other bones your butcher may have to offer. (Bones are the least expensive “cut” of meat you’ll find.) The carcass of a whole roasted duck makes spectacularly great broth—a duck is bigger than a chicken, so you’ll have more bones to work with. Just cover the bones with several inches of water and gently simmer for at least 2 hours, topping up the broth every 30 minutes or so as it reduces. Strain the broth before using/storing it.
  • Seafood broth is made from fish bones and/or shrimp shells, crab shells, or lobster shells. For a deeper flavor, it’s best to roast raw shells for about 10 minutes at 400F before simmering them as you would bones. You may also want to add aromatics like onions, garlic, carrots, and celery. Simmer and strain as described for the bone broth. Seafood broth is ideal for making soups like clam chowder and bouillabaisse.
  • Want to make an extra-flavorful vegetable broth? Roast your veggies first! Roasting will give you a savory, umami-rich flavor boost reminiscent of meat. Simmer the veggies as you would bones, then use your broth for everything from chili to minestrone. The slow-simmered veggies will be very soft, so if you’d rather not strain them out, you can use an immersion blender to puree them into a thick, smooth broth.
  • For a super-simple Japanese-style broth, add seaweed like kombu, dulse, nori, or wakame to a pot of gently boiling water and let it simmer as you would bones. Note: dried seaweed expands by as much as six or eight times once it’s fully hydrated, so don’t pack your pot with seaweed! A little goes a long way. Seaweed is rich in iodine, making this a great soup base for anyone with hypothyroidism. Use your seaweed broth for miso soup, mushroom & green onion soup, or anything Japanese-inspired.

You can enhance any soup with a variety of umami-rich ingredients. If you have any of these in your pantry, you might want to add them to either your next made-from-scratch broth or favorite soup recipe:

  • Parmesan-Reggiano rind: stash these in your cheese drawer instead of throwing them out—they add a deep richness to any broth, soup, or braising liquid.
  • Sun-dried tomatoes: these add natural saltiness and a slight sweetness to your broth.
  • Dried mushrooms: you can’t beat mushrooms for an earthy, savory kick!
  • Roasted garlic: just a few cloves pureed into your broth will give soup a velvety, almost-sweet undertone.
  • Plain black or green tea: if you simmer it too long, tea can get bitter (the tannins come out in force), but letting a teabag simmer in broth for 5 minutes or so adds an interesting, subtle flavor.

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