A Note On Orts

Wasting Not When You're Already Wasting Not

Don't you just hate when people give you conflicting messages? I know I do. "We really want you to get an education!" say the universities, "But we're going to charge you thousands of dollars to do so!" or, "As a charity, we want to provide the funds to help these unfortunate people live/heal," say the TV ads, "But we're going to keep 89% of the money we get for advertising!" Mixed messages are frustrating because they're oxymoronic; you tell me to do one thing, but then tell me something that is the complete opposite, yet you say both are true? What do you mean?

Unfortunately, I'm a bit of a hypocrite and a wee bit forgetful. Today, whilst making soup, I realized I'd forgot to mention something regarding the construction of stock, and wanted to reiterate so we were all on the same page. I'm about to deliver a few mixed messages of my own. (But I promise I'll try to make them clear.) Sorry.

Orts are an old 15th century English word for "morsels from a meal" or "scraps", the same things I've been telling you to scrounge whenever you can from other people's houses and your own finished meals. They are the bones, decorate pieces (lettuce leaves, parsley), vegetable tray and sandwich platter leftovers. They are the bits that nobody else knows what to do with, and plans to throw out. But we say "nay!" (I'm getting a little too into this old English crap, I think) and take them back to our own kitchens to construct new foods out of.

In my How To Make Stock post - which was not called that at all - I noted that my mother never cooks the meat (in animal-based soups) with the bones and cartilage while making broth. This is a tried-and-true method of keeping your meaty bits tasty. When you boil something, you suck all the nutrients and taste out of it and force them into the water like a bad swimming teacher. So if you boil the crap out of bones that still have the meat on them, strain the lot of it, then pick the meat off the bones and throw it back into the soup, the meat is going to be pretty tasteless. Therefore, if you're making a meat-based soup, always pick the good parts off before you cook the bones.

Now's where I contradict myself.

Exhibit A: Separated broth and chicken
 bones/sweet potato peelings
The other day I was at my parents and we had a roast chicken for dinner. Mom had already taken the majority of meat off the bird bones, and had no desire to make broth. "I can always go buy another bird," she said. Not all of us are that lucky. So I asked if I could have the orts of the meal - the chicken scraps. They sat in my freezer for a few days, then I cooked them up (along with some veggie scraps) and made myself a stock. Once I'd strained my finished stock, I realized the bones still had a fair bit of meat on them. Therefore I contradicted what I'd said a few posts ago, picked the meat off, and threw it back in the pot.

There is a reason for my madness. The meat may be mostly tasteless at this point, but it is still edible. I decided against using the potato peels (even though they're fine to eat once they've been cooked), but I saved the meat because it's crazy expensive, I wanted something to help fill up the pot, and it becomes one of the two main filling-bits in the soup as the main source of protein. (New potatoes were the main source of carbohydrates, if anyone was wondering.)

The short version:

Exhibit B: Chicken meat separated from the bones.
1) Keep the majority of your meat out of broth preparation, but if there's meat left on the bones you've boiled, pick it off and put it back in the pot.

2) Always take free leftover meat bits (if you include them in your diet). They are expensive, they contain useful nutrients, and these foods are too resource-intensive to be wasting. It takes much more food, oil, and energy to produce meat than it does for grains or plants. Chucking useful bits of meat into the trash is a middle-finger salute to the Earth and the poor animal that was dinner. (This being said, animal products, especially those raised the conventional way, can contain antibiotics, hormones, adrenaline, bacteria, and are harder than plants for your body to digest, which is why I stick to broths. They also leave an acidic residue in your alkaline intestinal tract. Go easy on the animal products for their health and yours.)

- Leah

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