I will confess: I had never been very mindful about food waste before I started Rebelle. I would buy food and let it go bad in the fridge all the time. But once you start buying ingredients in bulk for a restaurant, two things happen: you realize food waste is literally money going into the trash, and you start noticing the scale at which food waste accumulates. I never once thought about tossing the ends of tomatoes when I slice them (I HATE tomato butts). But it took us 2 weeks after we opened the shop to realize that once you slice 25 lbs. of tomato at a time, you can end up with 2-3 lbs of tomato butts that would be thrown in the trash without a second thought. When I developed that awareness, food waste was literally all I could see and I became strangely obsessed with reducing it. (I’m obsessive about a lot of things…)
I want to share with you some of the ways we deal with random bits and scraps of things in our kitchen to spare them from the landfill. Our team does an amazing job getting creative and resourceful to avoid throwing out food. Maybe you’ll be inspired to adopt some of these practices!
We save the scraps. Many of us prep and throw things in the trash as we go: onion skins, tomato butts, carrot peels. Have you peeled carrots directly over the trashcan and thought yourself a genius for saving time on cleanup? What if you save those carrot peels, grate them and turn them into carrot cake? Or carrot soup? That’s exactly what we do. We also make tomato jam out of tomato butts and relish out of cucumber butts and salmon salad out of salmon scrape and cheesy handpies out of cheddar scraps. But if we hadn’t saved the scraps, we wouldn’t know they’re enough to actually turn into something! (Don’t save onion skins though. Never found a good use for those…)
We repurpose items into something new. Here’s a secret: We take 2-day old brownies and crumble them into our Peanut Butter & Brownie cookies. We used to take day-old babka and turn it into babka bread pudding. We turn unsold bagels into bagel chips. We do this a lot, and so do a lot of restaurants, and so can you!
We preserve. Wanna know how we came up with our pop-tarts? We had a bunch of berries that didn’t make it into fruit salads and they were about to turn bad. Too sad to see them go into the trash, we picked off the soft bits, washed the rest, and turned it into jam. This jam went into our pie dough and the rest is history. Now we actually make jam just for pop-tarts, because they’re so popular!
Just to give you a reason to save scraps at home: Here’s the recipe for our famous tomato jam, which receives so many compliments, I should shut down the bagel shop and devote myself to jam instead. We use it on our BLT sandwich, and it also does a good job of dressing up a humble egg & cheese sandwich.
Note: All our recipes are scaled by weight for consistency and repetition. You should consider buying a cheapo kitchen scale for your kitchen – ours are $10 from Amazon!
Rebelle’s famous tomato jam
Makes 1 quart
1733 g tomato scraps, pureed in food processor (seeds fine, no stems/leaves)
533 g granulated sugar
67 g apple cider vinegar
13 g kosher salt
Cook all ingredients over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until it passes the jam test. (Highly scientific jam test: put a plate in the freezer until super cold, then spoon some jam on the plate. Stick it in the fridge for 2-3 minutes and then tilt the plate slightly. If the jam runs or drips, it needs to cook down more.)