It’s been a beautiful fall season and I’ve really been enjoying the crisp air and crisp apples. But before we know it, the heat will be on and our bodies will be seeking warm, hearty food. Soup is a classic winter food and I’ve talked before about how easy it really is to make your own. No need for that canned stuff!
But there is one secret that makes good homemade soup into great homemade soup…homemade broth, or stock, or best of all, bone broth. I have to admit I didn’t know the difference between the three of these until now, but here it is. They all start out with the same base; vegetables, herbs, and some sort of animal carcass. Broth is made with meat and a small amount of bones, and simmered for a short period of time, usually a couple of hours. Stock is made with only animal bones that are usually roasted first for extra flavor. Stock is typically cooked for a medium amount of time, 3-4 hours. Bone broth is also made with only bones, but is cooked for very long periods of time, sometimes 24 hours or more. This long cooking time helps to extract as many nutrients as possible from the bones. Bone broth can be made from the bones of chicken, beef, fish, or other animals.
In my opinion, bone broth is where it’s at, because it contains so many amazing nutrients while imparting wonderful flavor to any dish you use it in. Bone broth is rich in amino acids, which help support the body’s detoxification process and healthy digestion. Bone broth is also high in collagen, which helps with digestion as well as healthy skin. There are also components in chicken stock that help to lessen the effects of colds and flu. So your grandma was on to something!
Bone broths are less expensive than their store-bought counterparts, are more flavorful, and do not contain any additives or other weird ingredients. If you don’t make enough of your own bones you can always ask a butcher or one of the meat producers at your farmers market for bones, which they would probably give you or sell you at very low price.
Here’s how I make my chicken stock (I guess it’s not quite bone broth because I usually cook it for 10ish hours):
Save the bones, skin, and drippings from roasted bone-in chicken pieces or whole chickens in the freezer. When you have enough (approximately 2-3 chickens worth of carcasses) put them in a large deep pot with a few stalks of celery, a few carrots, a large onion, whatever other vegetable scraps strike your fancy (just avoid ones that could impart a bitter flavor like broccoli or cauliflower) and a few cloves of garlic, all roughly chopped. Alternatively, you could use vegetables scraps, such as carrot and celery tops, and onion and garlic skins.
Add about ½ bunch of parsley or whatever fresh herbs you have on hand, about 10-20 whole peppercorns, a couple of bay leaves, whatever dried herbs you like, and enough filtered water to cover everything well. Add 1-2 tablespoons of vinegar and let the whole pot sit for about 30 minutes before turning on the flame. The vinegar helps to draw more nutrients out of the bones before cooking.
Turn the stove on high and bring the stock to a boil. Skim off any scum that comes to the top, cover, lower the heat, and simmer all day, or up to 24 hours or more. When mine is done I strain the solids through a fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth. You could just use a colander for this, but I find that if I don’t strain it well there is grittiness at the bottom of the stock that I really dislike.
I then either use it immediately or freeze it in containers for later use. One thing I love to do is freeze my stock in ice cube trays so that I can just use a little for sautéing or sauces when I need to.
Once the stock is chilled, the fat will rise to the top and it can be scooped out if you like. Traditional foodies believe you should leave it in or use it to cook other dishes with. I usually scoop some and leave some. It should also be noted that the sign of a good chicken stock is that it gets gelatinous when chilled. I used to be put off by this, but recently learned that this means that there is lots of gelatin from the bones along with other goodness in my stock. Lastly, I want to mention that the more “parts” you use for your chicken stock the better. Many people use the gizzards as well as chicken feet, which are very high in gelatin. I just haven’t been able to go there just yet!
I hope that this inspires you to make some of your own broth, stock or bone broth, and that it keeps you warm and healthy through the winter!
Here is my recipe for this week, mmm, mmm. Simple and packed with flavor. And you could use your homemade veg or chicken broth!
CARROT GINGER TOFU SOUP
(gluten free, dairy free, grain free)
Adapted from the Vitamix Whole Food Recipes Cookbook
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 medium carrots, diced*
¼ c onion, diced*
4 garlic cloves, minced*
1 Tbsp fresh ginger root, minced
½ tsp salt
pinch of white pepper
1/3 c silken tofu*
2 cups low sodium (or homemade!) vegetable or chicken broth
Sauté carrot, onion, garlic, and ginger in oil until onion is clear and carrots are very tender. Add salt and pepper. Place carrot mixture in a blender or food processor with tofu and broth and puree to desired consistency. Return to pot and heat through.
*Available NOW at the market
Nutrition Facts (per 1 cup): Calories 107; Total Fat 6g; Saturated Fat 1g; Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 348mg; Total Carbohydrate 8g; Dietary Fiber 2g; Sugars 3g; Protein 4g