Thursday, June 5, 2014

How To Make Your Own Chicken Broth

It was a while ago now that I fell in love with broths and stocks. I remember being amazing at how this liquid can instantly transform an entire dish while adding in nutrition. It was around the same time that I began to venture out in my cooking ways and started clinging to recipes less and moving towards a more "free-flowing," spontaneous style of cooking that felt more like a journey with an unknown destination. I remember it began with cooking kale of all things. I remembered how my grandmother would braise dark leafy greens in a stock with onions and a splash of vinegar, and one day I decided to braise my own in a similar fashion. My grandmother had taught me how to cook without using any recipe or measurements, but it took me a while to take those risks and start doing that myself. Once I tasted kale that had been braised with some garlic, onions, chicken stock, and a splash of vinegar I was sold. I started using the leftover can of stock or the carton for other dishes, just substituting water with broth here and there. Broth was my new best cooking trick. I'm still not sure how I would ever make a decent gravy for lamb chops or Thanksgiving turkey without a good broth. I use it all of the time. When I first began using it I would have tons of opened and half used cans of broth in my fridge, and even half used cartons. Our fridge was often times being occupied by this tin and cardboard and I would often forget which ones were old and newer which would lend me to just open a new one-- which wound up making for more tin cans and cardboard in our fridge. I honestly can't remember if this was the reason I first started making my own broth, or if it was the health benefits of homemade broth / "risks" (risks being used very loosely here and more so as banter) of the canned stuff.

Salt, vegetable oil, soybean oil, palm oil, sugar, corn syrup, monosodium glutamate, food colorings-- those are all actual ingredients found on the backs of chicken broths and those little cubes known as bouillon cubes. I honestly thought I was being healthy and doing my family a favor by at least using organic store-bought broth. I technically was. I'm not going to knock this completely because everyone needs to have a back-up can or carton (whichever your preference) of stock in your pantry for those times you run low or need one in a pinch. Also, I've definitely been there when you don't have the time or resources necessary to be able to make your own. So, organic broth I would choose as my go-to then. However, that is more what I use when I'm in a pinch. Often times I'm not in that pinch. In fact, I end up saving my family time and money when I make my own and I feel like it's almost a waste of money not to make my own really. It doesn't even take that much more effort and the health benefits are honestly insane. There's a reason that your mama said to eat chicken noodle soup when you were sick. It's not just an old wive's tale that chicken noodle soup with homemade broth is probably the single best thing you could eat when you're sick with even more healing / pain relieving properties than tylenol when tested in a lab. To be all technical here (which I honestly very rarely am!) chicken broth (yes, I'm talking about the homemade stuff here) has been found to have natural ingredients that repair and calm the mucous lining of the small intestine which is the foundation for your whole nervous system. To get extra technical I even pulled out a book for the subject (shocker, I know! I don't even think I pulled out a book in college for my term papers! Embarassingly enough, It wasn't until the last semester of college that I even went to the library.). In "Nourishing Traditions" by Sally Fallon, Sally quotes Hanna Kroeger on page 124 saying... "Chicken soup... heals the nerves, improves digestion, reduces allergies, relaxes and gives strength." As much as I feel like a nerd shelling out quotes in a standard chicken broth post, I find it too often to be true and honestly in some ways even magical. I find it so comforting in a simplistic methodical way to make a stock with leftover bones from another wonderful meal that will turn into a base for my wonderful soups, a flavoring to braising my greens, and a source of foundation for any gravies I make that tastes amazing but that is also so healing for my body. Once you taste the homemade stocks, it's honestly very difficult to go back to the cartons and cans even in a pinch-- and those do still happen. Isn't it wonderful though to have something simmering on your stove all night and all day. It makes me want to light a candle, open the windows of my house and clean as if I'm in the pages of a Real Simple magazine or something! It just makes you feel more wholesome. I'm going to write out the recipe before I continue talking. You try making this broth (if you don't already) and see what you think about it-- and be sure to let us know!

Chicken Stock Recipe: 

Bones from one cooked chicken
4-6 Carrots
4-6 Stalks of Celery
1-2 Onions
1 Bunch of Parsley 
4 Cloves of Garlic 

1) Preheat oven to 350F. After you have made a roasted chicken like the one I posted about on Tuesday, take off all of the meat and set the meat aside. After you have taken off the meat place the bones on a baking sheet and put in the oven for about 20-30 minutes.

After the bones have been roasted

2) Place the bones in a big stock pot and cover the bones with filtered water. ( yes filtered, not tap water ). You could start with 4 quarts of water and if that doesn't cover all of the bones then keep filling it up.

3) Add in 1/4 cup of Apple Cider Vinegar ( I use this brand ) and let this all sit for 30 minutes. This will draw in the minerals. (You can also use this time to chop up your vegetables.)

4) Add in carrots, onion, and celery. I usually add in however many carrots and celery I have. So you could say maybe 4-6 carrots, 1-2 onions, and maybe 4-5 stalks of celery. I chop all of these very roughly-- in big chunks. Sometimes I will add in a clove or two of garlic.

5) Bring all of this to a boil and then skim off the scum that rises to the top.

6) Reduce the heat down to a simmer and cover. Simmer for 6-24 hours. (Like I said in my vegetable soup post, if I am making soup (or any other dish) during the time I am cooking my broth, I will just ladle out the broth that I need and keep adding water to the pot and let it keep simmering.

7) Ten minutes before you are done cooking the broth, add in 1 bunch of chopped parsley and 4 cloves of garlic. This will give a lot of added nutrients to your dish. Cook that for ten more minutes.

8) Once you are done get a fine mesh strainer and strain the bones and vegetables out of the broth. (The bones cook down so finely that we use the cooked bones and vegetables as dog food for the rest of the week! It's such an added bonus as it saves us money on dog food and it's also an amazingly healthy treat for our pup!).

9) Pour your broth into mason jars and keep in the fridge up until 4 days. You can freeze the broth in mason jars as well (this post has a few tips for that), just make sure to leave a lot of room at the top because the broth does expand while freezing and sadly I've broken far too many mason jars not leaving enough room at the top.

Picture at the top taken from "Nourishing Traditions" by Sally Fallon in her chapter on Chicken Stock. The answer was chicken bouillon cubes. Her book is a wonderful cross between a natural living textbook and a cookbook-- perfect kind! 

P.S. To be honest, my fridge may not have any cans or cartons in it anymore, but my freezer has tons of mason jars filled with homemade stock in it now. Even though I may not have solved the space issue, I don't have to worry anymore which one is old or new and every drop gets used and none of it gets wasted. I honestly can't tell you how much money this saves us. I know I mentioned this in my roasted chicken post, but the $11 for the roasted chicken gets me a wonderful dinner, yummy lunches, broth for days, a few day's worth of meals for my pup, and more meals with the broth. Everyone asks me all the time how they can eat healthy on a tight budget, and it doesn't get much better than this!

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