You’ve probably noticed by now I use chicken broth in like, every. single. recipe.
I consider it a basic need-right up there with shelter, water, and wine.
Bone broths are a foodie “buzz word” right now, but the fact is they’ve been around a loooong time. And for good reason. They use up waste, they cost almost nothing to make, they add an unparalleled flavor to recipes, and they are loaded with nutrients. They’re healing and soothing to a body wracked by cold or flu. They also contains gelatin which is awesome for rebuilding connective tissue and is a good supplemental source of protein. Hair, skin, nails, joints…all beneficiaries of gelatin’s magical powers. And they’re versatile. Use bone broth as a base for sauces, gravies, braising, boiling rice or potatoes, anywhere you’d normally use liquid and want a boost of flavor. Add some cooked meat, pasta, veggies, herbs…you’ve got soup!
Making a bone broth is incredibly simple. It does take a few hours, but most of that is inactive time. The difference between homemade, and a can of thin, watery store-bought stuff just doesn’t compare. Not to mention the stuff in the can or carton costs about 3-4 times as much! This is technically a stock-more concentrated and flavorful than a broth-but is used interchangeably in recipes.
Next time you cook a big hunk of meat with bones in it, such as a whole chicken, turkey, beef rib roast, etc., save them bones! You can freeze them for a few months if you’re not ready to commit right away.
- Stick the bones, skin, and other parts that weren’t eaten, into a big pot or slow cooker. Take a large yellow onion, quarter it, and toss it in the pot. You can even leave the papery skin on. It adds a nice rich yellow color to chicken broth. Just rinse it free of any dirt and trim the roots off. Add a few peeled cloves of garlic, 2-3 bay leaves, and a quartered lemon. Why lemon? The acid helps to pull minerals from the bones. If you don’t have a lemon, use a couple tablespoons of cider vinegar or bottled lemon juice.
- Now here’s where it gets fun: go through your fridge and gather some veggies. It’s OK if they’re looking a little sketchy. Look for carrots, potatoes, mushrooms, celery, things like that. Avoid strongly flavored things like bell peppers, and cruciferous veggies such as broccoli, dark greens, etc. They turn the broth really funky and they’re better added to soups later on. See, I told you it was a great way to use up waste.
- Wash and trim the scavenged vegetables, cut into manageable chunks, and add them to the pot.
- Fill the pot with enough water to cover everything but not so much that it’s going to boil over. Put the lid on, bring it to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Leave it to simmer for 1-2 hours. Or, set your slow cooker to “low” and forget about it all day. Either way, prop the lid slightly open so steam can escape and the smell of delicious homemade broth can fill your home.
- Have a taste and add a bit of salt if desired. Done! Well, almost.
- Now, remove the carcass and big pieces of bone and veggies with a slotted spoon. Carefully pour the broth through a mesh strainer suspended over another large pot or bowl. Cover, and let it cool for a while, then place it in the fridge overnight. This is important, because as it chills the liquid will separate from the gelatin and the fat. You’ll want to skim most of the fat off-it’s the opaque later on the very top. Gelatin is clear or yellow-ish and wibbly = good. Fat is cloudy white, yellow, or brown, and greasy = yuck. It’s OK to leave a bit of fat because it helps your body use some of the other vitamins and nutrients, you just don’t want gobs of it.
- Once your broth is chilled and skimmed, stir it all up to distribute the gelatin evenly and ladle it into freezer bags or containers. Freeze it in 2-cup increments, which is roughly the size of a store-bought can/carton of broth, and it will be recipe-ready when you need it!
I’ll be using some tonight to make a delicious and simple soup with white beans, tortellini, Italian sausage, chopped kale, a can of diced tomatoes, and a dash of Italian herb seasoning. Perfect for this cold, gray day!