The fall and winter months make me crave warm comforting foods. Soups, stews, casseroles, roasts. There’s something about that intense aroma that hits you when you open the door, drawing you into the kitchen to see what’s on the stove.
Enter homemade broth, once a staple in grandma’s kitchen, now under-appreciated and under-utilized. Every culinary student learns how to make homemade broth from scratch. All 5-star restaurants have a pot simmering away on the stove. Why? Because a good broth or stock is an essential ingredient in hundreds of dishes. Use it as a base for soup, add a splash to a stir-fry, reduce it into a hearty gravy. Stock adds richness and flavor to just about anything.
And yet so few people know how to make homemade broth. Any time a recipe calls for broth or stock, we open up a can or a carton. Those packaged versions are full of “natural flavors” or “autolyzed yeast extract” or “hydrolyzed vegetable protein”. These are all terms used to sneak MSG-like flavoring ingredients into your food, the ones that many of my nutrition clients feel better avoiding, particularly those suffering with migraines or IBS triggered by food sensitivities.
Broth made from scratch is so much better tasting than the store-bought stuff and it’s easier to make than you think. But before I go through the recipe, let me review a few of the health benefits of homemade broth (besides avoiding the undesirable ingredients of the store-bought variety).
Homemade broth is a rich source of:
- Minerals, which leach out from the bones during cooking. We’re walking calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, etc… This is why broth is so helpful when you’re sick. Those minerals help replenish your electrolytes. Also, in my work as a prenatal nutritionist, almost every pregnant woman is concerned about getting enough calcium and broth can be a good source. People from other countries regularly consume broth, not only because it tastes good, but because it’s inexpensive and a part of their traditional cuisine.
- Gelatin and collagen, which come from the connective tissue and “knuckle bones”. Ladies, ditch the fancy creams and hair serums and start eating more homemade broth. You can bet your skin and hair benefit from these nutrients. Same goes for those suffering from arthritis. The collagen in bone broth is more easily absorbed than those expensive collagen supplements. Gelatin is also healing for your intestines, so if your tummy is upset or you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), broth should be on the menu more often!
- Glycine, which comes primarily from the skin and connective tissue. This amino acid promotes synthesis of a detoxifying enzyme in the liver called glutathione. Since most people only eat muscle meats and are terrified of eating things like chicken skin (due to conventional nutrition misinformation), they also don’t get enough glycine in their diet. Next time you want to go on a “detox”, you should have a pot of homemade stock ready to go. (More tips on how to detox without depriving yourself can be found here.)
Glycine is considered a conditionally essential amino acid, meaning under normal circumstances, our body can produce enough from the other amino acids (proteins) we consume. However, pregnancy is a special exception where the body’s demands exceed it’s rate of synthesis (some researchers have called it “conditionally indispensible” during pregnancy)!
All that being said, when I describe the benefits of broth to clients, most are resistant to make it because they think it will take a lot of effort to prepare. Luckily, making homemade broth is easy and the hands-on time is minimal.
How to Make Homemade Broth From Scratch
- 1 whole chicken or turkey -or- 2 to 3 pounds of bony parts, such as necks, backs, breastbones, wings, and feet (ideally, from pastured birds)
- 2 tablespoons vinegar or lemon juice (this helps leach more minerals from the bones)
- 1 large onion, skin on, cut into quarters
- 2-4 carrots, whole
- 2-4 celery stalks, with leaves (if possible)
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ teaspoon black peppercorns (optional)
- vegetable scraps – (optionally add kale stems, parsley, garlic, ginger, etc)
- cold filtered water, to cover
Add all ingredients to a large pot or crock pot.
Bring to a boil over medium heat (medium or low setting on crock pot). Once at a boil, skim off any impurities.
Reduce temperature to low, cover, and let simmer for ~24 hours. Yes, 24 hours. (If you are cooking a whole bird, rather than just bones, I’d suggest taking the bird out after a few hours to remove the meat, then return the bones to the pot. Otherwise the meat will be tough and tasteless. I prefer to roast a bird, eat the meat, and save the bones for making broth.)
The stock is done when the bones are soft. The ends of chicken or turkey bones should literally crumble, otherwise you can let it continue cooking to maximize the mineral content of the broth. At this point, the stock should be a rich golden color.
5. Let cool and strain.
I do this with a metal strainer set over a large bowl or pot. Discard all bones and vegetable scraps. Try to get it strained and in the fridge within 2 hours for food safety concerns. (I always think back to food microbiology lab, where we’d use broth as a medium to grow all sorts of bacteria. If it’s nutrient-dense, bacteria will eat it, so don’t leave this sitting out for too long.)
Time to eat!
Use it within a few days, perhaps in this Carrot Ginger Squash Soup. Or you can freeze it for later in quart sized containers or ice cube trays. Little ice cubes of stock are perfect for adding to sauteed greens without having to defrost a giant container. Remember, you will need to add salt to this broth when cooking. It’s lower sodium than any canned version.
So next time you’re roasting a chicken (or next Turkey Day), save the bones for making homemade broth. You’ll get an extra meal or two for free, you pay homage to that animal’s life, and your grandma will be super proud. If you don’t have the motivation to do it right away, store the bones in a container/bag in your freezer. When you have enough, put them directly into the pot (still frozen), with your vegetables and you’re ready to go!
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In the comments below, tell me:
- Have you ever made homemade broth before? If so, how did it come out?
- If not, did your grandma make it?
I’d love to hear your soup stories!
Until next week,