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Food from the Farm: Good Meat calls for good stock

Good morning local food eaters,

Do you make your own broth or stock? Why or why not?

We have talked about making stock before. I am inspired to write about it now because it has still been so cold, meaning such good soup weather.

I personally LOVE soup, and could eat it year round, for any meal. I think soup is the perfect meal.

However, not everyone in my family agrees.

My experience with making broth goes back to my college years when I was learning how to eat a Weston Price style, traditional foods diet for healing some personal health issues. I would make chicken stock in the crockpot, and proudly show my roommates the rich dark magical liquid. Since then, Brooks and I have made a broth of some kind nearly every week, except maybe not in the hottest parts of the summer. We have experimented with larger scale production in 50 gallon stainless steel vats; from time to time we have discussed or ventured into commercial stock production. Mainly we make stock for ourselves, and greatly enjoy it.

We'd love to share some of what we've learned.

First - What's the difference between stock and broth?

For the record, we don't make a distinction.

There are lots of chefs and websites that debate this point. There is lots of talk of clarity, flavor, body, and end use. Generally speaking, it seems that broth is made with meats and stock is made with bones, although this is not set in stone. There are also differences between quick cooked broths and long cooked bone broths.

For our purposes, everything is bone broth because we never make a soup or stock without bones. That's kind of the whole point - using the whole animal. This means making use of leftover carcasses and bones and cuts that otherwise wouldn't be edible without long slow cooking. When you have leftovers that you save from the trash and you get soup as a byproduct, that is an amazing discovery, that humans have been doing forever.

Second - the other main point for us, besides using the whole animal, is extracting as much nutrient density as possible. We generally favor long slow cooked broths, often leaving chicken stock on the stove for 12-24+ hours, and with beef/pork bones, sometimes up to 48 hours.

The Weston A. Price Foundation has long been advocating the use of traditional diet components particularly soups and stews that use the whole animal and long slow cooking. Recently, there has been an explosion in the natural health world for bone broth is based on long cooked broth made from bones, skin, and joints creating a mineral and gelatin rich end liquid. According to Dr. Axe, a popular natural health specialist, bone broth health benefits include:

  • stronger immunity against common illnesses or allergies

  • reduced symptoms related to digestive disorders like leaky gut syndrome, IBS or IBD

  • generally enhanced digestion with fewer cases of bloating, diarrhea, gas, acid reflux and constipation

  • healthier joints, ligaments and tendons

  • more youthful-looking skin thanks to collagen

  • stronger bones

  • higher intake of important minerals like calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, potassium and more

There are a host of cookbooks, diets, and broth products readily available for consumer purchase these days.

But if you are getting good meat directly from the farm, then it only makes sense to use as much of it as possible to add flavor and nutrition to your family's diet. Broth cartons and powders are handy, but it's easy and super affordable to make your own.

Brooks and Anna's Stock making tips:

  • As with other foods that we cook, our method relies less on recipes and specifics and more on knowing the basics and making use of what we have on hand.

  • We don't think you can go wrong. There is nothing to be afraid of. Throw something in the pot with water and simmer it. Done.

  • There are multiple levels of broth, starting with simple bones and water, and increasing in complexity to hearty and amazingly flavorful combinations of various meats, vegetables, and herbs. They are good for different uses, but we really decide how to proceed based not on the end use, but on what we have on hand. So if we have vegetables that are calling out to be used, we will enrich the stock with them. In leaner times, where there are just a few carrots in the drawer, I will often make the stock with plain bones, and then add the diced carrots to the finished soup. There they still lend flavor, nutrition, and substance making a nice soup.

  • Experiment! The only way to determine your favorite kind of broth, is to try it. Try chicken bones, try chicken feet, try roasted beef bones, try pork bones. Try skimming the fat, or leaving it on. Try plain bones versus adding a lot of vegetables.

  • Salt is key. As I wrote about before, salt brings out the flavor in everything, particularly stock. Try a mug of plain broth, and add pinches of salt until it tastes perfect. Seasoning a soup properly with salt makes the difference between something bland and something spectacular.

  • One of my favorite broths of all time is my family's traditional quick cooked vegetable heavy broth that they use at Christmas time to make passatelli, an Italian parmesan noodle/dumpling hybrid soup. Parmesan, nutmeg, and lemon rind are the key flavors, so it is a delicious but perhaps acquired taste. Sadly, I can't eat it anymore because I need to eat gluten free, and haven't yet figured out how to make it gluten free. But they always save some plain broth on the side for the gluten free folks, and it is so delicious and very different from my usual broths. It uses beef and chicken, cooked for a relatively short time, approximately 6 hours. There are lots of vegetables in it, pounds of carrots and celery and the "secret sauce" - tomatoes. Whole canned tomatoes simmered in the broth makes for a reddish tinted, sweet/sour, umami fabulous flavor. Because of this, I often add a few spoonfuls of tomato paste or another tomato product to my soups/stocks. It adds so much to the color and flavor.

  • Save some for later. It's always good to have some on hand for when you're sick or a need a bit of stock for a recipe. Make large batches of stock, make a soup with some and freeze the rest. Use a large pot, and when the stock is done, strain through a colander into another pot. I do this by putting the colander and clean pot in the sink, so I'm leaning the big full pot downhill, and it doesn't take much effort. Then it is optional to strain it again through a fine sieve into your containers. Plastic yogurt containers are great because it is easy to pop the stock out and use it. Lately we've been trying to get away from plastic as much as possible, and freeze the stock in wide mouth quart jars. Leaving an inch of head space and putting on a loose fitting lid are key so your jar doesn't break when the liquid expands. In this photo, the stock is already frozen, and has expanded up towards the top.

  • Another technique for saving for later is to reduce your stock. We do this by cooking it down further after straining it, until it almost boils down to nothing, as if you were making a demi glace (rich reduced broth sauce) or beyond. The goal is a small jar of concentrated bouillon-like product. Sometimes I freeze it in small jars for traveling, in which case a spoonful can be mixed with hot water for instant broth. Alternatively, it can be poured into a silicone ice cube tray and frozen that way for single servings or cooking use. This way is a bit energy intensive and time consuming, but the benefits in space saving and ease sometimes make it worth it.

  • Save small bones from chicken wings, pork chops, beef cuts, etc. in gallon size ziploc bags in the freezer for the next time you make stock.

Our favorite uses of stock and broth:

  • Soup eggs - we make these for breakfast often, by simmering a couple of poached eggs in broth. Chopped greens or herbs are a delicious addition when available, or even just a bit of grated garlic.

  • Drink it plain - a perfectly salted mug of hot broth is restorative for when you're sick or not. It's filling for when you need a little snack, and kids and babies love it.

  • Make soup - OK, here's a fun and easy soup "recipe". It's actually two soups in one. Day one - make the broth/stock with a whole chicken and whatever carcasses or other bones you have on hand. After 2-3 hours, remove the chicken, let cool, and take off the meat and reserve in the fridge, returning all skin and bones to the pot. Day two (or whenever the stock is "done")- strain the stock into a different pot, and fill with chopped vegetables, whatever you have, adding the slower cooking ones first (onions, carrots) followed by quicker cooking (potatoes, celery). Finish with garlic and herbs, and your chopped cooked chicken (or leftover meat of some kind). Season well with salt. Serve for dinner: chicken soup. On the next day, when you want to eat soup again, but maybe your family doesn't like repeated identical leftovers, or maybe much of the meat is gone, take a package of ground beef and season with salt and pepper , forming little meat balls. Simmer these in stock or water, and add to the soup with the cooking liquid. Ta da, instantly new soup - now it is meatball soup. At this point I often add greens and rice or noodles as well. Whatever is left, freeze in containers for another time that you want soup. Enjoy!

How do you make stock and what do you do with it?

Thanks as always for supporting local agriculture,

Brooks and Anna

Other Resources of Interest:

Nourishing Broth: An Old-Fashioned Remedy for the Modern World by Sally Fallon, of the Nourishing Traditions Weston Price Foundation cookbook. Full of recipes, lore, and general brothy goodness.

How to make the Best Chicken Stock (great photos and prefers using cooked leftover chicken carcasses)

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