Soup is my love-language!
If anyone in my family gets sick, my first reflex is to grab some homemade stock out of the freezer and start making them some soup. I add lots of crushed garlic, onions, carrots, and sometimes some grated ginger. Depending on their preference, I throw in some roasted beef or chicken, which I also usually have on hand in the freezer. I’ll also add their choice of veggies, pasta, rice or potatoes. Whether it’s vegetable beef, chicken noodle, chicken with rice, or another variation, I have peace of mind knowing that my sick loved one is receiving a nutrient-dense food that has been valued for centuries.
Homemade stocks, broths and soups have been a staple in my family’s diet for years. I learned the importance of this traditional dietary staple when a friend of mine shared with me that she included chicken feet in her homemade chicken soup. Chicken feet! I was shocked. I bombarded her with questions on the benefits of chicken feet and homemade soup. She recommended that I read the book Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. It literally changed my life!
Reading just a few pages of Nourishing Traditions astonished me. Since I was homeschooling my children at the time, we began reading it like a textbook…a few pages each day. The information was mind-blowing for me. Everything I thought I knew about food and nutrition was WRONG!. Well, maybe not everything….but much. The premise of the book is that modern industrialized foods are denatured and have severely compromised our health. The key to restored health and vitality is to return to traditional foods and food preparation methods that nourished our ancestors for thousands of years. Properly prepared broths and stocks are a wonderful source of nutrients, especially during times of illness and injury.
Nothing can compare to a well-tended, homemade broth or stock.
One of the first principles of wholefood nutrition that I learned was that traditional cultures have always depended on slow-cooked broth or stock as a cornerstone of a healthy diet. Homemade meat and bone broths contain many of the staples of good nutrition:
Some of the benefits of high-quality broth and stock:
- the collagen in broth and stock is beneficial for joints, tendons, the digestive system, skin and eyes
- broth and stock help aid digestion by nourishing the collagen in the digestive tract
- the glycine in broth and stock regulates dopamine levels which is why it is said that “chicken soup is good for the soul.”
First things first: Broth? Stock? What’s the difference?!
Both terms refer to the healthy and delicious tonic that is produced when meat and bones are simmered in water. There are two ways to do this, and different sources use different labels.
The differences in preparation has to do with the length of cooking time and the ratio of meat to bones. When meaty bones are simmered in water for a relatively short amount of time (2-3 hours) until tender and falling off the bones, the result is referred to as either “Meat Stock” or “Meat Broth.” Often seasonings and vegetables are added and this is a rich meal in and of itself. The meat and vegetables can be eaten separately, and the broth used later, or eaten together, as a soup.
When bones, with little to no meat on them, are simmered in water for a relatively long amount of time (6-24 hours), the result is referred to as either “Bone Stock” or “Bone Broth.” Usually a small amount of vinegar is added to help break down the nutrients in the bones. Seasonings and vegetables can be added as well. Because of the long cooking time, the final liquid is rich in nutrients and flavor, while the bits of meat and vegetables are left flavorless and the bones are soft and crumbly. The meat, bones and vegetables are strained leaving only the rich liquid. This wonderfully rich liquid can be consumed as a clear soup or used later in rich soups, stews or sauces.
It depends on who you ask!
Different sources use different terms. In Nourishing Traditions and The Joy of Cooking “broth” is the term used for the shorter-cooked version with mostly meat, and “stock” is the term used for the longer-cooked version made with mostly bones. Julia Child, in Mastering The Art of French Cooking, uses the terms the other way around. Similarly, Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride in Gut and Psychology Syndrome, and Monica Corrado in Cooking Techniques for the Gut and Psychology Syndrome Diet, are in the same camp with Julia Child, using the term “stock” for the shorter-cooked version made with mostly meat, and “broth” for the longer-cooked version made with mostly bones.
Though I have seen the words “Stock” and “Broth” used interchangeably, I’ve adopted the terms “Meat Stock” to refer to the shorter-cooked version made with mostly meat and “Bone Broth” to refer to the longer-cooked version made with mostly bones. Meat stock is a traditional meal, eaten by all cultures since ancient times. Bone broth is the foundation of all gourmet cooking! Both are nutrient-dense foods that can benefit our health.
For many years bone broth has been a staple in my family’s nutrition. Not only is it delicious, but it is also full of so many wonderful vitamins and minerals!
Meat Stock is better for people with gut issues.
I have recently learned that not everyone can digest bone broth very easily. A lot of people with poor gut health have found long-cooked bone broth to be a challenge for their bodies to process.
Meat stock, on the other hand, has many of the same nutritional benefits as bone broth, but is much more gentle on the stomach. Both meat stock and bone broth contain natural gelatin and amino acids that are healing for the gut lining. The biggest difference between the two is that meat stock is low in glutamic acid, whereas bone broth is high in glutamic acid. This is important because people whose gut is not yet healed may experience negative symptoms from high levels of glutamic acid. It is best for sensitive people to stick with meat stock until the gut is healed.
Keep It Simple Sweetie and KISS overwhelm good-bye!
Store-bought broth or stock is inferior in nutrients and flavor to homemade. Without a doubt homemade broth or stock is superior to anything you can buy at a store. There are many methods and recipes for making superb homemade broth and stock, and many of them can be quite time-consuming. Most of the recipes recommend using a stockpot, Dutch Oven or slow cooker. The problem with these recipes is that you can only make small batches at a time. I have found that with large batches, I get a greater return on my prep-time efforts. I like to keep things simple. When I was a kid my dad taught me the acronym KISS: “Keep it Simple Sweetie.” He explained to me that this was an easy way to remember that we shouldn’t over-complicate things. This was wise advice. When things are too complicated, we tend to feel overwhelmed and are more likely to give up or quit. My favorite recipes are the ones that don’t require a lot of fuss. These are the recipes that I make again and again.
The Key to Never Running Out of Stock or Broth is to Make Big Batches
Over the years I have streamlined my method of making broth and stock, so that I can make big batches at once, without a whole lot of effort and fuss. Large batches can be used immediately or divided up into small containers that can be stored in the freezer for later. With my method I prepare both meat stock and bone broth in the same pan. Typically I make one large batch of meat stock, and then return the bones to the pan and make one large batch of bone broth. This way, I always have some stock or broth ready to go in the freezer for soups, sauces, and other recipes.
- Stainless Steel Roaster : Most recipes for broth or stock recommend that you use a slow cooker or a stock pot. I prefer to use a stainless steel roaster because its large size allows me to make twice the amount. I also like the fact that most newer ovens have a slow cook setting. This allows me to simmer my stock in the oven for 12 – 24 hours, at just the right temperature. Before I had a slow cook setting on my oven, I would set my roaster on top of the stove on two burners. I would start out on medium and then turn the settings down to low to simmer for 10-12 hours during the daytime when I could keep an eye on it. Even then, I preferred the roaster to the slow cooker or stock pot because I could make a much larger quantity for the same amount of effort.
- Fine Mesh Strainer: This is essential for straining out small bones and unwanted fat and gristle.
- Pyrex Pitcher: This is what I strain my broth into. It is both a pitcher and a measuring cup and it makes it easy to fill storage containers with the strained broth.
- Pyrex Measuring Cup: This is what I use to ladle the liquid into the pitcher.
- Storage Containers: Use glass for the most environmentally friendly option. Plastic is the least expensive option. Make sure to use food-grade plastic.
A few more things…
If you don’t own a stainless steel roaster let me encourage you to invest in one. It is one of the most important tools in my kitchen. Mine was a wedding gift from my parents and I consider it indispensable for not only delectable stocks and broths, but for roasting of any kind. The updated model that my daughters use has a deeper base, which is nice because it can hold even more liquid. You can find one here.
I use both glass and food-grade plastic storage containers for my stock and broth. Either will work. Be sure to leave about an inch and a half headspace when filling the containers to allow for expansion of the frozen liquid in the freezer.
“Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.” Isaiah 55:2b
If you would like to learn more about bone broth and/or meat stock check out the books Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallen, Cooking Techniques for the Gut and Psychology Syndrome Diet, Part I: Meat Stock and Bone Broth by Monica Corrado, Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Natasha Campbell-McBride, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I by Julia Child, and The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer
KISS Method for Broth and Stock
- Stainless Steel Roaster with Cover
- 4-6 lbs meat with bones (ex. 2 whole chickens, or enough beef shanks to fill bottom of roaster)
- sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- pinch or two dried herbs of choice (I like dried thyme, basil and/or parsley)
- vegetables of choice (optional) (I like carrots, onions, and celery)
- Preheat oven to 400℉.
- Add enough meat and bones to fill the bottom of the roaster.
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- Sprinkle a pinch or two of dried herbs over the top.
- Cover the roaster and place it in a preheated oven for 2-3 hours. You should start to smell the aroma of the delectable roasted meat, and this is your clue that the meat is likely ready. I like to take it out of the oven at about the 2.5 hour point to check to see if the meat is ready. (Be sure to open the lid away from you so that the steam doesn't hit you in the face.) If the meat is a nice golden brown color, and is fork tender when you pull it off the bone, it is ready. If not, return to the oven for a bit longer.
- When the meat is ready, let stand uncovered for 15-20 minutes to cool down so you can handle it.
- When meat is cooled down, remove from roaster to a large cutting board with grooves to catch the juices. Remove meat from bones and set aside. This can be eaten as-is, added back to the strained meat stock for soup, or frozen and used later in another recipe.
- Return bones, fat, and small scraps (such as gristle) to the roaster. (Optional) add vegetables.) Add enough water to the roaster to cover the bones, scraps and (optional) vegetables. Put the cover on the roaster and return to the 400° for about 2 more hours.
- Carefully remove the roaster from the oven. Let stand for 15 - 20 minutes to cool down. Remove the cover. At this point you have a rich and flavorful meat stock that can be ladled, strained and used immediately as a soup by adding back the roasted meat and (optional vegetables)
- To make bone broth, return the bones to the roaster along with meat scraps (such as gristle). Refill the roaster with enough water to cover the bones. Add 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar. Cover the roaster and place in the oven. Set oven setting to "slow cook" and simmer for 12 to 24 hours. If your oven does not have a "slow cook" setting, you can place roaster on two burners on the stove. Heat on medium to medium-high until cover of roaster is warm, then turn both burners down to the low. Let simmer for 10 to 12 hours, keeping an eye out for sputtering. If there is sputtering temporarily turn off one of the burners to reduce temperature, turning it back to low once sputtering has ceased.
- After 10 - 12 hours remove roaster from oven or stove. Let cool down for about 1 to 2 hours before straining into a pyrex pitcher.
- Fill pint and quart size containers with cooled bone broth.
- Store in refrigerator over night. The fat will rise to the top and harden. I like to remove the chicken fat or tallow and store separately in the freezer for cooking, but this is not necessary.
- Place bone broth in freezer for storage. It will last many months. Now you have plenty of bone broth on hand for delicious meals, soups, and as a healing elixer when needed!