WINTER is the ideal time for easy soups and stews. And the perfect base for these meals is nourishing homemade bone broth. It’s inexpensive, easy to make and loaded with health benefits.
In their book Nourishing Broth: an old fashioned remedy for the modern world, Sally Fallon Morell and Kaayla Daniel remind us that: ‘‘Until the modern era, most households kept a cauldron simmering over the fire or a stockpot on a stove’s back burner. People regularly ate from it and continually added whatever ingredients became available, making long-cooked soups and stews the original ‘fast food’.’’
When bones are slowly cooked they release all kinds of goodness. Gelatin, which is good for our digestion, skin, hair, nails and joints. Minerals like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and silicon which are released in a form that our bodies can easily absorb. Broth made with plenty of cartilage and tendons also contains chondroitin and glucosamine – compounds sold as expensive dietary supplements to relieve joint pain, inflammation and osteoarthritis.
Among the many benefits of broth, Fallon Morell and Daniel claim it ‘‘even contributes to emotional stability and a positive mental attitude’’.
Convenient stock cubes or cartons of ready to use stock contain none of these benefits.
I mostly make broth from waste or leftovers. I have a bag in the freezer where I toss carrot tops, onion skins, garlic peels and other vegetable scraps. I have a second bag where I toss bones such as the carcass from a roast chicken or bones from a roast leg of lamb.
You can also buy bones especially for making broth. Chat to your local butcher about what they have available. I use bones from organic, free range or ethically farmed animals, partly because I want bones free of residues from intensive industrial farming.
If using bought bones, rather than leftovers from a cooked meal, it’s a good idea to roast your bones first to improve the flavour of the broth.
To make the broth, place your leftover or roasted bones into a large pot or slow cooker. Toss in any vegetable scraps. Add a carrot or two, a couple of onions, a bay leaf, a couple of peppercorns and a handful of parsley. No need to chop or peel anything. Just toss everything in whole.
The more bones and veggies you add, the more flavoursome your broth. Cover everything with water and add a good dash of apple cider vinegar. The vinegar helps extract the minerals from the bones into the broth.
Cook covered on very low heat for a day or two. A slow cooker is ideal. The larger the animal, the longer it takes to extract all the good stuff from the bones. Fish bones only need a couple of hours. Chicken bones need at least a day. And beef, pork or lamb can be simmered for days. The longer you simmer the more mineral rich your broth will be.
Once your broth is ready, strain using a colander.
The broth can be enjoyed straight away or cooled so that any fat can be easily removed from the surface.
There’s endless ways to enjoy broth. Straight, with nothing but a pinch of salt and pepper. Or as the base for soups, stews, curries or risotto.
I especially like having broth in the fridge ready to make a simple meal in minutes. I add finely chopped vegetables and briefly boil, making an easy soup in minutes that is far more nourishing than any tin or packet of soup could ever be.
Tricia shares tips for living better with less at littleecofootprints.com and on Instagram (TriciaEco).