Monday, December 2, 2013

got broth?

i live in nyc where we are fortunate to experience all four seasons in brilliant fashion.  just like that, right on time, mid november, the weather snaps and the cold arrives.  fall now feels like winter and the chill has set into my bones.  bingo! bones. there. i have said it.  a word that sets some folks on edge and others enthusiastically on fire when pertaining to food. in my house bones are a blessing and a friend because they give us "stuff" that no other food can give. nutrient dense broth and succulent, divine marrow.  (if you never saw or read my bone marrow omelette recipe when it was published by sarah, the healthy home economist, i recommend you click here after you have finished this post).  also, my post, skin & bones, on this blog gets into some rather boney good food.

bones are a foundation, a structure, a skeleton, a frame, a sturdy and strong base to build upon.  the broth we make from bones is an elixir to support all of that in order to keep the structure, in this case our bodies (which includes the mind, y'all) sound and healthy.  in it's most fundamental homeopathic approach to feeding or curing like with like....bone broth on a daily basis will supply the necessary amount of collagen, gelatin, minerals, vitamin C and more that we all need to maintain strong bones and vibrant health.  it is also the foundation of hundreds of great dishes and traditional recipes! 

however, over the years, the practice of making broth, or stock, from animal bones has gone out of "fashion" and people have turned instead to packaged broths and stocks from the grocer's shelves to save time.  convenience is king to americans it seems, but at what cost?  in this case it has cost us our birth right.  packaged broth has absolutely no nutritional value. as a matter of fact, it contains chemicals and additives (the product and the packaging) that are actually hurting us and making us ill.  it is no wonder that we are seeing so many people these days with weak and ailing bones - osteoporosis and the wide spread need for hip and knee replacements, etc.  bone broth made from properly raised animals could quite possibly be the key to feeling good and healing from chronic illness.  as a matter of fact broth is such a hot topic again that there is a new book in the works called "nourishing broth" by sally fallon morell and dr. kaayla daniel and i am hoping to contribute a recipe or two to that!  but enough about why this traditionally key food is so powerfully good for us and onto how to make it and use it!

in my little house on the urban prairie our stock pot is put up every week in order to make roughly 7- 8 quarts of delicious, gelatin rich broth.  we put two in the freezer (labeled and dated) for later and consume 5 - 6 quarts a week.  i alternate between beef, lamb, chicken and fish.  i make veal stock every once in a while on special occasions (and that process is a bit different) in order to make either an onion soup, demi glace for steak (in which i melt an other-worldly australian blue cheese on top of a perfectly rare, seared and peppered grass fed rib eye by pouring hot, reduced red wine, mushroom demi glace over it) or a savory base for my famous lentil stew.  all broths are consumed, salted to taste, for breakfast, first thing in the morning by all members of the family.  we have been doing this for years and find that it is an amazing way to start the day.  4 - 6oz. of hot broth is a gentle, beautiful way to start the day and can keep you going for a very long time as far as nutrients are concerned.  we have also been known to drink our broth as bacon and egg drop soup in the morning.  in this case we heat the soup to a simmer, salt to taste, beat 2 pastured egg yolks in a bowl and slowly drizzle into the broth as we stir it in the pot making what my kids call egg noodles.  we garnish with bacon lardons, thinly chopped scallions and sometimes a drizzle of toasted sesame oil and bacon drippings. again, a great way to start the day with a hot, delicious, nutrient dense breakfast.  

when the weather turns chilly, like it is now, i heat and salt the broth in the morning and then pour it into a 2 quart thermos so it is always ready to take the chill off of whomever requires that feeling of a warm cuddle in their bellies.  that's what good broth will do.  a warm embrace from the inside out.  there is an old south american saying that claims that broth can resurrect the dead.  i have never seen the actual act performed but i can attest to the lazarus effect it provides in someone with a bad cold, the flu or just suffering from being plain, flat out, knackered and tired.  bone broth, and meat stocks are the cornerstone of classical french cooking.  every soup, sauce, stock, stew and more are based on well made bone broths and can turn a plain tasting dish into a spectacular star.

if bone broth is so delicious and so good for you then why has it fallen out of fashion you might ask....well, like i previously stated above, todays american likes their convenience.  bone broth is something that takes a bit of time and effort.  not scary effort, mind you. just a bit of patience and preparation and then it couldn't be easier.  as a matter of fact i liken stock and broth making to babysitting.   in order to make a good bone broth you need to source bones from well raised animals who have grazed on pasture, or fresh, wild caught, non oily fish.  once you have located your source you are halfway there.  i always recommend starting at your local greenmarket.  if that does not pan out then your local butcher shop or fish monger will do.  please ask questions about the bones. you want to know where they came from. how fresh they are....etc.  also, if you do get them from your butcher, ask him or her to cut them if they are too large to fit into your pot - this will also produce more gelatin (especially if you are using a cow or pig foot - yum!).  okay, so now you have your bones at home. good work.  you will need a good stock pot - you can do this in a crock pot too - but i prefer the stock pot in my house. i use a 12 quart stainless steel pot.  you choose what is best for you.

5lbs. (give or take) of bones go in, cover with pure filtered water, leaving a few inches at the top.  with beef and lamb i use a combo of knuckle bones and marrow bones.  sometimes i roast the marrow bones first to eat the marrow then use the bones or sometimes i don't. it all depends on how i feel.  i love marrow - and so does my family - so we tend to eat the marrow and use the bones...but cooking the marrow into the soup is fine, healthy and nutritious.  into that pot of cold water and bones i put 2 TBS. Braggs apple cider vinegar and then let sit for 1/2 and hour to 1 hour.  This will leech more nutrients out of the bones and will not change the flavor at all.  then i turn on the flame - med. high and bring it to a boil  while the pot comes to a boil, the water and bones will produce a green/grey foam that will gather on top. these are impurities from the proteins. please scoop this foam or scum off. we do not need or want this.  my general rule in cooking is that if it foams to the top, skim it off - something is looking to be extracted because it is not necessary and floating to the top to say hello and tell you so. take the hint. keep the broth clean.  there.  when all of the scum has been scooped off the top you may add aromatics.  I will add a rib of celery, chopped, a carrot or two, scrubbed and roughly chopped, one onion peeled and quartered and about 10 black peppercorns.  i then reduce the flame and cover the pot.

you never want the pot to boil. you want it to smile.  if a boil is a laugh and a simmer is a giggle...find the smile.  here is a video to show you what i mean.

i let my beef and lamb broth go for 30 - 36 hours. my chicken, around 20 hours and fish, usually 6 hours.  what we notice here is smaller bones, less cooking time, yes?  generally, i will shut the broth off and let it cool. take out the bones and aromatics, then store in glass jars to cool.  when i freeze my 2 quarts (in plastic as i have had too many glass jars explode on me in my small freezer = nightmare) i will cool it overnight in the fridge, take off the fat in one solid piece then transfer to plastic to freeze.  sometimes i will even reduce the broth further to intensify the flavor before i freeze it.  this is a great solution if you have a small freezer and want to consolidate and concentrate flavor.  then you can add water later when you use the broth and expand the volume.

beef and chicken broth are sipped hot at least once a day by all members of my family. fish broth is almost always used for soups, risotto, curries, pad thai, stew and congi for weekend brekkie. lamb broth is the cornerstone of my lentil stew and slow oven roasted lamb shanks seasoned with fresh herbs, orange zest and cardamom seeds.  i highly recommend broth of all kinds for making rice that has been well soaked.  by using broth you are imparting nutritional value (just like in risotto).  finish with good raw butter and fresh reggiano parmagiano and hip hip hooray!

i will stop now because i could go on forever about broth and how wonderful, satisfying, restorative and versatile it really is.  making broth is a meditation for me -- just like parenting (a subtle hint regarding the topic of my next blog, hello).   oh! did i happen to mention that when you make broth your home will smell amazing for hours and hours? it does.......but before i disappear into my little 9x11 kitchen to thaw some bones and fill the stock pot with filtered cold water and pull out the bottle of raw apple cider vinegar, i want to leave you with this thought....good bone broth is an inspiration and an opportunity to create your next delicious, nourishing meal.  when you commit to making bone broth and having it in your home it is like making a commitment to good health and rich flavor.  It is like preparing and storing an insurance policy in your freezer.  when you have the basis, or foundation for good body health and properly cooked dishes ready to go, you have a home that it ready to heal. so get those bones and fill that pot (and email me if you need help) and get that broth going cause it might just be a long winter and when you call your Family2Table on one of those chilly nights, they will certainly smell the broth and feel the lovin' comin' out of the oven. enjoy!


  1. Thank you....shall start looking for a bone source ASAP.

  2. Potassium helps us maintain normal blood pressure. Consuming dairy products is associated with a lower risk for heart disease.

  3. However, I do not see any warnings about excessive amounts mentioned here.
    There are always those who think that more of whatever is beneficial is better.

  4. Loved these recipes, thank you for sharing it with us.
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