Once upon a time, I thought home-made stocks were something that only chefs bothered with. I was under the impression they were time-consuming and tricky.
Turns out that bone broth is the easiest thing in the world to make, and one of the best things you can have in your fridge or freezer for maintaining your immune system.
Homemade bone broth, or stock, has become my latest fascination and slight addiction. Thankfully, it’s coming in to winter and having a stock on the go adds a warmth and delicious smell to the house that is an absolute treat to come home to on a dark and cold evening.
It makes me feel all ‘motherly’ when we are all hanging around the kitchen, chatting and prepping a meal, and there is some stock simmering slowly beside us.
Coming in to winter, we start to crave warming, nourishing food. It’s our body’s way of tuning in to the colder season. Soups are a fast and easy meal at this time of year – a busy mum’s nutritional friend – but making them on store-bought stocks isn’t the best. Those products are typically full of additives and chemicals, GM ingredients and lack any kind of nutrition.
Making your own stock is so much better for you. And it’s easy! If I can do it, anyone can. With a slow cooker, it’s a set and forget process, which is perfect when you have bugger all spare time for faffing about.
Bone broth – when organic animal bones are slowly cooked for a long time to draw out all the minerals and gelatin – aids digestion and helps protect our intestinal lining, and it helps boost immunity, which is exactly what we need at this time of year. What a coincidence!
This year I’ve used a chicken bone broth to great affect with the kids and myself when fighting off a cold bug. It has perked us up very quickly. For generations before us, chicken soup – made on simmered stock – was the go-to medicine to treat unwell kids. In the field of food energetics, the theory is that the fast, energetic ways of chickens is what transfers to us when we eat their flesh or drink a broth or stock made from their bones, hence the reputation of chicken soup perking us up when we aren’t well. There’s some food for thought.
Here is how I make my bone broth/stock:
- I put the carcass of an organic chicken in the slow cooker, and cover with water. I use either the bones from a roast chicken cooked the night before, or I buy bones from my organic butcher, for $2 a bag.
- I add the off cuts of celery, onion and carrots (I collect these as I cook or juice and freeze them for when I need them to make the stock).
- I also add a couple of spoonfuls of apple cider vinegar – the vinegar helps draw out the minerals from the bones.
- Also into the pot add some black peppercorns or any other herbs you’d like to flavour it with.
- I set the slow cooker to low and leave it for up to 24 hours. Chickens only need up to six hours to give you a good stock. It fills the house with the most delicious smell!
When it’s done, strain the liquid through a sieve, and store your broth in some glass jars in the fridge. It should be quite gelatinous (jelly-like) once cooled, which is a good thing – that’s the gelatin from the bones.
I freeze mine in glass jars, in portions according to how I will use it (some in ice-cube trays is great for adding to dishes for extra flavour).
Some people drink the broth as is, instead of tea or coffee, for a nutritious hot drink. I turn mine into quick lunches – throw some in a saucepan with some vegies, miso paste and sea vegetables and I’m done.
You can make a beef or fish version too.
I only use organic animal bones. The cooking process is leeching out everything from the bones, which means I want to ensure the quality of the concentrate I’m going to serve up to my family.
I don’t want liquid that contains toxins, chemicals, antibiotic residue and the like.
Buying organic bones is cheap anyway, as I mentioned above – two chicken carcasses for $2 at my butcher. An organic whole chicken for my family may be around $20 (usually just under), but it will feed us dinner, lunches and then make a stock that will be used in several other meals. So I think that’s excellent value.
If you’d like to read some more on the topic from someone far more experienced than me, check out Alexx Stuart’s post here. And of course Sally Fallon, of Nourishing Traditions fame, is a bit of a guru on the topic – find a post by her here.