Your grandmother was right; chicken soup will heal what ails you. For centuries, cultures around the world have embraced stocks of all varieties in promoting good health and healing. Chicken, fish, and beef broths and stocks are used as cure-alls for symptoms ranging from the common cold, to sore throats, to your love life. Now, science has validated what grandma knew: broth contains key nutrients that will heal your body and soul.
It’s nutritious. The many nutrients in bone broth are easily absorbable, making it into your cells with little work from your digestive system. Rich homemade chicken broth contains calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulfur chondroitin, glucosamine, and other trace minerals. Fish broths also provide iron which is useful for thyroid health. Especially noteworthy, for those of us that cannot tolerate or chose to simply avoid dairy, all bone broth is a terrific source of calcium which is an important nutrient for your entire body, not just your bones.
Eat Your Gelatin: All cold broths release gelatin, which is a therapeutic agent dating back to ancient China. This natural gelatin source actually helps your gut in a couple of ways. First, it prevents gastrointestinal bugs from attaching and making you sick. Second, it may actually help to sooth and heal your gut and aid in digestion. It contains collagen and the amino acids proline and glycine that can help heal your damaged cell walls. If that isn’t enough, gelatin is good for your bones and joints. Between gelatin and the natural glucosamine and chondroitin contained in a good broth, you may be able to shelve those joint pain supplements.
You Need Protein: Protein is an essential element of any diet, and broth can actually reduce the volume you need to consume. No, it will not replace all of those good lean meats, but it is what we call “protein sparring,” which means that it enables your body to better use the protein it receives. If quality broth is part of your daily diet, you may be able to cut your meat consumption by as much as half. Considering that broth costs less than $2 per gallon to make, that is just good economic sense.
Making your broth is not hard. It may sound time consuming, but once it is on the stove, you need not touch it again until it is finished. The obvious benefits and popularity of broth means that mass food production companies take notice. In your supermarket aisles, you will find rows of canned and powdered broth, stock, soups, bouillon, and dips. Unfortunately, in order to achieve shelf stable, homogeneous product, the vast majority of these “broths” are chemically synthesized simulations. Many even contain MSG, a well-known neurotoxin. Emulsifiers and gluten are often added to thicken. These chemically based substitutes rob the consumer of the nutrients and benefits of broth while providing only a fraction of the flavor.
Basic Broth Tips:
1) Use vinegar: Pre-soak your bones before you simmer them. This step will help to leech calcium and other important minerals out of the bones and into the broth before you even begin simmering. Soak cold chicken bones in 1 gallon of water with 2 tablespoons of vinegar for best results. For beef, use 1 gallon of water with ½ cup of vinegar.
2) Reuse bones: The first time you use bones, the broth will be richer than the second, but the nutrients are still there. Try boiling down the second batch to intensify the flavor.
3) Use organic meats: Bones are storage devices for the body, storing both nutrients and toxins. Organically raised animals are fed a cleaner diet and are less likely to be exposed to chemicals and toxins. Using bones from organic meats will reduce your exposure to lead, antibiotics and pesticides.
4) Go low and slow: Heat the broth slowly. Once a boil begins, reduce the heat so it is barely a simmer. Two hours is enough for fish, but the larger the animal, the longer you need to simmer. Try simmering all day for poultry and overnight for beef. Remember to heat them at barely a simmer; if you cook your broth at too high a temperature, you may denature some of the proteins.
5) Skim: Use a spoon to skim the “scum” off the top. This layer is a mixture of impurities and larger proteins that may lend your broth unwelcome flavor. Once your broth is cooled, skim off the fat if you intend to use it right away, or freeze it. Otherwise, leave the fat layer in place until you are ready to use the broth. The fat layer protects your broth from refrigerator flavors and some bacteria.
6) Don’t skimp on the feet: Chicken feet make good stock with lots of healthy gelatin. Hooves, feet and heads are the most gelatinous parts of the animal and should be included in your stock pot.
The benefits of homemade broth are evident, but the best reason to use this super food is that it makes food taste really, really good. Think beyond soup. Use broth instead of water when preparing rice or vegetables. No bouillon cube or broth from a can matches the flavor, nutrients or mouth feel of fresh broth. Says Escoffier, “Indeed, stock is everything in cooking. Without it, nothing can be done.”
Makes 4 quarts
Bones from a cooked chicken
4 quarts water
a handful of parsley
2 celery stalks
6 cloves garlic (or more)
12 whole peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 T sea salt
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
Add all ingredients to a large stock-pot. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 3 hours. Skim the top, cool, and strain through a sieve into a bowl. Cover and chill about 8 hours. Skim fat from surface. Refrigerate stock in an airtight container for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to 3 months.