One of the best things you can prepare in your own kitchen instead of purchasing in the store is hands down homemade stocks and broth. Sure it is convenient to grab a box of chicken or beef stock at the grocery store when your recipe calls for it, but the nutrient-dense stocks that you can cook at home with very little effort and very minimal cost outweigh any convenience! The main ingredients to any stock or broth are water, bones from animals (chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, fish, venison, bison, pork, etc.), a few vegetables, and spices. You put all your ingredients together in a large stock pot or crock pot and allow to simmer (about 45 minutes to an hour for broth, 3-4 hours for stock and 24+ hours for bone broth), strain and then serve or store for future recipes. And what you get in return is not only delicious and pure- no strange preservatives, MSG or additives added in like the store bought counterpart, but jam-packed with nutrition. There is a reason chicken soup is suggested to help beat a cold! Sure it is warm, comforting and easy on a sore throat but it is so much more than just that. It is super high in protein, full of minerals that your body craves; gelatin, calcium and potassium, all which support healthy skin, hair, nails and bones, and teeth. It is a basically a powerhouse of nutrition! The longer you cook your bones the more minerals and nutrients you are pulling out of the bones. If chicken stock that has been simmered for 45 minutes is thought to be good for a cold, can you imagine the dense health benefits a bone broth that has been simmered for 24 or more hours can do for your body? The stuff is pretty amazing.
Broth and stocks can be sipped as a tea, used as a base for soups, braising vegetables and meats, and to replace the water in most recipes (rice, sauces, gravies, etc.) to not only add the health benefits but also boost your flavor! Try making a simple rice using just water and give it a taste. Next make that same rice but replace the water with stock. You will never want to use water again, it's a game changer!
You can purchase your bones at the butcher or the meat counter of your local grocery store for about $2 a pound. You will then want to roast them in the oven (30 minutes at 350 degrees) to bring a richness in flavor but also to remove any bitterness the raw bones can add to the stock. But really the easiest method in my opinion is to simply reserve the leftover bones when you roast your meat- chicken, turkey, a pot roast, etc. If I don't plan on making my bone broth within a few days I will store them in the freezer in a resealable plastic bag until I'm ready. You will almost always find a chicken carcass or two in my downstairs freezer!
Turkey carcass, vegetables, herbs and seasoning
If I am cooking a quick broth or just a simple stock that only takes 3-4 hours then I make it on my stovetop in a heavy bottomed stock pot or dutch oven. But when I am doing a chicken or turkey bone broth that needs to cook for at least 24 hours or a beef bone broth that will go for 48 hours then I prefer to utilize my crock pot. I just feel safer going to bed or leaving the house during that time without an open flame on my gas stove.
On Thanksgiving I am just as excited to save my bones after my (very handsome!) husband carves the turkey, as I am to eat the meat itself! Ha! Our turkey this year turned out so fantastic (thank you Alton Brown! Your Brined Thanksgiving Turkey recipe never fails!) that I knew the bone broth was going to be incredible. So after carving, the bones went back into the roasting pan, covered and into the fridge until the following day. For a bone broth you want to pick off the majority of the meat. A little bit is ok, (think the meat left on the neck or the little bit that is adhering to the bones) but our focus are those beautiful bones.
Scott carving up our Thanksgiving turkey
Snow is falling, temperatures dropping and Winter is upon us. Which means one thing- cold and flu season is here. So if you haven't started making your own bone broth and stocks now is the best time. Let's build up those powerful immunities and make staying healthy our top priority! Here's to a healthy You!
Turkey Bone Broth after 27 hours in the crock pot, before straining
2 lbs or more, roasted bones (about 2-3 chicken carcasses, or 1 turkey carcass)
1 onion cut into fourths
2-3 large carrots, cut into thirds (if organic no need to peel)
2 celery stalks including the leaves, roughly chopped
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 bay leaf
1 Tablespoon whole peppercorns
2 garlic cloves, smashed
Optional: bunch of fresh herbs (since this was thanksgiving turkey stock I wanted to go with those flavors so I used parsley and rosemary)
salt, about a teaspoon
Place roasted bones in the bottom of your crock pot. Add the vegetables, vinegar, bay leaf, peppercorns, garlic and herbs. Add enough cold water to cover the bones. Cook on low a minimum 24 hours.
When finished cooking the bones should crumble when pressed lightly between your fingers. This means that all the minerals and nutrients have been pulled out of the bones and into your bone broth. Turn off the crock pot and allow to cool slightly. Strain the broth using a fine mesh sieve to remove all bits of vegetable, herbs and bones. I like to lightly press the solids with a wooden spoon in the sieve to remove all the broth. Discard all of the bones and vegetables. Season with salt.
To skim or not to skim? You can enjoy your bone broth as is, but if you choose to have less fat in your broth, then you will need to skim the fat that accumulates at the top. Skimming off most of the fat is more important if you’re using bones from animals that are conventionally raised, like those found at your traditional grocery store. But fat is your friend and if you know the animals that you get your bones from are grass-fed then you can skip the skimming step. The easiest way to skim the fat is to place your bone broth into the refrigerator for several hours until a milky looking layer has formed on the top of your broth. This is the fat. You can then just scrape this off and discard.
Store in fridge for up to one week or freeze. You can freeze flat in quart-sized freezer bags, freeze in icecube trays and then transfer to freezer bags for more individual servings, or in mason jars. If using glass mason jars be sure to allow at least 2" of space to allow for expansion. If you don't leave space and over-fill your jars they will crack and you will be left with a mess and no broth. Terribly tragic! Allow to cool completely before freezing. Will store in the freezer for up to 6 months.