One of the easiest things to do to stay – or get – healthy in the winter is to make your own chicken stock, or bone broth. Some people like to claim that healthy eating costs a lot of money, but broth is something you can make from the bones of a chicken you already ate, plus some apple cider vinegar and veggies (see recipe below).
The result is a protein-rich and mineral-rich healing liquid that can be drunk on its own as a tonic for upset tummies, as a base for soups, or as an addition to a stir-fry or any kind of cooking of veggies. If you make your own baby food, use stock instead of water to add fat, which will help your child absorb any vitamins & minerals in the veggies (and the stock adds nutrients and protein of its own).
Our house is gluten-free by necessity, but I also avoid processed rice pasta most of the time preferring to cook whole grains like brown rice and millet in broth. It’s so much tastier and healthful. And, often, cheaper!
I recently attended another great cooking class with whole food chef and holistic health educator Monica Corrado of Simply Being Well. If you’ve never made stock before, watching it done in person might be a good motivator to get on the homemade bandwagon. It’s instructive to see the process done in person, and learning in a community is fun and rewarding.
But if you’ve got a carcass just about picked clean and you’re ready to go, here is the simple recipe to get you started.
It’s best to have two chicken carcasses or one carcass and a bunch of wing bones (or other bones if you can get them from your farmer or butcher). If you have only one carcass, you might cut the recipe in half to avoid a weak broth. It’s fine to store one carcass in the freezer until you have a second ready.
- 4 quarts (filtered) water
- 2 Tablespoons raw, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar (or another kind of vinegar if necessary, the milder the better. Try rice vinegar before grain vinegar. I don’t think balsamic works for this purpose).
- Chicken* bones (two carcasses if available)
* Use good quality chickens that have been bred on pasture. Organic or “pastured” from a farmer you trust is best. Be sure at a minimum that they are hormone & antibiotic-free. Organic chickens at the store might be pricey, but you can get them directly from farmers at markets or through co-ops for $3.00/lb.
Mix the above in a stock pot.
Let sit for 30-60 minutes at room temperature.
During this time, the vinegar is pulling out the calcium and other minerals from the bones. It might help if you’ve cut up or snapped some of the bones.
While the water/vinegar/bones sit, cut up one onion, three celery stalks and two carrots. Big pieces are fine.
Note: celery and carrots are both on the “dirty dozen” list, meaning they are among one of the foods it’s most important to eat organic.
Add the veggies to the pot and put on heat to a boil.
When the pot starts to boil, try to skim off anything that looks like scum – tiny particles and bubbles that are impurities. If you don’t do this, life will go on, but you’ll notice that your final product will look not so pure.
After skimming, lower the temp of the pot to a low simmer. The top of the stock-in-progress should be relatively still while there is rolling going on under the surface. Cover for the remainder of the cooking.
Step 7 (aka “Wait”)
Let this roll (covered) as long as possible – no fewer than 6 hours. The closer you can get to 24 hours, the better. The flavor will be rich, and it will be a wonderful healing food full of gelatin. You can turn it off if you go to work or to bed and leave it on the stove to bring back to a boil hours later. Skim the scum each time you bring it back up to a boil, and then turn the heat back down each time.
When you’re ready to call it quits, put a bunch of parsley in for last 10 minutes for an extra wallop of minerals (and flavor).
Now you’re ready to strain the stock into a big bowl (using a mesh strainer and going slowly so your bones and veggies don’t fall in).
Any remaining meat and the veggies have all been stripped of their nutritional value by now. Toss them out or feed the meat to the cat.
If you did a short run of this stock, you might save the bones for a second use.
Let the stock cool some before you ladle it into jars for storage. Whether you cool it in a bowl or in smaller containers, it’s nice to let the stock completely cool in the fridge before you use it so you can take off the top layer of fat if you wish and so that you can see how solidly the stock “set up” – how gelled it got.
Don’t put warm stock in the fridge; it will just warm up your fridge! Let it sit out and get to room temperature first.
If you don’t plan to use the stock right away, you can store in Mason jars (be sure to leave at least an inch at the top so they don’t burst in the freezer) or freeze in cube trays for small uses here and there. Stock keeps in the fridge for a few days; use your nose, but I’d feel very comfortable with 3-4 days, and some folks would go up to a week. Bringing to a boil again is a good idea.
Enjoy this wonderful, delicious healing food that is far superior to anything you could get in a box or can!