The beauty of broth is in letting nothing go to waste. All the parts of the animal that one normally would not eat can go into the stockpot and their nutrients slowly leeched out by the action of simmering water. In times gone by, when a lot of people still raised their own animals on small farmstead land holdings, there was nearly always a continuous river of broth flowing from the kitchen stockpot full of easily digestible protein, fat, many different minerals, and gelatin to economically strengthen and sustain the members of the household for the hard work that is a natural part of country life. The beauty of broth is in taking what was inedible and good for nothing and turning it into a rich, delicious and nourishing liquid that can form the basis for many soups, sauces and grain dishes.
“(Broth) to inspirit the soup, enhance the pasta and rice, baste the roast, sauce the vegetables and provide a sop for bread. And, most important of all, it’s aroma filled the house, cosseting all who inhaled it with deep well-being, as if the very air were filled with nurture. The chef may have transmorgified his meat waters into gold; the housewife transmuted them into a far more essential nutrient: Love.” ~John Thorne “The Outlaw Cook”
It really truly is unfortunate that, in our day and age, the ancient tradition of “the constantly simmering stockpot on the back of the stove” has been mostly lost…traded in for a faster paced, pre-packaged, disposable lifestyle. In this modern age we are barely in our homes long enough to eat a meal together at the table as a family, let alone willing to remain home and take up the vigil for the hours of simmering needed to make a proper broth. Not that it’s even all that hard to manage, especially if you use a crockpot…which says quite a lot about the state of affairs in “The Modern American Houeshold”, mostly the result of a combination of ignorance and sheer laziness.
But, even if one is willing to keep alive the ancient tradition of broth making, there is another problem to contend with. In times gone by, animals were usually slaughtered at home; taken from The Wild or after having already lived a useful life as a wool, egg, or milk producer or beast of burden; they came from our own backyards as complete bodies with organs and bones and blood encased in fur and skin, horn and hoof, feather and cockscomb…providing lots of fun and interesting trimmings for making a nutritious and delicious broth! A far cry from the meat of today which often comes in boring little boneless packages of styrofoam and plastic wrap…BLECH!
Not to mention that the way commercial animals are raised makes them virtually devoid of any useful nutrient, usually being fed the bare minimum required to keep them alive just long enough to reaching a satisfactory butchering weight. Their only goal being to produce a product that a makes as much profit as possible, to hell with the health and well-being of their customers so as long as the product leaves the shelves, and with your hard-earned money in their hand of course. The natural lifespan of a chicken can be as long as 15 years and most chickens reach sexual maturity at around 4 months, yet my guess would be that commercial chickens, if not butchered at the appropriate time, would die before reaching 6 months old and most likely too weak and malnourished to have even reached sexual maturity. But I digress…
So, the first step in broth making would be to obtain quality animal parts. The best and cheapest way to do this is to hunt or raise your own meat, if that is not possible then locate a farmer in your area who raises healthy animals, preferably free range and grass fed, and buy from him. As a last resort, but not the best option, you can also buy commercially raised organic meat. The only problem with this is that most grocery stores do not carry the trimmings from the organic meat like bones, meaty joints, hoofs, feet, cockscomb, etc. that make for the best broth…the only satisfactory exception would be a whole organic chicken with neck and gizzards included…but one would be hard pressed to make a nutritious beef broth from the offerings found at a corporate grocery store chain.
After obtaining quality animal parts, the next most important factor is water. Clean, quality water with as much poisons as possible removed from it. The best option is water obtained from your very own well or spring and even better is to take that water and put it through a heavy duty water filter, like a Berkey with the extra filter attachments to remove flouride, arsnic and other heavy metals. If you are forced to use municipal water, then a Berkey water filter with the extra flouride/arsnic filter is an ABSOLUTE MUST HAVE. The reason having quality water is so important is because as the broth simmers and the water evaporates whatever chemicals are in that water are going to become concentrated, and while the broth may still taste good there will be silently deadly poisons lurking in it and at even higher concentrations than normally found in municipal water. Commercial bottled spring water can be acceptable as long as you are sure of the source.
Although you can add vegetables and herbs for additional nutrition and flavor, preferably organic or homegrown so that the residual pesticides don’t concentrate in the broth, but quite honestly the only things required for a basic broth are an assortment of animal parts and water. A little bit of acid, in the form of 1/4-1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar, is also a good idea. Water that is a little bit on the acidic side will more readily leech the minerals out of the bones and into the broth, it’s especially helpful in removing the calcium from the bones. Some of the classic vegetables used are carrots, celery, and onions and almost always fresh parsley or thyme added at the end to give it a nice clean green flavor to balance the musky meatiness of the broth. And of course the salt, having enough salt is essential in bringing out the full flavor and taste nuances of the broth. Use high quality moist grey celtic sea salt or ancient sea salt, (Redmond Real Salt is economical when bought in bulk) add enough to taste and then add a pinch or two more. This type of salt is full of trace minerals and iodine and it tastes really good, once you start using it you’ll never be able to go back to industrial by-product salt (like Morton brand) again!
How To Make A RED MEAT Broth (for beef, lamb, venison, etc.)
3-4 pounds of a combination of long marrow bones from the legs and a couple knuckle/joint bones (for nutrients and gelatin)
1 hoof cut in half at the split, a section of the horn or antler is also a good idea (for gelatin)
3-4 pounds meaty rib, neck, spine or pelvic bones (for flavor, color, and more nutrients)
1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar
3 medium onions, quartered
3-4 medium carrots, cut into large chunks (you don’t have to peel)
3-4 medium celery ribs, cut into large chunks with the leaves still attached
1 tsp. of peppercorns, crushed
a large bunch of fresh thyme
a large bunch of fresh parsley
Place all of the bones and hoof into a VERY LARGE stockpot and cover with 1 gallon of water. Then add the apple cider vinegar and let stand for one hour. Add the vegetables and more water, the water should be no higher than within 1 inch of the top of the pot as it will expand and could overflow while cooking, always better to start with too little water than too much…you can always add more later. Bring it all to a rapid boil. As it boils, a large amount of scum will rise to the surface, remove this with a wooden spoon and continue boiling until there is no scum left to skim. Then reduce heat to a bare simmer and add the thyme and crushed peppercorns. Cover and simmer the broth for at least 12 hours and as long as 72 hours, replacing the water as needed. A reliable indicator that you have made a good broth is when the bones become so soft and brittle that you can break them with hardly any effort. Just before finishing add the parsley and simmer for another 10 minutes. And then what I like to do is bring the whole thing to a boil again for about 3-5 minutes, and then remove it from the heat and strain it into 2 qt. mason jars. I let it cool to room temperature on the counter and then transfer to the fridge, as it continues to cool the fat will rise to the top, I often remove this fat and use it for cooking. The next day I usually put the broth back into the pot and bring into a boil while sterilizing 6-8 1 qt. mason jars in the oven (clean empty jars at 350 degrees for 20 minutes). I then fill the 1 qt. mason jars with the hot broth and can them in my pressure canner. You could also freeze the broth in freezer containers or heavy duty ziploc bags. I usually feed the leftover bones and veggies to the dog and cats…they LOVE it!
How to make a POULTRY Broth (for chicken, turkey, duck, etc.)
2-3 pounds of bony chicken parts…back, neck, breastbone, wings
gizzards from one bird
feet from one bird
head of one bird, all feathers removed (if you can’t stomach this, at least use the cockscomb)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 Large onion, cut into chunks
2 medium carrots, cut into chunks (no need to peel)
3 medium celery ribs, cut into chunks
1 large bunch of parsley
I usually make chicken broth by first killing one of our chickens by chopping of it’s head. Save the head. Defeather the chicken by repeatedly plunging it into 158 degree water and keep checking the feathers until the easily come out. Also dunk the head, hang the bird by the feet and remove all feathers from the body and head. Cut off the feet, scrub well, and save the feet for the broth. I usually put the head, feet, and gizzards into a ziploc bag and into the fridge until I am ready to make broth. After killing and cleaning the bird I usually serve it by roasting it whole with onions lemons and garlic stuffed inside. After we enjoy our delicious roast chicken dinner, I remove the rest of the meat to use for another meal. I then take the whole carcass and any skin and juices, along with the lemon onions and garlic that was stuffed inside for roasting, and put it into the stockpot along with the feet, head, and gizzards and all the vegetables (minus the parsley) and the apple cider vinegar and let it sit for one hour. From there, I follow the same procedure for making red meat broth.
Happy Broth Making! 🙂