Soup’s On! How to Make a Traditional Stock
by Stacey Tress
Years ago, my husband and I took a culinary course together—a gift from my mom. My first real experience with the traditional method of preparing stock was at this course. I remember fondly walking into the classroom and being greeted by this most amazing aroma. I’ve been in love with making stocks and broth since then. Versatile, nutritious, healing, and delicious, stocks are a common base for many dishes, especially once the cool weather returns and the snow begins to fall.
“Indeed, stock is everything in cooking… without it nothing can be done.” —Auguste Escoffier
There has been a decline in the use of traditional meat, chicken, and fish stocks in our Western culture. Our modern meat processing techniques and our choice of a quick and convenient supper has led many to forget about the ways of our ancestors. In the past, the butcher sold meat on the bone rather than as individual fillets and whole chickens rather than boneless breasts, and our grandmas and those before them would use every part of the animal by preparing stock or broth from the bony portions. They knew that the stockpot was the most important piece of equipment to have in one’s kitchen.
Meat and fish stocks are used almost universally in traditional cuisines—French, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, African, South American, Middle Eastern, and Russian.
The words “broth” and “stock” are used interchangeably in many cook books. In general, usage “broth” is a home-cooking term, while “stock” is the province of professional kitchens. Broth is made from spits and spots of leftovers, and its nature changes according to what’s on hand. Stock follows a prescribed formula. It is made on a regular basis and forms the groundwork for all the sauces, soups, and simmerings that are mainstays of a classic kitchen. The meaty element of stock is predominately bone, while broth is typically made with meat. This difference changes the finished products in two ways. The large proportion of bone gives stock a more gelatinous texture and greater clarity. Broths tend to be thinner and cloudier.
Properly prepared, meat stocks are extremely nutritious, containing the minerals of bone, cartilage, marrow, and vegetables as electrolytes (a form that is easy to assimilate). A good broth will solidify and gel when chilled because the prolonged simmerings in the water made slightly acidic by vinegar, wine (red wine for beef broth and white wine for chicken broth), or kombucha vinegar helps to release amino acids and collagen from the cartilage-rich joints. Minerals, too, are released during the cooking, particularly calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Another amazing component to stocks is the gelatin that it produces. This gelatin-rich broth aids with digestion while also yielding beautiful body to any soups or sauces made from the broth. Gelatin acts as an aid to digestion and has been used successfully in the treatment of many intestinal disorders, including hyperacidity, colitis, and Crohn’s disease. Although gelatin is by no means a complete protein, containing only the amino acids arginine and glycine in large amounts, it acts as a protein sparer, allowing the body to more fully utilize the complete proteins that are taken in. The test of whether your stock contains liberal amounts of gelatin is carried out by chilling the broth. It should thicken, even to the point of gelling completely when refrigerated.
Other important ingredients that go into broth are the components of cartilage, which recently have been used with remarkable results in the treatment of cancer and bone disorders, and of collagen, used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and other ailments.
In folk wisdom, rich chicken broth—the famous Jewish penicillin—is a valued remedy for the flu. The twelfth century physician Moses Maimonides prescribed chicken broth as a treatment for colds and asthma. Modern research has confirmed that broth helps prevent and mitigate infectious diseases. The wise food provider, who uses gelatin-rich broth on a daily basis, provides continuous protection for many health benefits. Bones are typically very inexpensive and make an excellent source of powerful nutrition for families on a budget.
Another traditional belief is that fish head broth contributes to virility. Fish stock, made from the carcasses and heads of fish, is especially rich in minerals including iodine. Even more important, stock made from the heads, and therefore the thyroid glands of the fish, supplies thyroid hormone and other substances that nourish the thyroid gland. Four thousand years ago, Chinese doctors rejuvenated aging patients with a soup made from the thyroid glands of animals. According to ancient texts, this treatment made patients feel younger, gave them more energy, and often restored mental abilities. Research suggests that at least 40 per cent of all Americans suffer from a deficiency of the thyroid gland with its accompanying symptoms of fatigue, weight gain, frequent colds and flu, inability to concentrate, depression, and a host of more serious complications like heart disease and cancer.
“Good broth resurrects the dead.” —South American Proverb
Stock can be made in bulk and stored until needed. Clear stock will keep about five days in the refrigerator, longer if re-boiled, and several months in the freezer. You may find it useful to store stock in pint-sized or quart-sized containers in order to have appropriate amounts on hand for sauces and stews. If space is at a premium in your freezer, you can reduce the stock by boiling down for several hours until it becomes very concentrated and syrupy. This reduced, concentrated stock—called fumet or demi-glace—can be stored in small containers or zip-lock bags. Frozen fumet in zip-lock bags is easily thawed by putting bags under hot running water. Add water to thawed fumet to turn it back into stock. Be sure to mark the kind of stock or fumet you are storing with little stick-on labels—they all look the same when frozen.
Beef Bone Broth
The trick to making a good beef bone broth is to roast the bones before simmering them in a pot of water, herbs, and vegetables. Roasting helps to release a significant amount of fats from the bones, which can otherwise leave a greasy film in the broth or infuse it with an odd, flat, and almost acrid flavour. With much of the fat released and a rounder, more complex flavour developed during roasting, the resulting broth has the flavourful complexity of roast beef.
Beef bone broth makes an excellent base for hearty soups, stews and braised meats. When preparing roasted root vegetable soups, choose this broth because it, unlike milder chicken broth, has the fortitude to complement assertive flavours.
While you can use any beef bones to produce a delicious broth, choosing a variety of beef bones including neck bones, knuckle bones, and a small number of marrow bones will produce the richest broth. Makes about 4 quarts.
5 pounds beef soup bones
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs thyme
3 tbsp whole black peppercorns
2 large yellow onions, quartered
3 carrots, chopped
2 celeriac, chopped
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1 cup red wine (I prefer to use kombucha vinegar)
2 gallons water, more as needed
Preheat oven to 425ºF.
Arrange the bones in a roasting pan in a single layer and roast for 45 minutes. Transfer the bones to a heavy stockpot. Toss in the bay leaves, thyme, peppercorns, carrots, celeriac, and garlic. Pour in the red wine and water.
Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat, then immediately lower the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for at least 12 and up to 18 hours, adding water as necessary to keep the bones submerged.
Strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve, discard the solids, and pour the broth into jars. Cover the jars and place them in the fridge; you can remove the fat that hardens on the surface and use it for cooking. Use up the broth within a week, or freeze it for up to six months.
Variation: Venison Stock
Use venison meat and bones. Be sure to use the feet of the deer and a section of antler if possible.
1 whole free range chicken or 2 to 3 pounds of bony chicken parts, such as necks, backs, breastbones and wings; gizzards and feet (optional)
4 quarts cold filtered water
2 tbsp vinegar
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 celery sticks coarsely chopped
1 bunch parsley
If you are using a whole chicken, cut off the wings and remove the neck, fat glands, and gizzards from the cavity. By all means, use chicken feet if you can find them—they are full of gelatin. Use farm-raised, free-range chickens as battery-raised chickens will not produce stock that gels.
Cut chicken into several pieces. Place chicken or chicken pieces in a large stainless steel pot with water, vinegar, and all vegetables except parsley. Let stand 30 minutes to 1 hour. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 6 to 24 hours. The longer you cook the stock, the richer and more flavourful it will be. About ten minutes before finishing the stock, add parsley. This will impart additional mineral ions to the broth.
Remove whole chicken or pieces with a slotted spoon. If you are using a whole chicken, let cool and remove chicken meat from the carcass. Reserve for other uses, such as chicken salad, sandwiches or curries. Strain the stock into a large bowl and reserve in your refrigerator until the fat rises to the top and congeals. Skim off this fat and reserve the stock in covered containers in your refrigerator or freezer. Makes about 4 quarts.
Credits for Recipes:
Beef Broth, Nourished Kitchen by Jennifer McGruther
Chicken Broth, Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon and Nourished Kitchen by Jennifer McGruther
Stacey Tress, a Holistic Nutritional Therapist (HNT), lives in Yorkton, Saskatchewan, with her husband and two daughters. She is the owner of Garden Therapy Yorkton which offers fermenting workshops, design work, organically grown produce, and more! To learn more, please contact her at 306-641-4239, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, www.gardentherapyyorkton.ca, or on facebook “Garden Therapy Yorkton.” Also, see the display ad on page 9 of the 21.4 November/December issue of the WHOLifE Journal.