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Old Fashioned Broth for Health Makes a BIG Comeback

by Tammera J. Karr, PhD

Many long-time readers of this column know I collect old cookbooks.  My oldest cookbook is European and American Cuisine by Gesine Lemcke from 1895. On the title page is the following statement – “Beauty, Health, and Happiness depend upon the kind of food we eat.” This sentiment changed profoundly by the 1950’s when “Better living through Chemistry” became the motto of our modern American diet. Over the last eight decades, a lot has changed with food, from how we raise it, to storage and cooking. However, just like many things the pendulum swings back and the current trend is to return to traditional cooking and locally produced foods with minimal chemical exposure.

The daily use of stock made from poultry, fish or any other animal held such a prominent role that the instructions and recipes are within the fist five pages of this and other antique cookbooks. Listed are Consomme, plain soup stock, white stock, chicken broth, mutton broth, veal broth, glaze, consommé with rice, sage, ravioles…..

In times past these nutritious broths, were the first foods served to the infirm, elderly, and toddlers. Often broths or soups were the first foods served to break the night fast – breakfast. The tradition of breakfast cereals and sweet grain-based foods did not become vogue till Dr. Kelloge, and later Post introduced cereal flakes.  “The most important piece of equipment in the kitchen,” said, Francis Pottenger Jr.; MD “is the stockpot.” Dr. Pottenger was a pioneer in understanding the healing role of foods in the 1930’s.  Dr. Pottenger research described how the gelatin-rich broth helped digestion and his article was published in the American Journal of Digestive Diseases in 1938.  While the value of Broth held firm in the culinary world, it lost its prominence in the health and medical arena. In 1996, Sally Fallon Morell, RD published Nourishing Traditions: this cookbook brought the value of broth back into focus for the current generation. Currently, bone broth can be found in natural food stores, food carts, and specialty eateries, along with individuals taking up the ladle and making stock in home kitchens.

Broth can act as a multi-mineral/vitamin food the body can easily digest and convert to energy used for cell repair, immune support, bone health and perhaps the most important brain function. This food is a perfect way to start your day with a mug, bowl or cup, used as an afternoon pick-me-up or an evening tonic before bed to help stabilize blood sugars. The morning smoothie is now being replaced with broth, and in my opinion, this is a significant movement back to regaining our health. Many individuals never achieve weight loss or management with smoothies even those containing protein powders. The move back to broths, however, has a long history of healing and nutrition for all of us and it is made from food sources our DNA/RNA know how to incorporate for health and vitality.

While making stock is time-consuming, it is not hard, and it is well worth doing. Once you get used to having this versatile staple in your refrigerator, freezer or canned in glass jars, you will wonder how you ever got by without it. This adaptable stock can be used almost anywhere broth is essential. Using just bones is fine, but many birds’ bones are hollow. To make up for this lack of marrow, meaty pieces like wings, backs, and necks are usually added to poultry stock. You can mix and match the bones of different birds. The finished stock is the foundation for hundreds of soups.

Old Fashioned Bone Broth (Stock)

Makes 7-8 cups

4 lbs poultry bones, wings, legs, and backs, cut into 2- to 3-inch pieces (or any other kind of marrow bone)

2 medium carrots or yams, sliced

2 celery or lovage stalks, sliced

1 yellow onion, unpeeled, cut into wedges

2 leeks or scallions, trimmed and quartered lengthwise

6 flat-leaf parsley or watercress stems

3-4 mashed garlic cloves

1 large thyme sprig

1 large sprig rosemary

1 bay leaf

¼ tsp ground turmeric

¼ tsp black peppercorns

Celtic sea salt, to taste

  1. Rinse the bones and backs under cold running water, then place in a large stockpot, along with the herbs and vegetables. Pour in enough cold water to cover the bones, about 12 cups, and bring slowly to a boil. As soon as the stock begins to boil, reduce the heat so that it simmers. Using a soup ladle, skim off any scum that has risen to the surface (rotate the bowl of the ladle on the surface of the stock to make ripples; this will carry the scum to the edges of the pot, and you can then use the ladle to lift it off). Add turmeric and peppercorns, and simmer uncovered for 5 hours, skimming from time to time.
  2. Strain the stock through a sieve into a large bowl. Discard the debris left in the sieve and cool the stock quickly by placing the bowl in a larger bowl or sink filled with ice water; occasionally stir as it cools. If you are not reducing the stock, add about 1 teaspoon salt.
  3. Refrigerate the stock for 6 hours or overnight to allow the fat to rise to the top and the debris to sink to the bottom. Remove the fat before using (and discard the debris at the bottom of the bowl). Divide into 1 cup quantities and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 6 months.
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