That’s right. The perfect gift for any family – a big jar of nourishing homemade soup stock (or soup made with the stock!). Leave the fleece throw and Santa hors d’oeuvre plates behind and get down to what will truly offer love. Pair the stock with a loaf of warm whole grain bread and you’ll never be forgotten.
When you slowly simmer the bones of poultry, lamb or beef in water, with salt and something acidic (like vinegar) the calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon and other trace minerals leech into the water creating a bio-available, mineral-rich, broth. The bones also release gelatin which contains amino acids and aids in maintaining cartilage, tendons and ligaments. Similarly, the nutrients that reside in garlic cloves, carrot peelings, celery stalks and other vegetables used will be pulled into the salted water surrounding them in a slow-cooking simmering pot.
Stock does not have to be anything fancy. In fact, it should be a utilitarian task. Unused raw chicken parts, an onion, a bay leaf and a few vegetable scraps are really all you need. Alternately, you can begin with the carcass of a turkey or the bone from a ham. Cooked bones yield a stronger flavor and darker color than raw bones. Stock isn’t on a schedule. So if you forget about it while you get lost checking email and it simmers past the timer going off, don’t worry. It’s still good.
Do you consider yourself someone who can’t cook? Stocks and soups will help you shed that notion. They are supremely forgiving. One afternoon of simmering while you catch up on your reading. No trips to the mall. The result: a gift no one will want to exchange.
Simple Chicken Broth
Adapted by Carol White from The Cook’s Bible by Christopher Kimball (Little, Brown and Company, 1996).
This recipes makes a simple and delicious base for soups, gravies and sauces. To use as a base for soup, dilute by 1/3 with water. For even richer flavor, add vegetables like onions, carrots, celery, leeks at the beginning of cooking, or throw in some bay leaves, parsley, thyme or other herbs when broth has about ½ hour left on the timer.
3-4 pound chicken carcass similar weight in bones with meat
2 quarts cold water, or enough to just cover the bones
1 tablespoon vinegar
Place chicken or chicken bones in large pot and cover with cold water. Bring water slowly to a gentle simmer (do NOT allow to boil), and continue to simmer uncovered for 3-6 hours. As the water heats up, a foamy substance will form at the top of the liquid. This is coagulated protein that will make the broth cloudy and unattractive, so skim the foam off as it forms. Add vinegar. The vinegar will pull the calcium and other minerals out of the bone and into the broth.
If using bones with meat on them, pull bones with meat out of pot at about 1 hour (or when the meat is starting to fall off the bones), remove meat from bones and return bones to pot. Allow the meat to cool, and put aside for later use.
Note: To remove fat from the broth, cool the broth in the fridge undisturbed. The fat forms a layer on top that is easily removed.
Preparation time: About 3 hours
Yield: Makes about 3 ½ cups
Easy Vegetarian Soup Stock
Worth the effort for making soups more flavorful and nourishing. This broth is excellent and can be used instead of water to puree food for babies. Kombu is a sea vegetable. It is used here to impart extra nutrients too the broth.
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, cut in large chunks
1 rib of celery, cut in chunks
1 scallion or leek, cut in pieces
Skin of 1 yellow onion
1 3-inch piece of kombu
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 quart water
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Heat oil in a 4-quart soup pot. Add onion and sauté until soft. Add carrot, celery, scallion, onion skin, kombu, herbs and water; bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer 15-20 minutes. Add salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning. Let cool. Strain liquid into an empty quart jar (a rinsed out juice bottle works well). Stores well in the refrigerator while awaiting its debut into your next soup. Should last 3-4 days.
Preparation time: 25 minutes
Makes 1 quart of soup stock
Recipe from Feeding the Whole Family.