Last week a cold invaded our house. My littlest one brought it home and generously shared it with the rest of us. While he can be quite dramatic about lots of things, the kid is usually very stoic when it comes to being sick, so I didn’t even really realize he had more than a runny nose and a cranky mood until his big brother got sick (and then I was wracked with guilt about how annoyed I had been at his attitude when really he had been feeling crummy—sigh, one more notch in the parenting mistakes column).
Considering it was the end of January, though, and we hadn’t had a cold or flu in the house yet this season, I really couldn’t complain, but just got focused on pulling out all the cold soothing techniques I could. This time ‘round the thing that was most appealing to everyone was broth-based soups. First it was chicken noodle, then it was vegetable noodle, and then there were some of us who just drank broth straight.
People often ask me if making your own broth is worth the effort and this is what I say: homemade broth is incredibly simple to make, tastes better, is a great use of food scraps if food waste irks you like it does me, and can be a fantastic additional source of vitamins and minerals, BUT if buying the pre-packaged stuff is going to get you into the kitchen and actually making the soup/stew/risotto/etc., then just use that.
That being said, here’s why I became committed to making my own: When I was first seriously getting into cooking I couldn’t figure out why my mom’s soups were so much better than mine. I followed her recipes exactly, I splurged on higher quality ingredients, but they were just never as good. So finally I asked her why and her answer was immediate: it is all about the broth. And she was right! Once I started making my own and letting it cook for a long, long time, the quality of my soups skyrocketed and I never looked back!
Have I convinced you to try it out yet? I hope so! Before we dive right into the recipe, though, I want to share some important tips I have gathered over the years:
- Save your vegetable scraps for broth! Kale or chard stems, fennel fronds, vegetable peels, all of it! The way I do this is that I have a freezer bag that lives in my freezer and whenever I have some scraps I just throw them in. Then I’ll just grab what I need whenever I make broth.
- Save your bones (if you eat meat) for broth! Chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, all those bones work well. Same as the vegetables, I just have freezer bags for each type of bone in my freezer in my freezer.
- The longer you cook it, the better it will be. You can do this with a stock pot on the stove or with a slow cooker.
- Adding 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to your meat-based broth will turn it into bone broth, which is incredibly nourishing because it draws out all the vitamins and minerals from the marrow and these are vitamins and minerals that many of us are deficient in. Bone broth can be used anywhere that stock would be used!
- 1 large onion, peel on
- 1-2 carrots, peel on
- 1-2 celery stalks, with leaves
- 1 turnip (optional)
- Bones (optional)- about the same amount as would be in one chicken
- 1-2 cups additional vegetable scraps (optional for animal-based broth, recommended for vegetable broth)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (optional for bone broth)
- Salt to taste
- Wash all your vegetables. Put all the ingredients in a stock pot or slow cooker. Cover with water. If using a stock pot, bring to a boil and then turn down to low. Cook for at least 2 hours, but the longer the better—my mom does hers overnight. If using a slow cooker, set it for 10-12 hours and if it then switches to warming until you can get to it, that is fine!
- Once the broth is ready, put a mesh strainer over a bowl or large measuring cup and strain out the bones and vegetables. Measure out either 2- or 4-cup quantities and pour into freezer-safe containers. Let it cool completely and then put lids on. Label with the amount that is in each container and freeze.