You only need to take a summary glance at the internet to see that the market is inundated with a plethora of superfoods that we apparently can not live without. And I’ll be honest, I swallowed the hype. My pantry currently boasts jars of chia seeds, vital greens, vital protein, raw cacao…I’m sure there are others that I have perhaps lost in the back of the pantry! It was a stretch to purchase these products – they are expensive. Do I feel that these superfoods have transformed my health and bettered my life – no. So it got me to thinking about what would I consider to be the starting point to developing nourishing habits. A starting point that is easy, affordable, and provides real, lasting nourishment, and makes food taste delicious. After little deliberation, I settled on stock, or some may call broth.
I like my stock to be uncomplicated, and as I make it from bones, generally left over from a meal, it is incredibly frugal. There are recipes for both stock and broth everywhere, and they all differ slightly, so I am certainly not reinventing the wheel by offering the following ‘recipe’.
If I am making a beef stock, I roast a couple of kilos of large beef bones first in a moderate hot oven for about half hour (which has the added benefit of rendering the fat into some pretty delicious dripping – just strain and store in the fridge and use to roast potatoes, yum!). Then I place it all in a slow cooker (if you don’t have one, then just use a heavy based large non-aluminium pot and cook over the lowest setting on your stovetop), cover generously with water and add a splash of apple cider vinegar to help draw out the goodness from the bones. Cover and cook on low setting for at least 12 hours, preferably 24 hours. As for chicken stock, I either use 2 or 3 raw carcasses, or I keep bones left over from meals in a large ziplock bag in the freezer. When the bag is full I make stock, following the same method. I have made lamb stock before using the bones left over from chops or roast lamb, and it is delicious when making lamb and barley soup, or in lamb casseroles. It is also my favourite stock to use when making one of my favourite hurry-up meals of finely julienned veggies and pasta soup. You might think it a bit icky using bones left over from a meal, but really they get cooked for so long, you don’t have to feel squeamish about there being germs!
After such long cooking in a slightly acidic medium, the bones become soft and the stock becomes voluptuously gelatinous and deeply flavoured. A good chicken stock is like liquid gold. The stock is strained into 1 litre mason jars (like these) and allowed to cool on the bench. They are then transferred to the freezer until ready to use. Just remember to leave some headspace in the jar for the contents to expand when frozen. The bones I give to the chooks. I have read that you can give them to dogs as they are so soft, but I am personally a bit reluctant to take the chance. I have a labrador and she risks bowel obstruction every day as it is, the vacuum cleaners that they are! You can also compost the bones if chooks or dog are not an option.
You don’t need any special equipment, or skills to make stock. It costs very little to make, and saves on waste. Making stock is a skill that has been traditionally practiced by societies all over the world, and comes with a myriad of health benefits, which are easy enough to discover on the internet. I feel it’s important not to get too bogged down by facts and figures anyway and I trust what generations of women have long held to be true. In any case, if you want to start somewhere, start with making stock!