Makes about 8-10 cups
Broth made from chicken bones is a rich source of minerals, including calcium. When properly made, it is also a wonderful source of gelatin, which can aid digestion and help you assimilate nutrients. In folk medicine, and more scientifically today, chicken broth is a prized treatment for colds and flu and helps maintain an overall state of health.
Uncovering broth while it cooks allows for a deeper concentration of flavors. Simmering it over the lowest heat–so there’s barely a smile, as the French like to say–ensures clarity and preserves gelatin. And the most important piece of information you need for cooking broth is this: It prefers to be left alone. It’s simple catchphrase is “Do Not Disturb.”
1 3-4 pound chicken, whole or in parts; or the same measure of chicken bones, necks, and skin (and feet, if you are lucky enough to get them)
10-12 cups cool filtered water
1 onion, outer layers peeled and cut in half in either direction
4-5 medium carrots
2-3 stalks celery, with leaves
6-8 cloves garlic, cut in half and outer leaves peeled
1 leek, well-scrubbed, both white and green parts
handful of parsley leaves or stems
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
6-8 whole black peppercorns
optional additions: 1 parsnip, 1 zucchini, a bit of butternut squash, fennel fronds, chard stems
Notes: 1) To turn this broth into a “medicinal” tonic, add 3 pieces astragalus root and 1 piece of dried ginseng, both available from Kamwo Herbal Pharmacy. 2) To ensure a gelatinous broth, do not add vinegar to the cooking water, a technique often recommended for better extraction of minerals from bones. In my experience, vinegar inhibits the formation of gelatin. Additionally, cook the broth at the lowest temperature; any higher and the gelatin seems to break down.
1. Wash the chicken pieces or bones, and place them into a stock pot with water. Bring the water to a low boil and then reduce the broth to the lowest simmer. The surface of the broth should only slightly ripple. Cooking the broth over a low heat in this way preserves the gelatin.
2. Skim any foam that rises to the surface. When the surface is relatively clear, add the remaining ingredients and simmer uncovered for 6 hours.
3. Strain the broth through a fine mesh strainer and allow it to cool before refrigerating (discard the cooked vegetables). It will become thick and gelatinous when cool, though a gentle heat will reliquify it. You can use the broth as is, or you can turn it into a nourishing soup. Simply slice 1 carrot and 1 celery stalk (thinly) and simmer the vegetable pieces in salted water for 10-15 minutes, until softened. Add a handful or two of egg noodles to the salted water, and boil until cooked. Add the strained vegetables and noodles to the stock. You will need to add little, if any, salt, because the long cooking extracts sodium from the bones, leaving you with a well-salted broth.
Note: If you are making the broth with chicken meat, rather than just bones, and you want the meat for your finished soup, here is what you do (boiled meat is rather spent after 6 hours of cooking). Follow step 1, but simmer the chicken for only 1 hour and then remove it from the pot so the meat does not overcook. Let it cool enough to handle and, meanwhile, add the remaining ingredients to the pot. While the vegetables are simmering, remove the chicken meat from the bones, break it into pieces, and set the meat aside to use later. Add the bones and skin back to the pot and finish making the broth. When you are ready for soup, add the chicken pieces to the strained broth, along with any cooked vegetables and noodles you may be using and you will have one big, delicious pot of soup.
Copyright 2010, Ellen Arian, Ellen’s Food & Soul