Broth, which is technically a stock, is a marriage of mineral rich bones with vegetables, herbs and spices. Perfect as a stock for flavouring soups, risottos an the base to many sauces. The broth itself can be eaten as a soup, plain and simple.
I feel that stock is the modern name used by nearly all high-end restaurants. Broth, I associate to something that my grandmother created from very little in the austere years, following the second world war, where nothing is wasted. We could certainly learn something from then.
So, what is great about broth and why has it become fashionable to use?
It has always been around (the base for sauces and gravy), but it has been seen more by its use on TV with celebrity chefs. I also think that stock pots and pressure cookers went out of fashion by the recent generations and even parents have stopped using as regularly, in favour of the quicker meal options, in the busy lives that families now live. Of course, there are the ready meals and microwave options these days. Many have lost the confidence to cook or re-visit old techniques. It is these skills that have been highlighted once again on TV, and like many things are coming ‘full circle’ and back into use.
As a child, I was always afraid of the pressure cooker and it use, thinking it would explode. I have no idea what presented my mind with that idea – could be the impatient and slightly dangerous cooling of the lid to release the pressure…Because of this and despite my love of being in the kitchen, it is only this week that I have used a pressure cooker for the very first time and I have to say I was hugely impressed and still consider it a novelty item. The first thing I used it for was this bone broth. I was suitably impressed with the intensity of flavours, over a stock pot. In two hours, it was done (not taking into account the pressurisation/depressurisation). Using the pressure cooker for something like this is also eco-friendly on your energy bills, as it also cuts the cooking time by at least half.
Anyways, back to the bone broth and I apologise for those vegetarian readers of mine for the meat content, but then it wouldn’t be bone broth without them. I should add that you could use the pressure cooker and make veggie stock just as well, saving time over the traditional stock pot version. Here is my recipe for vegetable stock (traditional method of cooking in a stock pot, on the hob.
What are the benefits of bone broth?
I think the guys at Nourished Kitchen sum up the description of bone broth well here.
Bone broths are extraordinarily rich in protein, and can be a source of minerals as well. Glycine supports the bodies detoxification process and is used in the synthesis of hemoglobin, bile salts and other naturally-occurring chemicals within the body. Glycine also supports digestion and the secretion of gastric acids. Proline, especially when paired with vitamin C, supports good skin health. Bone broths are also rich in gelatin which may support skin health. Gelatin also support digestive health which is why it plays a critical role in the GAPS diet. And, lastly, if you’ve ever wondering why chicken soup is good for a cold, there’s science behind that, too. Chicken broth inhibits neutrophil migration; that is, it helps mitigate the side effects of colds, flu’s and upper respiratory infections.
Bone broth is a very simple way for your body to absorb these nutrients that it cannot through other foods in such high quantities. I wonder if our grannies really knew the goodness drawn from a simple soup? Broth is rich in amino acids not found in high enough value through muscle meat, which is basically what we eat the majority of times. Chondroitin and glucosamine are sold in health food shops (main source is fish bones), with the benefit for inflammation, arthritis and joint pain.
The gelatin content or collagen in bones comes out when you boil bones. This can give broth/stock the gelatinous consistency, which is by no means inferior. Gelatin is a setting agent for things like panna cotta. Depending on the water content, this will have a bearing on the consistency, once the stock starts to cool. A specific benefit can be the repairing of a ‘faulty gut.’ Those suffering from inflammatory complaints or autoimmune disorders can also benefit. It can help reduce inflammation, brittle bones and build healthy skin, hair and nails.
Home-made broth v supermarket stock
There are plenty of supermarket and mass commercially produced stocks, but my advise is you can never beat home-made and the taste you get is far superior. What is commercially produced is done on a massive scale and super high temperatures and often watered down in the final product that you will lose many of those health benefits of broth.
Most butchers will give you bones or sell them for next to nothing. It is a way of getting rid of waste. For example, my local butcher makes up trays of chicken bones (about 1 kg) and sell them for £1. That is a bargain, as I can make about 2 litres of tasty, well flavoured stock from those. If you consider that high-end supermarkets in the UK charge £7.89 for the equivalent 2 litres. All the ingredients for stock are larder ingredients in our house and you only have the cost of the Instant Pot electric, pressure cooker, which is about 12 pence per hour in energy costs. It’s not the monetary value for us, but the quality and taste and knowing what’s in the food. No over-salted and additional preservatives. This is a no brainer as far as I’m concerned. And remember, the next time you are cooking roast chicken or cooking whole fish, bag up those bones, once cooled and make the stock or freeze until next time. It will save you a trip to the butchers.
Helpful hints when making broth
You can use any bones for stock, but if you have the option of organic; grass-fed beef or free-range chicken, you will benefit from the maximum taste and flavour. You will see from the recipe below that I add apple cider vinegar. Vinegar pulls calcium from the bones, so it’s vital that you add this. I chose apple cider vinegar not as insipid as other types of vinegar.
I know that some people are unsure if they can use frozen bones in the pressure cooker. The answer is yes. I go to the butchers and buy several trays of bones at once and freeze what I don’t need to use. It will just take a bit longer to heat up and get to pressure (maybe 5 minutes extra). If you’re using a stock pot and to save both time and energy, I would advise that you thaw them out first.
If you’re using a pressure cooker versus a stock pot there is one cautionary tale and that is pressure cookers intensifies flavours. So the first thing is not to be tempted to over-salt or season for that matter the broth. If I’m using this for the base of a sauce, I simply add additional seasoning then. I would also advise you against adding any strong flavours, as they may overpower the taste of the bones, i.e. chicken, beef etc. All that said, If you want to add some peppercorns, fresh or dried herbs in the last hour of cooking (stock pot version only) go ahead.
Yes, you can roast your bones before cooking, however if you’re looking for a simple, one pot creation that is cost effective, you can skip this process. To be honest, I don’t roast the bones. Having said that, I generally only make chicken or vegetable broth anyway. I’m guessing for meat, you’d get such an intense flavour that it might pay off. That is your choice and if you have time on your hands.
You can re-use bones, but you should add new bones as you want to benefit from the nutrients and keep the flavour strong. Once the bones start to go soft, they need disposing of. If you are making stock in the traditional manner on the hob, then you should be able to re-use, but I find that in the pressure cooker, some of the smaller bones break up. Therefore, my advise is as soon as they become soft, discard them. You will start to lose flavour if you over-use the bones anyway.
You think there’s nothing on the bones. How wrong I was…To be super thrifty with your chicken stock, you can utilise the chicken meat scraps. Although the butcher does a good job in clearing the bones, they are no match for the pressure cooker. Although it feels a bit like doing a finger-tip search, ensuring you have no bones or yucky skin, you’ll find enough meat to use in another meal. I have used mine up creating a chicken and mushroom pasta bake and this week, I have kept mine aside to make chicken, mayo and tarragon filling for sandwiches.
There is a wonderful dish called a Scotch broth that utilises lentils or pearl barley, along with split peas etc and is hugely satisfying and filling. I use a BBC recipe here.
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