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Sunday, February 3, 2013

hearty soup stock -- pot or pressure cooker

Soup stock. Basic pantry item. But if you are at all health-conscious or budget-conscious, or, as I try to be, both, then you are probably familiar with making your own soup stock. Yes? No? Well, let me show you how easy it is! The results will make your house smell better than Betty Crocker's, and your body and savings piggy will thank you for the efforts. There's even less trash to rinse and recycle! Some purists would argue that there is a difference between stock and broth. For more on that, see here.

You can make this soup stock vegetarian by simply leaving out the meat products and doubling the veg. I don't know why you would when the chicken tastes so excellent, but you can.  

1 large onion OR or one onion and one leek
6 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
2 carrots
2 ribs celery
1 sets of bones from whole chickens OR 3 lbs beef bones, plus extra carrots
1 eggshell, either free-range or organic
1 Tb apple cider vinegar per pint of water = 4 Tbs acv
2 quarts water

optional small bunch fresh herbs 

I buy a lot of whole chickens. They are cheaper than beef on the bone, for a start, and as I'm re-purposing them towards stock it doesn't work out to be more expensive than plain old breast, sometimes much cheaper. I simply save the leftover carcass from a roast, once the meat is pulled off, and toss it in whole. I also save any drippings and the neck joint from the roasting pan and add those. Often, valuable gelatin drips into the pan during cooking and is fabulous nutrition for healthy bones when added back to the stock. A mark of a well made bone stock is that it gels like loose jello once cooled and set in the fridge -- if your stock does not gel when cooled, you can add powdered unflavored gelatin if you wish, for the health benefits.

If you are concerned for fat, skim off AFTER making stock, but don't omit all fatty parts of the bird when making the stock. This is easiest if you first chill the stock, letting the fat rise and harden into a disc at the top which you can then gently lift out. I tend to use this fat, rather than discard it, in a rue with flour for thickening stock gravies.

The eggshells are included because they contain valuable trace minerals (calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, glycine, gelatin, collagen, among others), which are then broken down and released into the stock. The bones release nutrients from the marrow which are beneficial to maintaining and healing joints, nails, skin, and teeth. Apple cider vinegar aids in breaking down the goodness from the veg, but especially from the bones.

Fresh herbs are up to you. Dried are acceptable, too, but my favorite is to snip 8 or 10 stems of thyme and oregano from the garden and toss them right in. They both adds antiviral properties to my stocks during cold and flu season, which I love. Other cooking herbs add many health benefits, too, but some alternate variations that you may not have considered are dried eleuthero root or astragalus root "tongue depressors" or chopped wild yam. Just please do your research ahead of time on these herbs.

Chop all veg. Toss all veg plus meat parts into pressure cooker, and cover with water. It will take roughly 2 quarts. Don't add salt until you actually use the stock in creating something else, like soup, or Indian dahl, so that you are not overloading your body with excess sodium.

Pressure cook for 45 minutes at 15 lbs of pressure. Let cool until pressure is released. Strain by pouring through a colander, and either freeze or refrigerate. If you want to go the old-fashioned way in a pot on the stove, you will basically just need to add all the same things to a stainless steel pot with a lid and simmer covered for about 6 to 8 hours. Can you see why I love my pressure cooker?

I have been making my own soup stocks for years. I've typically done the all-day method on the stove, in a too-small pot brimming full of goodness, and while it has worked much better than buying expensive and unhealthy boxes of stock it has not been the most efficient method of my time. I recently discovered this pressure cooker way and am in love! It is a wonderfully freeing notion to be able to make the healthiest homemade stocks in about a quarter of the time they once required. Who among us is not so busy that a little extra time discovered would go amiss? Also worth a read is the Bulk Herb Store article, giving recipes for chicken, beef, and fish stock. They detail the arduously long way...but I did add ACV and eggshells to my traditional chicken stock recipe following their advice, and I have to say I am loving the knowledge that I am feeding my family full of even more goodness than before.

Since originally writing the above article,
I sold some spare books over the summer and bought myself new ones for the herbal and health care shelf, including a book entitled, Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats, by Sally Fallon with Mary G. Enig, Ph.D. Fabulous addition to the household and well worth my investment. It covers not only a wide variety of delicious and not too complicated recipes, but also information and citations regarding cultured dairy, fermented produce, whole grains and alternative grains, meats, natural sweeteners, and healthy stocks. These excerpts are taken from the chapter on preparing stocks and sauces on pages 116 to 118 of the revised second edition.

"Properly prepared, meat stocks are extremely nutritious, containing the minerals of bone, cartilage, marrow and vegetables as electrolytes, a form that is easy to assimilate. Acidic wine or vinegar added during cooking helps to draw minerals, particularly calcium, magnesium and potassium, into the broth. Dr. Francis Pottenger, author of the famous cat studies as well as articles on the benefits of gelatin in broth, taught that the stockpot was the most important piece of equipment to have in the kitchen.

"It was Dr. Pottenger who pointed out that stock is also of great value because it supplies hydrophillic colloids to the diet. Raw food compounds are colloidal and tend to be hydrophillic, meaning that they attract liquids. Thus, when we eat a salad or some other raw food, they hydrophilic colloids attract digestive juices for rapid and effective digestion. Colloids that have been heated are generally hydrophobic -- they repel liquids, making cooked foods harder to digest. However, the proteinaceous gelatin in meat broths has the unusual property of attracting liquids -- it is hydrophillic -- even after it has been heated. The same property by which gelatin attracts water to form desserts, like Jello, allows it to attract digestive juices to the surface of cooked food particles.

...Although gelatin is by no means a complete protein, containing only the amino acids arginine and glycine in large amounts, it acts as a protein sparer, allowing the body to more fully utilize the complete proteins that are taken in. Thus, gelatin-rich broths are a must for those who cannot afford large amounts of meat in their diets. Gelatin also seems to be of use in the treatment of many chronic disorders, including anemia and other diseases of the blood, diabetes, muscular dystrophy and even cancer.

Other important ingredients that go into broth are the components of cartilage, which recently have been used with remarkable results in the treatment of cancer and bone disorders, and of collagen, used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and other ailments."

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