Friday, December 14, 2012

Healing with broths and stocks

Good morning fantastic people!

Did you know that you can make stocks and broths while you sleep, and have a nourishing drink in the morning? Last night, I simmered some broth in the slow cooker overnight. This morning, I strained it out and drank a warm cup to wake my body up.

Then I enjoyed a smoothie made with frozen banana, fresh spinach, and a little raw coconut butter. I blended it with just enough water to make it smooth. Having a little healthy fat with your green veggies helps you absorb all the good fat-soluble vitamins in the greens.

How do I make broths? It sounds daunting, but it is really easy. When you use carrots, celery, and onions in your cooking, keep the trimmings. Not the yucky bits; you don't want yucky stuff in your stock. But the tops and tails of nice, fresh carrots, ends of crunchy celery, and the skins and outer layers of onions that are clean all work beautifully. If you are fortunate to have leeks, use the green part in stock. If your carrots have green frondy tops, pick through, wash, and use all that gorgeous mineral-rich green stuff. Any time you use fresh parsley, keep all the stems in this bag too. Whether you are making a veg broth or an animal bone broth, these veggies come in really handy. Some people use all sorts of other veggies in their broths, but I find that I like the balanced flavor of carrot, onion, celery, garlic, parsley, thyme, bay leaf, and peppercorn in mine.

The stems of mushrooms are great too. Usually I store mushroom stems separately, because I like to have both veg broth and mushroom broth. Put all those trimmings in a freezer bag, squeeze out all the air, and pop it in the freezer. After a week or two of eating lots of veggies, you've got a lot of trimmings!

To make veggie broth, simply dump your collected veggie trimmings and some chopped fresh veggies in a big stockpot, and cover with fresh filtered water. If you don't already have herbs in there, add them. My favorite combo for basic veg broth is to have lots of carrot, celery, and a good amount of onion or leek, a few cloves of garlic, parsley stems, peppercorn, bay leaf, and some fresh or dried parsley and thyme.

Bring up to a simmer. Simmer away for hours. You can simmer on the stove top, or if you'll be away or asleep, use a slow cooker set on low. Cool a bit, strain through a colander then a fine mesh sieve, chill it down or just use straight away.

To make an animal bone stock, add chicken, beef, or lamb bones. (You can also just simmer the bones without the veggies for a less flavorful broth, if that is what you need for a specific purpose.) Leg bones with joints and connective tissue will release their natural gelatin into the liquid as it simmers. Gelatin-rich stocks will gel up when chilled. Broths made primarily with back bones and gizzards with less collagen won't gel up as well, but do have other nutrients. Simmer bone broths even longer than veg broths to extract all the nutrients. You can use the leftover carcass of a roast chicken this way with excellent results too.

For mushroom stock, simply simmer your mushroom stems with lots of dried shiitake mushrooms, some garlic, peppercorn, and thyme (fresh and dried both work fine.)

For Rather Crafty, I make a huge batch of veggie broth every week and use it in soups, sauces, and often as a cooking liquid for grains. When I'm making mushroom-based soups and other dishes, I make mushroom broth.

Since choosing to incorporate some animal foods back into my diet, I find that making stock from chicken and turkey bones is a nourishing way to try to heal my digestive system and my joints. I also feel better about using every possible part of the animal. While I would rather not have to use animal products at all, if my health demands that I do then it feels a lot better to use every scrap. No waste!

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