Set the Table with Bone Stock
Written onNovember 24 , 2015
When Rebecca Wood and I were writing The Whole Bowl a couple of years ago, we had no idea that bone-based broths were just about to become the next biggest thing in food. Soon the liquid elixir would be dished out in coffee cups to hungry urban hipsters, bone broth delivery services would sprout up, and to prove how far people will go to milk a trend, a $22 bone broth cocktail was introduced in Los Angeles.
But bone broth, or stock, has ancient roots and numerous health benefits, guaranteeing that it will outlast any trendiness. (We call our recipe bone stock rather than broth, and while I’ll leave the debate on the distinctions to various food blogs, know that if the word bone is in the title, bones are what this incredibly healing food will be based on.)
Rebecca Wood, author of the Whole Foods Encyclopedia, introduced me to bone stock a decade or so ago; it took me a few years to get into a stock-making groove, but once I did, there was no turning back. The chef in me loves stock as an elevated ingredient, an instant upgrade to any savory recipe. And stock appeals to my affinity for traditional foods, as this deeply nourishing, mineral-rich liquid boasts anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting, and gut-boosting benefits. As Rebecca says, there’s good reason why traditional chicken soup is fondly dubbed “Grandma’s penicillin.”
While folks in New York City are lining up around the block to purchase cups of what their grandmothers made from kitchen scraps, many of us in Vermont are going the local, DIY route. We are learning that tossing the carcass from a roasted chicken into a pot is one of the simplest and most economical ways to start a stock, and we fill our freezer with bones until we have enough to make a potful.
Our stock recipe, based on the one from The Whole Bowl, shows you how easy it is to make your own; don’t think of these as hard-and-fast instructions but rather as guidelines to get you into the kitchen making stock. From there it’s hard to go wrong, as it’s not an exact science but little more than tossing some bones into a pot, adding water, and simmering away.
With cold and flu season in full swing now, you can use your stock to make Cold Quell Soup, a healing tonic containing yams, fresh ginger, and plenty of pungent mustard greens. It’s one of the simplest recipes in The Whole Bowl, yet a profoundly healing one.
The best gelling occurs when some cartilage-rich knuckles and/or hooves or chicken feet are included; for added flavor and nutrients, use shanks or other marrow bones.
The longer you cook the bones, the more minerals are extracted and the more the stock will gel, a sign of a gelatin-rich stock. However, excessive cooking and/or high heat may result in a thin stock (as the gelatin chains become shorter with overcooking). Not to worry; whether or not it gels, your stock will be both delicious and healing.
There’s no “master” recipe or perfect timing for stock making; the point is to make the recipe work for you and your schedule. If you’re uncomfortable leaving the pot on the stove while you sleep or are away from home, go with the slow cooker option. A little vinegar or wine added to your stock acts as a solvent to extract nutrients.
Salt helps draw minerals from the bones and boosts the stock’s flavor and shelf life. Depending on how much salt you add, reduce the amount of salt accordingly in the written recipes in which you use your stock.
To increase flavor, roast your bones before tossing them into the stockpot.
Add meat scraps to heighten flavor and nutrition.
Reuse your bones for a second or even third batch of stock, until they crumble when you press on them.
Add vegetables during the last few hours of cooking so they don’t disintegrate and toss them out at the end, as all their flavor and nutrients will have transferred to the stock.
Mix and match seasonings to create your own signature stocks. My two favorites are turmeric-ginger and rosemary-tomato.