Slowcooker Chicken Soup, at the beginning.

One of my favorite foods growing up was the Saturday-After-Thanksgiving turkey soup my mom used to make. After Thanksgiving dinner she would stand in the kitchen for what seemed like hours, meticulously cleaning off the turkey carcass, gleaning those nice chunks of meat from between the bones for our Friday-After-Thanksgiving lunch: turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce sandwiches. (Those were mighty good sandwiches, especially if I could delay eating them until the leftover gravy was warm enough for dipping.) Once the carcass was clean enough, she’d cover it with water in a stockpot, add in some magical ingredients that I don’t remember, and set it to simmer on the back of the stove. I’d eye that pot all day Friday, and I think maybe my sometimes-impatient father would sneak a bit before it was truly “ready” – who could blame him? By Saturday lunch we’d fill our bowls and dig in.

I knew it tasted delicious, but honestly had no idea what a special food that was, and it would be many years before I would simmer bones in water with a few vegetables and spices, to make what I now call culinary liquid gold.

Health Benefits

What makes bone broth so special?  Let me take a few notes from Nourishing Traditions to illustrate the many benefits.

“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 [or lemon juice] added during cooking helps to draw minerals, particularly calcium, magnesium and potassium, into the broth….

“Gelatin [melted from cartilage and ligaments into the liquid] acts first and foremost as an aid to digestion and has been used successfully in the treatment of many intestinal disorders, including hyperacidity, colitis and Crohn’s disease…. 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….

“In folk wisdom, rich chicken broth – the famous Jewish penicillin – is a valued remedy for the flu….  Modern research has confirmed that broth helps prevent and mitigate infectious diseases.”

Flavor & Frugality

In addition to all these health benefits, real bone broth or meat stock tastes really, really good.  It adds a rich silkiness to soups, stews and sauces – which is why you’ll find a pot of bone broth brewing in the kitchens of all the finest restaurants, ready to be boiled down into thick glazes, or used as poaching liquid, or ladled over a bowl of caramelized onions and topped with cheese for French Onion Soup.  All by itself, a warm mug of plain broth is one of the most comforting foods on the planet.  It’s also one of the easiest ways to stretch your food dollar, as it essentially takes the “waste” from a pot roast or chicken dinner and turns it into an essential ingredient to enrich many more meals.  Nothing illustrates this point, from Jessica Prentice’s brilliant Full Moon Feast, better than the making of broth:

“Helena Norberg-Hodge tells the story of an experience she had living among the Ladakhis in the Himilayas:

“‘…I was also beginning to learn the meaning of the word frugality.  In the West, frugality conjures up images of old aunts and pad-locked pantries.  But the frugality you find in Ladakh, which is fundamental to the people’s prosperity, [emphasis mine] is something quite different.  Using limited resources in a careful way has nothing to do with miserliness; this is frugality in its original meaning of “fruitfulness”: getting more out of a little.'”

In times of plenty we often forget to practice and teach the ways of frugality.  The prosperous 20th century saw us relying increasingly on quick methods of food “production” and “manufacturing”, as the old ways of food preparation and stewardship nearly died in the process.  Meat stock has been largely replaced by boxed broth and boullion cubes, both providing a small fraction of nutritional value or richness of taste (and usually delivering a strong dose of neurotoxic MSG in the process).  In my younger days I paid extra for boneless, skinless chicken pieces – not realizing the nutritional wealth I was paying to have removed!  No more, friends.  Buy the whole chicken.  Even if you buy the more expensive organic and/or pastured chicken, I’ll show you how to make it worth its price.  Watch for tomorrow’s post, where I’ll show you how to get 3 meals out of 1 whole chicken.

For now, visit Nourished Kitchen and check out this delicious recipe for Slowcooker Chicken Soup. I made it over the weekend and it truly does nourish any soul, especially a weary one.

 

Slowcooker Chicken Soup, at the end.  Served with a side of Coconut Flour Bread with fresh butter from this weekend’s trip to the Organic Pastures booth at the farmer’s market.  Sweet heaven!

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