Broth-Making FAQ’s

broth1I’ve noticed that many of you are sort of perfectionists when it comes to broth making. I admire that, but I also think that many others feel daunted as a result. Here are some of the most common questions I get and my responses.

  1. How do I make bone broth? It’s easy and far more forgiving than you think! Don’t get all hung up about doing it exactly the Nourishing Traditions way if that’s too daunting. Stick some raw or cooked bones in water, bring to a boil, and simmer for a bit (20-45 min for fish, 1-24 hours for poultry, 4-48 hours for beef/lamb). Strain the bones out and you’re done!
  2. Does it matter if the bones/stewing hen is roasted first? Not really. It’s just a matter of taste preference. A “blond” stock is made from raw chicken bones. If you want a dark chicken stock, roast the parts first. And to get it even darker, add some yellow onion skins to the pot.
  3. How long should I simmer the broth? It matters much less than you think. Look at my ranges above. HUGE leeway, right? I tend to cook mine on the shorter side – e.g. 3-8 hours for chicken. 30 min for fish. Overnight for beef/lamb. Then I let it cool in the pot before I strain, bag and freeze it. Generally the shorter cooking time produces a slightly more pleasant flavor, in my opinion. Longer cooking extracts more of the nutrients, but to me, a working mom and volunteer farm admin, it’s about simplicity!
  4. Do I need to skim the fat after the broth cools? Nope. But if you feel that it impacts the flavor/consistency/appearance of your final dish, then sure, go ahead, but don’t throw away that fat! Use it to sautee something and enjoy the lovely flavor.
  5. Is vinegar necessary? No, but according to Nourishing Traditions, it helps in extracting more minerals.
  6. In addition to the bones, what else should I add to my stockpot? Personally I add nothing else because I want the freedom to make different recipes with it and I don’t want it flavored with, say, bay leaves if I’m making a thai curry or a Vietnamese Pho soup or a Greek Avgolemono soup. But of course you can add all sorts of things. For more European flavors, add the classic bouquet garniherbs. You could also add onions, carrots, celery, bunch of parsley. You could use cilantro stems. Ginger root. Garlic. Juniper berries. Mushroom stems. Peppercorns. The list goes on and on.
  7. Help – my broth is cloudy! Don’t worry. It’s just because you didn’t simmer it – you kept it boiling so all the little bits got mixed around and incorporated into the broth. It will still taste fine, but you won’t win any cooking competitions with it. 😉
  8. Why isn’t my broth gelling? Most of the time, it’s because of the ratio of water to bones. Fret not! The gelatin is in there, but might be watered down too much for you to see it, which is not a bad thing!! But if you’re a perfectionist and really want to see it turn into a solid, wobbly block, then pack as many bones as you can into your pot, filling all the little crevices, then add barely enough water to cover. After you boil + simmer, strain and refrigerate, it will gel. Of course it’s important to get some joint/knuckle parts in there, but that’s hard NOT to do. For fish, I get it easily when using backbone and head. For chicken, anything will give it to you. I use the whole stewing hen or necks or backs or feet and heads or wings – they all work great.  For beef/lamb, the Meadowbreeze bags work great. Oxtail makes an extra gelatinous beef stock.
  9. What are some good soup recipes? I recommend the book Splendid Soups by James Peterson. Literally it’s a soup Bible with recipes of soups from around the world.
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