Homemade broth is one of those foods that anyone can make--and a food that everyone should make. Canned broth must have seemed like a great invention at the time, but stocks and broths found on grocery store shelves are devoid of nutrients and real flavor. Large amounts of refined salt and harmful additives like monosodium glutamate (MSG) are usually added to make these more palatable. Real broth made at home is filled with nutritionally valuable trace minerals in their natural state. And nothing can compare with the depth of rich flavor a homemade broth can bring to so many dishes.
The nutritional value of real broth was well-known in ancient cultures and is still revered in traditional communities today. Broth is often viewed as a powerful health elixir which can strengthen the joints and bones, prevent and cure illnesses, and provide ample amounts of energy and stamina. These claims are not antiquated myths, though it may seem like that if you try to cure modern ailments with canned broth. That won’t work. But by preparing your own stock the old-fashioned way, you can reap many health benefits from it.
Of all the various ingredients which can be included in broths, bones are the most important. While the idea of bones, cartilage and marrow may not get you salivating, it’s these components that bring the miraculous nutritional value to homemade broth. Broths are a rich source of gelatin (which enhances protein absorption and helps grow healthy hair too), as well as important trace minerals. For those who can’t eat much dairy, broth is also an important natural source of calcium.
Meat and vegetables can also be included in broth, though these are more for flavor than nutrient value. You can add your favorite seasonings to the mix if you like, including sea salt, pepper and various natural spices. Don’t overdo the seasoning, however, since the broth will gain its own flavor as it cooks.
To make your broth, place all of your ingredients in a large stockpot and cover with cold water. Stocks and broths benefit the most when cold water is heated slowly, so it’s best not to try and save a minute or two by preheating the water. Place the pot over medium heat until water has reached a gentle simmer. Then adjust heat to its lowest setting and allow broth to simmer for at least 12 hours, though a full 24 hours will draw even more nutrients into your broth. (Beef broth generally needs more time than chicken broth.) Remember to only allow the stock to simmer, never boil. Boiling can botch the flavor, texture and nutritional value of your broth.
When your broth has finished simmering, remove it from heat and allow it to cool slightly. You’ll want to strain it to separate the liquid from the solids. If you want an exceptionally clear broth you can use a fine strainer, but otherwise any strainer will do. Strain the liquid into a large bowl (preferably one with a lid or cover for easy storage). Set aside meat and vegetables to use for soups or casseroles at a later time.
Store the stock in an airtight container overnight. The fat in the broth will harden and rise to the top of the bowl. You can skim off as much fat as you desire, but leave at least a small amount to enhance the overall flavor and texture. Of course, you can skim off all the fat and add it back in as desired later on.
You can freeze extra stock in an airtight container and keep it for several months, so you can easily save more time by cooking large amounts of broth at once and then storing the rest in the freezer. Use your broth to flavor soups, sauces, gravies and so much more. Homemade broth is sure to become a staple item in your kitchen when you discover how little effort it takes to enjoy such rewarding flavor and nutritional benefits.
One last tip: how do you know if you have a good-quality broth? It gels up at least a little once you refrigerate it - that means it’s full of nutritious gelatin!
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