February 29, 2012

Homemade Broth

Winter made a very late appearance this year (only last week, actually), and with this turn to snowy weather, something in me craves soup. Hot, homemade, full of delicious goodness soup.

Now I'll share a secret with you. I cheat when I cook. Most of my soups, stews and almost anything that needs water added to it in some way begins with broth. Chicken broth, beef broth, vegetable broth, I love them all.

It's really so easy to do with just a little preparation.
Preparation = add 3 containers and 2 baggies to the freezer. That's it. I use matching, emptied, sour cream containers because I'm fancy like that.

The first container is used for leftover veggies. We always seem to have leftover vegetables after supper. The one or two spoonfuls that are left are thrown into the leftover veggie container in the freezer (after they have cooled).

The second container is used for beef pieces. Leftover steak that won't be eaten, hamburger, the slip of roast with gristle and so on. No one will be directly eating it so the tough pieces are okay.

The last container is for chicken pieces.
Like the beef, any leftover chicken bit can be kept.

The baggies are also for beef and chicken, one for each meat. This is where you put the bones that won't fit in a container. Whole chicken carcass or the bone from your roast, for example.

As you add to your leftover 'collection' you will eventually have enough veggies, beef, or chicken in your container(s)/baggies to make a broth.

Veggie Broth
I use medium sized containers for leftover freezer vegetables, so I try to have a couple filled before I begin a broth. I also try to have fresh vegetables on hand. Even better if they are from the garden. It is important to include some fresh, sweet tasting vegetables for a delicious vegetable broth.

Chop the fresh vegetables well. The more surface area, the more flavor and nutrition you can pull from them. Include onion, garlic, celery, and carrot.

Place the chopped vegetables in your slow cooker or stove-top pot with your veggie collection from the freezer and soft veggies from the fridge.

Add a little thyme, a bit of salt, ground pepper, and a bay leaf or two.
Cover with water (I fill my slow cooker) and simmer 5 - 6 hours or so.

Once it's done, the veggies will be rather soft and mushy and most of the nutritional value and flavor they had left will be in your broth. Strain these vegetables out of the liquid and throw them away or use them in your compost.

Let the broth cool.
Freeze the broth in containers and ice cube trays, or can with a pressure canner.

Beef Broth or Chicken Broth
This is beef or chicken broth. Not both together. I have never tried mixing them but I don't think it would be very good. So again, chicken or beef. Not both.

When you have a good collection of bones, throw them in a pot.
Add water to cover the bones.
Add a couple teaspoons of apple cider vinegar to the water and mix it a little..
Heat to boiling and then reduce heat and simmer for 6 hours or so. Longer is okay. I often do this step overnight. The apple cider vinegar will pull all the nutritious goodness from the bones and the marrow into the water.

Next, add a bay leaf and any meat bits and scraps you didn't add with the bones.
Add in fresh, chopped onion, garlic, celery, and carrot.
Add any leftover or scrap veggies on hand.
What you add will affect the flavor but almost anything can be included.
Fill the pot with water to just below the edge.
Heat to boiling and simmer all day.

Strain out the bones, meat bits, vegetables and let the liquid cool.
Once cooled there may be a layer of fat on top.
Remove some if there seems to be a lot. A little doesn't hurt and it has flavor.
Freeze in containers and ice cube trays.

I freeze my broth according to how I use it.  This is how I cheat at cooking. I use broth for everything. Okay well not everything, but pretty darn close.

Containers of broth are thawed for a soup base. Use as much as you want in place of water and add your ingredients like fresh veggies and/or meat. Likewise, broth makes a better liquid to simmer stew ingredients in. Hamburger gravy for egg noodle topping, again the water used is broth. Actually, I use the broth or add a few cubes to the water to boil the noodles in too. Rice, also boiled in broth. Boiled potatoes to be mashed and served with a gravy can be boiled in broth instead of plain water - chicken broth if it will be a poultry gravy or beef broth for beef gravy. And speaking of gravy, a good flavored broth can help flavor a gravy.

I empty broth ice cubes into a ziploc bag once they are solid. These cubes can be used in anything for extra flavor and they melt fast. Use them to cool soup for the kids without cutting the flavor.

Broth is a great nutritional way to add extra flavor to your food without processed flavoring. It contains less salt than the canned broth you can buy since you control the seasoning and salt,  and you get to use some leftovers that normally would be headed to the trash. With today's economic uncertainty, stretching your dollar as far as it will go is important. Give this a try and see how easy it is.

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