Consuming stock or broth made from animal bones and parts is taking the health-nut world by storm right now. I’m really thankful that awareness of its health benefits is spreading. I had switched to making homemade stock a few years ago for budgetary reasons; reading Nourishing Traditions only gave me better incentive to keep doing it.
Now I’m of the opinion that spending extra money on broth is ridiculous. The only benefit I see is that, unless you follow a specific recipe at home every time, store-bought broth tastes consistently the same. It’s also convenient if you can afford it. Homemade broth is not difficult, but it is an extra step in the kitchen. And depending on how you make it, your results may not always be the same. But I personally don’t mind a little inconsistency in the kitchen.* We don’t know what exactly goes into canned or packaged broth. It’s a processed food, it doesn’t gel, and packaging/production is wasteful and probably harmful. Its nutrient profile pales in comparison to homemade.
This is my method for weekly stock.
I keep a bag or container in the freezer for vegetable scraps and bones. Throughout the week, I collect all the scraps from preparing my other meals (usually carrot ends, onion skins, celery ends, and garlic peels; never any nightshades or starchy veggies) and toss them in there. I almost always incorporate some kind of whole chicken** into the week’s menu plan. I make sure to cook that chicken, saving all the drippings, giblets, bones, and carcass. Those go into the bag too.
Once I have a good collection of scraps and am in need of stock again (usually every 7-10 days), I bust out the crock pot and dump all the frozen scraps and parts into it. In goes a large splash of apple cider vinegar or half an organic lemon, several good shakes of unrefined salt, and filtered water filled to the top. On goes the lid, and the timer is set to cook for 20 hours. You’ll want it cooked for less time if you’re on GAPS Intro, or so I hear; but this is good for busy families who prefer to let the stock cook itself while you go about your day.
A few hours before I’m ready to bottle it, I’ll turn the crock pot off, leave the lid on, and let it cool down a bit. I use a ladle, a large sieve, and my 4-cup Pyrex measuring glass to strain the stock and pour into wide-mouth, quart-sized mason jars with plastic lids. This is the most annoying step, but it’s nice to have it conveniently ready for you in the fridge. My crock pot gives me about a gallon of stock, and I go through it too fast to bother freezing. But if you have a larger pot or you go through stock more slowly, I recommend storing it in Ziplocs or ice cube trays to freeze and use later.
*As a side note, I don’t get what our Western obsession with perfectly consistent food results is all about. I’ll rant about it another day.
**If you can afford clean sources of beef and fish or sea vegetables, save those bones and scraps for even better broth. Also, I get the best gelling when I cook the whole chicken in the crock pot (high for 4-4.5 hours). The meat itself turns out a little dry, but it can be used in other meals like soups, casseroles, and sandwiches. The drippings from a roast chicken are second-best for gelling, but the end result tastes better.
As our family grows, I’ll have to invest in a larger stock pot. But this has worked well for us so far, and I hope it does for you too. Do you have a method or special tip that you find helpful when making stock?