The nights are cooler. Some of us have to cover our gardens for fear of the goods perishing under the waning moon. We start to turn inwards, as the daylight gets shorter and the furnace turns on. It's time to get a slow simmer going on the stove.
It's time to Stock Up.
You have probably heard it by now, and if you haven't, I think you should come out from under that rock. Bone Broth. Stock. Chicken Stock. Meat Stock. It's all the rage. And with good reason! This frugal save-your-scraps kind of cooking that our grandmothers' grandmothers were doing, and all grandmothers before them (in all walks of life, and all parts of the world) has been an integral part of the diet in just about every culture around the globe. Food was never a plentiful thing; grocery stores have only been on the scene since the late 1920s. You used to have to cook from scratch all the time. And you used every morsel you had; nothing was wasted. That is the food with which our bodies and our genetics evolved for countless generations. It's time to bring it back to the table.
To be clear, we're not talking tetra packs of stock or broth; we're also not talking about the powdered or cubed kind of 'insta-stock' either. Sorry to disappoint.
Sure, there are places for these types of manufactured stocks or broths, but they won't impart the health benefits that a real deal from scratch kind of meat stock or bone broth. So know that when I'm referring to meat stock or bone broth in this article, I'm talking about simmering in your own kitchen some bones with or without meat on them with a few added tasty things.
Want to bypass the written word here
and just get the gist via a short video? Voila, mon amie!
Meat Stock vs Bone Broth
These terms seem to be interchangeable; and certainly when it comes to following a recipe that calls for either meat stock or broth, you can use easily substitute with what you have on hand. I want to outline here though the difference between a Meat Stock and a Bone Broth in order to help clear up the confusion.
The clarification between the two became crystal clear when I spent a long weekend in Colorado two years ago with the lovely Monica Corrado, a Traditional Foods Chef and Teacher, as well as a Certified Nutritional Consultant who put together a fabulous weekend of cooking for the GAPS Diet, a revolutionary diet from Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride intended to 'heal and seal' the gut. It was here that I learned there are massive differences between the Meat Stock (let's call it MS) and Bone Broth (let's call this one BB).
A bone broth (BB) is a traditional kind of broth cooked with the bones of an animal for a long time at a wee simmer. A meat stock (MS) is a shorter cook time of bones with meat on them, on a low simmer. The big difference? The time the bones or bones+meat will simmer for.
MS=short, BB=long. MS=meat+bones, BB=bones.
This is not where the only differences lie, however. If you're like me and are working on improving your gut health, you may have run across a few issues when consuming a long cooked stock. I remember when my kiddo was wee, I made a vietnamese soup with bone broth I had cooked for the requisite 72 hours they called for in my early days of Nourishing Traditions exploration. Within an hour and a half of chowing down the good soup, I fell apart. And I mean that quite literally. We were at my kiddo's dance studio at the time; thank goodness my in-laws were there to take her home. I was escorted out the door via the ambulance as I had a pretty violent reaction to this long and slow simmer of a stock as it messed with my body. I'll spare you the images, but know that it wasn't pretty. They couldn't explain what happened to me, or why I reacted the way I did. They chalked it up to food poisoning; I was left scratching my head as my daughter and I had eaten the same foods, yet she never reacted like I did.
It wasn't until I attended this weekend cooking retreat with Monica Corrado that it all came into focus: this long, slow simmer of a stock was at the root of my troubles that day. And quite a few times since then. I was cooking like the folks who know these things were cooking it; I was following the rules. Why did I feel so rotten?
It is the long, slow process that concentrates amounts of glutamic acid in the final product. Monica goes in to a brilliant explanation on the troubles with glutamic acid for those with digestive complaints in this article, I highly recommend you take the time to read through in order to undertand what is happening here. Her conclusion? For anyone with a compromised digestive system (read: intestinal permeability / autoimmune disorders / any diagnoses with the nervous system like ADHD or seizures or depression or anxiety / any digestive diagnoses like IBS IBD or Celiac), you must stick to the shorter cook times, keeping to a more nutrient-dense short cook meat stock.
Fret not though; bone broth will come in to the picture further on down the road, once some of that support to the gut starts to take hold. Cooking for a shorter time reduces the amount of glutamic acid, which is a substance that can exacerbate any kind of physiological concerns you have that are related to the gut (which is just about everything.)
The other thing to think about when making a meat stock or a bone broth is the amount of histamines in the final product. If histamine overload is a problem for you (migraines, acid reflux, chronic pain, hives, allergies, urticaria) this is important information. The longer the cook time, the higher the amount of histamines produced in the final product. Whenever there is an issue of histamines, you can rest assured there is a need to look at reducing inflammation in the individual. How to reduce chronic inflammation? Short cook meat stock, to the rescue. Lower in histamines than a long cook BB, the MS will be a nutrient dense way to support your intestinal lining, in order to reduce inflammation at the source and therefore, radiating outwards.
Why make stock or broth?
The health benefits of including this elixir in your dietary regimen are everywhere these days. This stuff is golden when it comes to supporting collagen production in your body, a substance we need for every skin cell in our body including those all important skin cells of our intestinal lining. MS and BB are both rich in nutrients necessary to support healthy cartilage and connective tissue, including bones. They are easy assimilable forms of protein for the body, making it a super nourishing drink for anyone feeling under the weather or facing a serious health challenge at this time. They're a great source of nutrients when you're in repair or building mode (like say, mending that broken leg of yours or making a baby).
If you or anyone you love has been diagnosed with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, psoriasis, any kind of autoimmune disorder including that of the thyroid, any type of digestive disorder like IBS or Crohns; anyone in your life working on a cancer diagnosis, any kind of motor-neuron disorder or degenerative disease like MS or ALS; for the person looking to support mental health and balancing moods or decreasing anxiety; anyone looking to upkeep their body's functions for high performance sports or fitness endeavours; anyone looking to age like a champ; consuming meat stock (and bone broth in some instances or at some point down the road) can be of tremendous support.
Let's go over how to easily make a meat stock. For today's blog post, I am going to stick to a chicken meat stock for the sake of simplicity. I will be including other meat stocks in my repertoire as the months go by and cooking classes get built. But for now, let's look at what it takes to make a good ole meat stock.
POULTRY MEAT STOCK inspired by Monica Corrado of Simply Being Well
- a chicken or duck or quail, whole
- if you're not too squirmy about it, a package of chicken feet or chicken backs and necks
- enough filtered water to cover
- 2 tbsp of something acidic like apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, or juice from a ferment of sorts
- Put your bird and chicken feet / backs / necks in the biggest stock pot you own. Top with enough filtered water to cover your bird. Add your acidic medium. Let it sit for 1 hour. (This is to pull more minerals out of the bird into the stock.)
- Turn your stovetop on, bringing the meat stock to a slow and gentle simmer. Skim off any impurities that show up. Allow this brew to bubble for a good hour and a half, with the lid off.
- Turn your stove top off; strain your entire soup through a sieve, hanging on to the whole chicken. The juices you have collected are your meat stock. Good work. SAVE THIS AND SAVOUR IT.
- The whole chicken you have strained is ready for you to debone, and reserve all of the good meat. This is what you can stash in to little freezer bags or containers and have at the ready for easy and simple meals during weeknights, or to add to salads for a nourishing lunch.
What to do next
- Take that meat stock, allow it to cool and pop into containers in the freezer for easy meals.
- Fill an ice cube tray with this meat stock and freeze individual ice cubes for those times when you need just a dab of stock to thin a gravy out, or steam some greens or cauliflower, or want to braise a veg.
- Drink this stuff like tea; add miso paste to it after heating, add some chopped chives and/or seaweed, swirl an egg in it. A nutrient-dense snack that bigs and littles will love.
- Save the meat stock, return the pot to the stovetop and add a good solid cooking fat like duck fat. Saute in this a chopped leek, add a few chopped carrots and celery, a few garlic cloves, toss the shredded chicken in and the meat stock, and add a couple of handfuls of slivered greens like swiss chard and parsley. Adjust the flavours, the S+P to make a delicious stew. If you have some pesto, throw that in the mix to make a chicken pistou stew. (Who doesn't want to make that just to say that's what they made? Chicken Pistou Stew. Say it out loud.)
I love to boost my meat stock with additional herbs or veggies to increase the nutrient density of said stock. Think of adding any number of these things when next you brew. Add them in to the soup pot at the beginning of your meat stock:
- a chopped onion (sulfur! Detox superstar! Liver lovin at its best!)
- a few chopped carrots and celery (added minerals! And yum flavours!)
- any limp looking veggies from your crisper you're wanting to move (except things like kale, radishes, cauliflower or broccoli; their taste is better suited in the final product than in the simmering-stock stage)
- a handful of fresh herbs like parsley or rosemary or thyme (minerals + flavours)
- a few bay leaves (a traditional flavour for meat stock)
- a few dried herbs like nettle or parsley (for anti inflammatory support)
- a few peppercorns (a traditional flavour enhancer for meat stock)
- a slice of seaweed like the kombu in the photo above (incredible mineral powerhouse, and detox and liver and immune loving support) – any seaweed will do
- a few dried shiitake mushrooms (additional immune support)
- some medicinal mushrooms like reishi or chaga mushrooms (excellent adaptogens that support adrenals, immune system, everything from head to toe)
- additional herbs like astraglus root slices (immune support) or turmeric root slices (incredible anti-inflammatory support)
- I keep a freezer bag going in my freezer where I add my vegetable scraps from meal prep during the week. I add the carrot tips, celery leaves, onion skins, garlic skins, carrot greens, parsley stems, fresh shiitake mushroom stems, etc to this bag with the express intention of using it in my next batch of stock. When the bag is full, it's time to put some stock up. (Don't fret about this too much – you're straining these goodies out of the final product.) (Onion skins lend a beautiful golden colour to your stock.)
If you've made your meat stock well, allowing it to come to a slow simmer, not used an excessive amount of water (use enough to cover the bird, and you should be good), your end product should gel upon cooling. This will happen especially if you have some connective-tissue rich feet, heads, necks or backs in the mix; it's worth seeking them out and adding them to the mix! If it didn't gel, do not despair: this is still good stuff to eat! Adjust your water next time, or keep a more watchful eye to make sure the simmer is slowly bubbling.
Once it has cooled, go ahead and store the goods in the freezer. I'd aim to use it up in 3 months' time; it never lasts that long at our house. We have a weekly soup night; plus I often make myself a good cuppa with an egg swirled in for my breakfast on short-on-time-mornings.
If you're looking for a cookbook that could catapult you in to soup making things and broth and stock recipes, track down Monica Corrado's Grandmother's Kitchen Book. I have a well worn copy that lives in my kitchen and is referred to on a regular basis. At the same link, you will find Monica's e-book on Meat Stock and Bone Broth, an essential in any kitchen looking to support gut health. You may also want to purchase a copy of the wonderful book Nourishing Broth: An Old-Fashioned Remedy for the Modern World by Sally Fallon Morell and Kaayla T. Daniel. While they do not differentiate between a meat stock and bone broth in this cookbook, you will find this book has myriad recipes and ways to use the nourishing stocks and broths you will be making. Delicious recipes!
OK friend. You got this. Go make some meat stock. And play with your food, if you please'm.