by Louise Ayer
This month’s recipe is in honor of the spirit of a beautiful young woman I know, who has gone home to be with her family while her mother bravely battles with cancer. To me she represents the spirit of the mother, the spirit that is in all of us that nurtures, supports, and loves. And the recipe that represents that spirit, for me, is bone broth.
Bone broth is the mother of all foods. It is the foundational food you can turn to when you don’t feel well, when you want to build your strength back up, or when you want to maintain your health and core strength. According to our grandmothers, a good broth cures a whole slew of ills. Even the scientists now agree with Grandma that rich, homemade chicken broth helps to cure colds. Incidentally, it is called broth in the home kitchen and stock in the restaurant, but it is the same thing. Chicken stock is full of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulfur and other trace minerals.
Hanna Kroeger writes in Ageless Remedies from Mother’s Kitchen that chicken soup heals the nerves, improves digestion, reduces allergies, relaxes the body, and gives strength. She says chicken soup has a natural ingredient which feeds, repairs, and calms the mucous lining in the small intestine. This inner lining is the beginning or ending of the nervous system.
A good stock is also full of gelatin.
According to Sally Fallon, in Nourishing Traditions, most food repels liquid but the gelatin in broth attracts liquids, making it very easy to digest. Gelatin has been found to be useful in the treatment of a long list of diseases including peptic ulcers, tuberculosis, diabetes, muscle diseases, infectious diseases, jaundice, and cancer.
Chicken heads and feet have the most gelatin, but are impossible to find in regular supermarkets. Some Asian and Latin American markets sometimes carry whole birds. Sometimes I can find the feet sold separately online through free range, organic sources, and I can buy them in bulk. And sometimes I can find them locally through small farms. Make sure your sources are as close to organic as possible, and definitely free range. If you are lucky enough to find feet, 2-4 feet are enough for a batch of stock. You should remove the claw tips and they should be boiled in water for 10 minutes first. That water should be discarded.
According to Michael Ruhlman in The Elements of Cooking, good stock depends on fresh ingredients and low heat, 170 to 180 being ideal, just below simmer.
When I make my stock, I use an All Clad 7-quart slow cooker. I put it on low and let the stock cook for 12 hours. This keeps the temperature low and I don’t have to watch it to make sure the temperature remains constant. I can leave the room and remain confident that nothing untoward will happen.
So don’t buy broth, make your own. We are what we eat, and we love you.
Boiling a Chicken, Chicken Stock, Chicken Soup
I’m going to walk you through the process of all of the above step-by-step.
I assume all your ingredients are organic, or as close to that as you can get.
I use chicken stock for the base for lots of soup. You can either start with a roasted chicken or you can boil a chicken. I’ll explain both ways. Neither one is difficult. Just read it through a couple of times. It is an organic process, meaning you can do it many ways. Look in your fridge or pantry to see what you have on hand. We’ll boil a chicken this month to make stock and next month we’ll roast a chicken.
Since we’re boiling the chicken, I’ll check the central cavity to see if there is a package of giblets. If yes, I put them in the slow cooker along with the chicken.
Boiling a Chicken
After I take the chicken out of its wrappings and wash it, I put it in a 7-quart All Clad slow cooker. If it has giblets, I unwrap them and put them in too.
You could also put the chicken in a stock pot. If I were you, I’d probably put two chickens in a stock pot. I use a slow cooker because I don’t have to watch it. In a stock pot on the stove, you have to pay a little more attention to make sure it is maintaining a slow simmer. But the advantage is you can make a larger quantity. I’m going to give you directions for what I do with one chicken in my slow cooker.
This is how I make stock from a whole young chicken.
I just put everything from the following ingredient list in, turn it on low, and cook it for 12 hours.
If I am using a young whole chicken, I remove the chicken after 6 hours so the meat does not overcook, let it cool until I can handle it, remove all the meat from the bones, cut it up and save it to make chicken soup, or put it in meal size portions and freeze it. You can use that meat in a million ways. Then I take the carcass and put it back in the crock pot and continue cooking for the remainder of the 12 hours.
1 whole young chicken or the carcass of a roast chicken
1 large carrot, scrubbed but not peeled
1 medium onion peeled and cut in half
1 large stalk of celery with leaves, cut in half
1 teaspoon peppercorns (I use the mixed colored ones. They have more flavor and are milder.)
3 whole cloves garlic, peeled
Handful of flat leaf Italian parsley
Handful of rosemary sprigs
Handful of thyme sprigs
Sage leaves, small handful
¼ cup Bragg’s apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons salt
Enough boiling water to completely fill the slow cooker
You can put shallots, more herbs, and different herbs, like oregano, winter savory.
If you can, find a farm or Asian market that will sell you chicken feet, which will make wonderful gelatin for your stock. You should cut the claw tips from the feet. Chicken feet should then be boiled first, separately in a saucepan pan for 10 minutes to clean them. Discard the water. Then add them to the stock.
I would usually make the stock one day, let it cool, strain it, discard the strained portion, ladle it into quart containers, label and date them and freeze it all except 2 quarts, which I will use the following day to make soup. The 2 quarts would go in the fridge until ready to start the soup. This lovely stock makes the soup pretty quick.
Chicken soup is a very flexible thing. I put all kinds of things in it, e.g. barley, pasta, vegetables, greens, herbs, fresh and/or dry. So this recipe is just one example.
Chicken Soup for 8
Chicken cut in bite-size pieces, white meat and dark meat
2 quarts chicken stock
3 medium-sized carrots, peeled and cut in coins on the diagonal
1 large sweet onion cut in ½” dice
3 stalks celery with leaves, cut in ½” dice
4 cloves garlic, minced
20 grinds of pepper melange
½ cup flat leaf Italian parsley
3 tablespoons dried herbs or ½ cup of fresh herbs, minced
2 teaspoons salt
Bring the stock to a boil, add everything but the chicken, return to the boil, turn it down to simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add the chicken. Simmer for 5 more minutes. Soup is done.