The Benefits of Broth and Stock
The benefits of broth and stock are numerous. The bones of animals are a valuable source of nutrients and flavor when used to create broths and stocks. In traditional cuisine you will find it is common to use rich stocks and broths to build flavor in soups and sauces. When broth or stock is made properly, it can provide an abundance of nutrients that are nourishing for the body and used to heal a laundry list of diseases and conditions.
The terms broth and stock are often used interchangeably, but there are distinct differences between the two. Broth is made with meat or meat and bone and is simmered until the meat is tender and cooked. If the bones are used then they are removed and the meat, broth and vegetables are used to make soups. Stock is made from bones only and is simmered in liquid for hours. Stock is frequently reduced and used as the base for sauces.
The bones and skin are sources of gelatin and minerals and the meat is the source of flavor. Extraction times of gelatin and flavor from meats and bones vary depending on the animal. Fish take less than an hour, while chicken and veal take a few hours, and beef an entire day. Extraction time is also affected by the size of the bones and meat pieces. The smaller the pieces, the faster the extraction time. The longer the extraction time, the more nutrients and beneficial properties that are removed from the bones and dispersed in the stock.
Broth and stock contain sodium, chloride, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium. If broth and stock are made properly they will contain gelatin which is a digestive aid and assimilates nutrients to the body. The minerals found in broth and stock are important for bone and teeth health. Osteoporosis and tooth decay were not prominent diseases of Native cultures because of the common use of broth and stocks in their cuisine. Folklore suggests using broth and stock for colds, flu and asthma. Gelatin has been used to treat diseases of the blood, diabetes, arthritis and even cancer.
To make broth, typically the meat and bones are cooked in between one and two times their weight in water (2-4 quarts of water per 2 pounds of solids) and will yield half their weight in stock. To round out the flavor, often vegetables (onions, carrots and celery) and herbs are added to the meat and bones. Vinegar is added to help extract the calcium from the bones. Other ingredients that can be added to provide nutrients, flavor and/or immune boosting properties are astragalus root, kombu seaweed and mushrooms.
Ingredients for slow-cooker broth:
• 3 pounds of bones or poultry carcass (or combination of two)
• 3 quarts of water
• 1 onion, chopped medium
• 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
Directions for slow cooker broth:
Combine all ingredients in a slow-cooker. Cover and cook on high for 4-5 hours then reduce to low for 8-9 hours or longer (up to 24 hours as the longer it cooks, the more health benefits are extracted). Let the broth settle for five minutes, then gently tilt the slow-cooker and remove as much fat as possible from the surface using a large spoon (or remove the fat by discarding the solid fat layer that develops when storing in the refrigerator). Strain the broth through a fine-mesh strainer into a large container. Yields about 3 quarts.
To store broth and stock, pour into glass jars and store in freezer. It can also be ladled into muffin tins and frozen. Once frozen, twist the muffin tins like an ice tray to pop them out, and then store in plastic bags in freezer. Ice cube trays work well too.