Yesterday, Fred and I went to the Amish farm as we usually do. As we came in the kitchen, we found Lydia and the girls getting ready to can some chicken they had just butchered. And in a big pile on the table were bones, lots and lots of chicken bones.
Hmmmmmm. Now, Fred's in his eighties and a child of the Depression, and I'm a thifty type and I looked at him and saw that we were both thinking the same thing.
So after our greetings and letting Lydia know what we needed that day, Fred asked what they were planning on doing with all the bones. Lydia said she'd hadn't thought about it--probably toss them.
"Can we buy the bones from you, Lydia?" asks Fred.
"Well, no," says Lydia. "But you can have them if you want."
See, these bones had already been cooked once. Lydia had already gotten her use from them, but there was still bits and pieces of meat on the bones and they'd still be good for bone broth. Which is another way of saying that even if you've cooked your chicken or beef or whatever, save the bones for broth.
Bone broth is very good for your health. Here's what Sally Fallon, author of the cookbook and encyclopedia on traditional nutrition, Nourishing Traditions, has to say:
Science validates what our grandmothers knew. Rich homemade chicken broths help cure colds. Stock contains minerals in a form the body can absorb easily—not just calcium but also magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and trace minerals. It contains the broken down material from cartilage and tendons--stuff like chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine, now sold as expensive supplements for arthritis and joint pain.
So we took the bones home, or rather I did for I'm the one with the stock pot. I put the bones into cold water, added a couple heads of garlic, an onion quartered, some onion skins and other veggie bits I keep in a bag in the fridge for broth-making, parsley and other herbs and a couple of tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. The vinegar is important as it helps extract the minerals from the bones. The chicken bone broth has been simmering on the back of the stove for almost 24 hours now. About time to finish it off, which is merely straining it, cooling it, and putting it in appropriate containers.
This bone broth will go to Fred, for an all out attempt to get his elbow healed by the next time we have to go to his doctor. He's sick and tired of that cast on his arm. Well, I'll probably keep a quart of it for soup-making purposes, but he can have the rest.
The broth smells lovely. It smells like home, like health, like all good, simple things. And it will do wonderful things for a soup. You can't beat it. In a pinch, if I don't have any broth in the fridge or freezer, I'll use canned chicken or beef broth, and a decent bouillon cube (non MSG for me) if I have too, but you really can't beat homemade stock or broth for flavoring a soup or sauce.
It's great to know that this very simple cooking technique can give you such great health benefits as well as provide potent flavor. Peasant societies and all of our grandmothers knew what was best all along.
You used to be able to get critter and chicken bones from the butcher just by asking for them. These days you have to buy beef or lamb bones--they get packaged and sold with the meat. And that's a shame, but hell, I'll buy them. Or sometimes get lucky and stop by the Amish farm after they've been butchering....
For a couple of great articles that can explain the health benefits of broth better than I can, check here and here. You'll be glad you did, especially if you start making broth yourself.