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O Broth-A

Good magicians never share their tricks. Luckily, I am not a magician. Just an amateur cook who doesn't mind revealing the secret ingredient. For many of my recipes, that secret ingredient is broth or stock. I know, I know.. sounds boring, right? Au contraire, my friends. Au contraire.

There are many good reasons to make your own broths and stocks rather than buying them from the grocery store. The first, and most relevant, is that it just tastes better. I have not yet found a pre-packaged stock that approached the taste of even my most disastrous home cooked batches (barring the time that I accidentally burned 3 pounds of chicken feet to the bottom of my stock pot, turning it into something that resembled an alien's placenta; but we don't need to get into that...).

Another excellent reason to make your own stock is that it gives you more control over various cooking variables to ensure that you're extracting the most nutrients from your ingredients. For example, you can adjust the cooking time depending on whether you are trying to create a meat stock or a bone broth.

A third great reason is that making your own stock is eco-friendly. Water is heavy, and takes a lot of energy to truck around the country in the form of 1-quart tetra-paks. By making stock at home, you reduce the amount of energy that goes into putting a meal on your family's dinner table. You'll also save some packaging from going into the waste stream. Finally, as if all this were not enough to earn you your environmentalism merit badge, you'll also prevent some food scraps from going into the garbage.

The basics of making a stock are the same regardless of the protein you're using as a base (e.g. chicken stock, beef stock, etc). For the sake of simplicity, and because it is an ingredient in my first two recipe posts, I'm going to provide instructions for making chicken stock.

One really wonderful thing about chicken stock is that it is in a reciprocal relationship with chicken soup, as well as chicken with roasted vegetables. When preparing your main course, save your vegetable scraps! You might not want to gnaw on the stem end of a carrot, but boy will it give great flavor to your stock! I save all of my vegetable trimmings and keep them in a bag in the freezer.

You'll also need a chicken carcass, which you can buy or create. You can buy a ready-to-boil chicken carcass from our farm store, or you can create it by roasting a chicken for your Sunday dinner and saving the carcass to boil later. It does not matter whether the carcass is pre-cooked or not. In addition to the chicken carcasses, I also STRONGLY recommend adding chicken feet to your stock. That might sound weird at first, but trust me on this one. The feet provide an excellent source of gelatin, which is not only excellent for your joints and gastrointestinal health, but will also give a thick, luxurious mouthfeel to your stock.

What you'll need

1-2 chicken carcasses

2-4 chicken feet (optional)Several handfuls of vegetable scraps

1-2 tablespoons of raw apple cider vinegar

1 small bunch of parsely (optional)

Add your chicken carcasses and feet to a large stock pot and cover with water.

Add the apple cider vinegar and leave to soak for 30 minutes. This step is optional, but will help extract more of the nutrients from the carcass.

Add your vegetables and bring to a boil. Periodically skim and discard any foam that rises to the surface.

Continue boiling for 2-3 hours.

During the last 10-15 minutes, toss in a handful of parsley for some added flavor.

At this point, you've created stock. That wasn't so hard, was it? At this point, you can strain out all of the liquids from the solids. If you're planning to pick the residual meat off of the carcass, now is the time to do it.

Alternatively, you can continue to boil your stock until it becomes bone broth. This takes at around 24 hours, and will likely require that you top off the water level in your pot from time to time.

- Chris Freeman

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