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Nourishing Soup Stocks

The foundation of any good soup recipe is its stock. You may have heard of a popular book called Chicken Soup for the Soul. I love the title! After all, chicken soup and other delicious soups are so deeply satisfying they do seem to nourish the soul. I can remember walking into my grandmother’s house and feeling calmed and relaxed by the rich aroma of her homemade chicken stock. Family recipes are often passed down through generations. Good, rich stock is made by slowly simmering the bones and meat of animals or fish with vegetables, or simply by simmering flavorful vegetables alone. Slow simmering helps extract the deep flavor and valuable nutrients from the marrow, bones and vegetables. This nourishing flavor is what the Japanese have long-called “Umami” —, a somewhat difficult-to-describe, savory flavor experience. During the cooler months, I have a simmering pot of broth on the stove just about every week. I use what I need and freeze plenty for summer use. My two favorite stocks are chicken and vegetable. Here is what I do. Chicken Stock: Start with a 3 to 4 pound whole chicken and 1/3 cup raw apple cider vinegar. I use vinegar as an acid agent that helps draw the minerals out of the bones and into the stock, making it super nutritious! Cover the chicken with water and vinegar in a large stockpot. Bring it to a boil and then simmer for an hour or so, until the chicken meat is tender and falling off the bones. Remove the chicken, cool and remove meat from bones and set aside. Then return bones to stockpot along with large chunks of carrots, celery and onion. Add more water, if needed, along with good quality sea salt and fresh herbs such as bay leaf, thyme, rosemary, savory or sage. Simmer, covered, on low heat for a couple more hours. Strain; discard the veggies and herbs. Use immediately or refrigerate for up to 4 or 5 days. Or, cool and then freeze for later. Use in your favorite recipes calling for chicken stock or make a quick chicken soup by adding chopped veggies, the chicken meat, more herbs and any other seasonings you fancy. Serve as is or over brown rice or whole wheat pasta noodles. Vegetable Stock: Did you know that making vegetable stock is the perfect way to use all those vegetable odds and ends, trimmings and shavings that you would normally throw away? You can use all of those carrot and zucchini ends, celery leaves, outer peels of onions, parsley stems, etc. Just wash them well and throw them in the stockpot. You can also use some of these vegetables:

  • Roots including carrots, parsnips or rutabaga, which imparts a strong flavor
  • Herbs including chives, parsley and cilantro
  • Greens including chard, bok choy or kale, which imparts a strong flavor
  • Aromatics including garlic, onions and ginger
  • Celery, fennel, zucchini, yellow squash and butternut squash
  • If you like fruit, stick with tomatoes!
  • Corn cobs (makes the broth really good!)

Altogether, you’ll want about 4 to 5 cups of veggies. Cover with water. Add seasonal fresh or dried herbs and simmer, covered, for an hour or two! Strain and discard the veggies. Use it up within 4 to 5 days, or freeze it for later use. Once you have a good, rich stock prepared, here are some ideas for how to use it:

  • As a base for soup, stew and chili.
  • In sauces for meats, roasts, tofu, tempeh and vegetables.
  • In gravy!
  • As a sauté for veggies in place of, or along with, butter or oil.
  • For steaming and braising vegetables.
  • For basting roast meats or vegetables.
  • For cooking whole grains such as rice or quinoa. Use just as much stock as you would water.
  • For drinking on its own with a meal, just before a meal, or as a snack. A personal favorite is hot, well-seasoned chicken stock with a splash of coconut milk and a squeeze of lime… absolutely delicious!!

If you’re in a time-crunch, make stock in a crockpot or consider purchasing an all-natural broth. Look for brands that are free of added chemicals, preservatives, artificial flavors and MSG. Organic is best, if possible. Good stock keeps me warm all winter long! Do you make your own? Got a favorite recipe or family tradition? I would love to hear!