We are sick. Coughs and sneezes, and everything nice in between. In my family, at the first sign of trouble we make a store run for a chicken and make strong chicken broth. Until very recently, chicken broth as a cure-all home made remedy was more of a family tradition to me, rather a quirky superstition (and a very soothing drink) than a medical cure. Nonetheless, we religiously made it every time someone was under the weather.
Things got different, however, when I started reading up on traditional diets and nutrition. Turns out, my grandpa was right when he demanded chicken soup weekly. And while the proverbial Jewish penicillin does not have antiviral properties per se, it does have pretty much everything else your body needs for support in the fight against viruses. And not only does it contain all those nutrients, it has them in the form optimal for absorption and digestion. Think about it, if you cook that chicken long enough, it will release every bit of nutrition into the stock, including, but not limited to calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur, etc. And of course all that wonderful and curative gelatin from cartilage and tendons. All of this you get by simply boiling the heck out of a bunch of meat and bones. Consider the effort-to-effect ratio, and you will easily see that stock may be the single best home made investment of your time.
If you are interested in a much better overview of curative properties of broths, check out this (and many others) article on Weston A. Price foundation site: Broth Is Beautiful by Sally Fallon.
Ever since I read about broth’s curative properties, I never let myself run out. There is always a batch or two of chicken and/or beef stock in my freezer. Even if you don’t believe in curative power of stock, it’s indispensable when it comes to making soups, stews, sauces, etc. And the flavor of home-made doesn’t compare to anything, even of superb quality, that comes from a can.
So here is to drinking liquid gold regularly in your household, whether for cure or for its gastronomic values is completely up to you.
Here are the What and How, for today’s batch:
Curative Chicken Stock
- 1 whole chicken, free-range is strongly preferred, or weight equivalent of boney chicken parts, such as wings, legs, feet, necks and carcasses
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 2-3 medium onions, with skin
- 1 whole bulb of garlic, with skin
- 2-3 carrots, washed, not peeled
- 1 large parsnip, washed, not peeled
- 3-4 stalks of celery, with leaves
- 1 inch stump of fresh ginger, cut in half
- 1-2 bay leaves
- 5-6 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 1 tbsp salt, to start with
- 20 peppercorns, crushed
- a small bunch of fresh parsley, or parsley stalks if you were saving
In my opinion, cutting chicken up is better than leaving it whole. The reason being — easier exposure of joints and cartilage, therefore easier nutrient extraction. It’s also much easier to get the chicken out of the stock when it’s done. Secondly, everything goes into the pot, including the gizzards, and the neck bone that’s often included in the chicken package. Everything, that is, except for breast meat. Again, my opinion is that it doesn’t add anything in flavor value, and since it will be cooked for a long time, wasting breast meat on stock makes no sense. I typically cut off the breast meat and reserve if for something else.
Put chicken in a large soup pot. Add 3-4 quarts of cold water. Pour in vinegar. Let stand for 1 hr. Vinegar solution is to ensure all the nutrients are released easier.
Bring the pot to a boil. As it boils, gray scum starts forming on the surface. Remove the scum with a slotted spoon. Don’t overdo it, however. Once all the gray stuff is gone, the white scum will continue forming, but it will dissipate when you reduce the heat. It’s going to look unattractive at first, but don’t panic.
Add vegetables, seasonings, and herbs all at once. Bring to a boil again, and reduce heat to simmer. This is when you start seeing that white foam disappear.
I don’t cover the pot when it’s simmering. Covering the pot makes the stock cloudy. If you don’t care about the aesthetics of the stock or intend to use it in soups and sauces only, you can cover it, leaving just a crack for the steam to release.
At this point you can go about your business for about 6-8 hours. All you need to do is check on the stock pot a couple of times and add more water if needed. The stock will be ready to eat in about 2 hours, but in order for it to become curative, you should cook it for six hours at least.
A few minutes before the stock is done, throw in the parsley.
Let the stock cool until manageable with bare hands. Remove and discard all the vegetables and greens.
Extract chicken pieces with slotted spoon.
Lay a piece of cheesecloth over a colander or strainer, and pour the stock through into a stainless or glass bowl. After cooling completely, put the stock in the fridge. If you intend to freeze the stock for future use, discard the crust of fat that formed on top of the stock during refrigeration.
Stock will store for up to 6 months in plastic bags or plastic containers in your freezer.