As I am reaching the height of my canning season, I am working on a series of posts about food preservation. I think the best place to start is with homemade stock.
Do you ever wonder what to do with the carcass after you roast a whole chicken? Making a bone stock or broth out of it is easy and saves you a ton of money. Throughout history bone broths have been known to have healing effects: mitigating cold symptoms, helping with inflammation, relieving digestive issues, and just giving us a sense of comfort when we're under the weather.
The most common brands of broth, like Swanson, are misleading in their advertising. Many brands contain MSG, a neurotoxin, so Swanson wants us to know theirs is healthier and makes sure to label it as "all-natural" and "MSG-free". The problem is that Swanson chicken broth contains yeast extract, which means the broth does in fact contain MSG. It's a labeling trick that is dishonest. To learn more about MSG and yeast extract, read this.
Buying a good, organic bone broth in the grocery store is difficult, not only because they are often seasoned with items you don't want, but they are pretty expensive. Take Pacific Foods Free Range Organic Chicken Broth, which contains organic chicken broth (filtered water, organic chicken), organic chicken flavor, (organic chicken flavor, sea salt), natural chicken flavor (chicken stock, salt), organic evaporated cane juice, organic onion powder, turmeric, and organic flavor. I don't know about you, but I have no idea what "organic flavor" is and I prefer that there isn't hidden sugar in my broth. Besides, for $4.00 per 32 ounces, I would at least like to see some veggies in the broth.
Instead of spending so much on nutritionally inferior broth, why not make your own out of something that costs you nothing extra, as you intend to throw the carcass in the garbage anyways?
All the equipment you need to make your own broth is a large stock pot, something to strain it with (like cheesecloth), and eight quart-size canning jars/lids. I use my Cuisinart 12 Quart Pasta Pot because it allows me to throw all of my ingredients in the pasta insert and once the broth is done simmering I can pull the solids out without having to strain the broth through anything.
Remember not to use a stock pot coated with Teflon or other non-stick coatings and additives. It makes little sense to worry about your food additives while cooking with pots that contain carcinogens.
MAKING THE BROTH
8 quarts filtered water
1 organic, free-range chicken carcass
3-4 organic carrots
3 organic green onions
2 cloves organic garlic
10-15 whole peppercorns
2 T sea salt
I do not add herbs now, because I prefer to add them directly to whatever food I am using the broth as a base for, but you could add some now if you want to - bay leaves or rosemary would be nice.
Bring the water to a boil and then let it simmer on the stove for about four hours. If you have your solids directly in a stock pot you're going to want to stir it every now and then to make sure the veggies aren't sticking to the bottom. If you're using the pasta insert it is not necessary.
After four hours you have a delicious broth that you can either preserve by freezing or canning, or put directly in the fridge, where it will last for about one week. Freezing is a great option if you have the space for it, however, I prefer canning my broth so I don't waste precious space in my deep-freezer.
CANNING THE BROTH
To preserve your broth you are going to need a pressure canner. I have a Presto 16 Quart canner and it is easy to use, although quite intimidating the first time. If you've never used a pressure canner you may want to invite someone over to help you initially, as it is very different than using a water bath canner.
My canner fits 7 quart-size jars, and since I prepare 8 quarts of broth at once (1 inch of headspace), I leave one in the fridge for immediate use. The rest go into the canner for 25 minutes at 10 psi.
And there you have it - 8 quarts of delicious homemade broth to use as a base in your soups and other meals. Not only is it nutritionally superior to what you can buy in the store, but it saves you about $32 if you were buying the same quantity of organic broth there.
In case you're wondering, you CANNOT preserve broth with a water bath canner. It is a low-acid food, which needs to reach 240 degrees for a specific period of time in order to kill the bacteria that would spoil it. A water bath canner cannot reach that temperature.