It’s January 1, 2016. Always kind of a strange day. I mean, it is a day like any other day, right.
But it’s not. Because of the arbitrary way we currently keep track of dates, and measure where we are in the stream of time, we start a new year today. And with the concept of ‘New’ comes all sorts of personal goal setting, intentions, resolutions, and other general personal modification aspirations. Lose weight, exercise more, read more, put down the social media paraphernalia, volunteer more… the list is as endless as the number of humans trying to better their lives and the lives of those around them.
For me it may not be so monumental. Start the year of healthy. Because for some reason I think that how I spend this day will set the tone for the year. Does it really? Not too sure about that. But I have decided it does, so let me at least live today this way. Within the week, the sugar, butter, pasta and other ‘decadent’ ingredients will worm their way back comfortably into my belly.
So yes, I had a green smoothie. For some reason green= healthy. Not to say that the smoothie wasn’t healthy. Kale, bok choy, cucumber, mint, banana, pineapple, turmeric. It was darn healthy!! You could stand a spoon up in it. Ahhh- all that fibre 🙂 And then I cleaned out the freezer and fridge. Found all sorts of stuff that was put inside with the best of intentions, but a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. That vortex of a freezer swallowed up those containers and covered them in freezer burn. I actually started a list of what gets put in there with the date and attached it to the outside of the freezer, just so that I can remember to use what’s there. But that list is no good if I forget to update it regularly! Fail for Jen. But I did find some great things as well- turkey all ready to be added into soup, chicken carcass to make stock with, half of a lovely black currant pound cake, a frozen bag of elderberries to turn into a compote… there is absolutely no reason to eat well, according to my freezer!
With the new year, Winter has also finally found us here in Toronto. We really got off easy in December. But we knew it couldn’t last, come on!? And I don’t really mind; I like snow. There is something so peaceful and yet joyous about watching it fall, planning all the fun things we can do in it. Yes, snow in the city is more nasty and messy than pretty, but who says we have to stay in the city? Just north, east or even west of us, are wonderful choices for playtime. So time to dig out the skiis and snowshoes, the scarves, snow pants, gloves, hats etc. I always figured, if it’s going to be cold, it might as well snow. And if it isn’t going to snow, let’s just move on to Spring. The weatherman has never really taken my suggestions seriously though. Anyway, we had some blustery flurries, but they didn’t amount to much.
I want a blizzard. I feel for the kids here in the city. For those of us who grew up in small town Ontario, one thing you could count on was at least one or two snow days a season. The classic snow day. According to the tv, travel is discouraged, or impossible because of the snow drifts burying the cars in their driveways or along the curb- and the snow ploughs will just make those cars even more impossible to find. Schools are closed because the buses can’t run, and the teachers can’t make it in. But kids can play!!! Snow forts, snowball fights, tobogganing, skating, all guaranteeing that we’d return home with rosy cheeks, chattery teeth and chilled fingers and toes. But we didn’t mind at all- we earned them having fun. And there was hot chocolate waiting for us. But these days, in the city, snow days are such a rarity, that some kids have never had one. What a shame. Even adults look forward to the gift of a day off, one that wasn’t scheduled. It’s a gift, a day to play, binge-watch some neglected tv shows, read a good book, and not feel guilty for it.
For me, the perfect thing to wrap my fingers around on a cold day, is bone broth. Of course, I do like hot chocolate, or a foamy, steamy latte. But these drinks are treats, to be enjoyed sparingly. But bone broth, well there’s another story. It’s just brimming with health. And tastes oh so cozy. In the last few years bone broth is even making it onto cafe menus! How lovely that they are catching on 😉
Bone broth is such a healthy way of getting loads of vital nutrients. It is chock full of amino acids and minerals that support your immune system; as well as the gelatin, which contains collagen, which is wonderful for skin and digestive health. It can even reduce intestinal inflammation and heal the gut lining. And it can make your hair shiny 🙂 The trick to getting all this goodness out of the bones, is the addition of apple cider vinegar to the simmering water. To get the collagen out of the bones requires at least 8 hours of simmering, it can’t be rushed. Another trick: add the onion peels. They add a golden hue to the liquid. Just make sure the skins are clean, not covered in dirt.
The rich, silky flavour of bone broth make it comfort food for me. My mom makes the most amazing stocks, so I grew up around soup, all the time. And to this day, a bowl of her beef soup with veggies and egg noodles can still make me swoon. I guess, if I can’t have her soup, a warm cup of bone broth is a worthy substitute.
It does take a little organizing to get a pot of broth started. The best flavour comes from roasting a motley collection of beef; turkey and/or chicken bones- a good variety is wonderful, including some marrow bones as well as bones with meat on them. The roasting results is a richer, rounder flavour. Which is what you want when all you are drinking is the broth. And then the simmering process takes a good 12-18 hours. You could actually hit the 24 hour mark, with no problem. It’s on such a low heat that nothing dangerous will happen. If the bones themselves are starting to break down and crumble, you’ve probably gotten as much goodness out of them as is possible.
A trick my mom taught me was: if any meat attached to the bones still has flavour, you’re not done simmering yet. You should not expect to use the meat after this broth is done. Once the meat has absolutely no more flavour, you’re done. If you’re worried about cooking it so long on the stove, you could use a slow cooker. But the time is totally worth it. And if you’re going to go through all that work, make a big pot, which can yield up to 4 quarts.
Here’s another trick: If you have a large pot with a pasta boiling insert, this is the time to pull it out. This way, when you are finally finished simmering the broth, you can lift up the insert, and it will capture most of the ingredients you will be discarding. Then you can just dump it all into the garbage container. Yes, there may be small herbs etc that fell through the holes, but it will be easier to pour the remaining broth through a mesh strainer, with all the weight of the bones etc removed.
You’ll want to take the strained broth and let it cool in the fridge overnight. This will cause any fat to rise to the top. The next day, it will have solidified so that you can easily remove it in pieces with a spoon or fork. I have been known to store my pot of strained stock on the balcony overnight (in the winter of course!) when there is no room in the fridge. Anyone else out there use their balcony or patio as a cooler?? Please tell me! You can store it in tupperware containers in the fridge, and live off of it for a week, and freeze the rest indefinitely. If you find that it has slightly congealed in the fridge, this is a good thing- it means that you got the collagen out of the bones and into the broth. Again, this requires cooking time, it can’t be rushed. Don’t worry about the congealing- it will loosen up as soon as you warm it up on the stove. If even then you find it too thick, just thin it with a little filtered water.
Because you aren’t adding any salt during the preparation, this really is great for you- low sodium, as long as you don’t add too much afterwards. To make it a wonderfully light meal, you can add fresh herbs, chopped kale or spinach, mushrooms, or even a semi-hard boiled egg. And of course, you don’t need to drink it all, it can be used for soups, sauces, braises etc. But I’ll drink mine any day! Bring on 2016. I’m ready for ya!
NEW YOU BONE BROTH
- 4-5 lbs mixed beef and/or poultry bones , short ribs, marrow bones, knuckles, even turkey neck bones or chicken feet. Make sure you have some bones with meat still attached- the flavour will be so worth it.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 3 medium carrots , rough chopped
- 2 large, or 3 medium onions , quartered, peels included (just make sure the skins are clean)
- 4-5 celery stalks , rough chopped
- 4 large garlic cloves , peeled and halved
- 2 leeks , dark green removed, chopped coarsely
- 2-3 bay leaves
- 4-5 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 sprigs of rosemary
- bunch of parsley
- 3 tbsp black peppercorns
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar (use a organic one that contains the 'mother' in the bottle)
ROAST THE BONES
Preheat the oven to 400F. Toss the bones with the olive oil and arrange on a single layer on 1 or 2 baking sheets (as needed)
Roast them for about an hour, turning once to get even browning on all sides.
MAKING THE BROTH
Place the bones in a large, heavy stock pot. Tie the fresh herbs together with kitchen twine. Add the vegetables, herbs, seasonings. Use a stock pot that can hold at least 6 quarts if not more. If you have a pot with an pasta cooking insert, this is a perfect time to use it.
Cover with enough water to fill the pot. I use a pot that will hold 14 cups after all the ingredients are in it. Add the vinegar.
Bring the pot to a bold simmer on high heat. Cover. Then turn the heat down to the lowest setting. Be sure to maintain a simmer though.
Keep the pot at a low simmer for a minimum of 12 hours. Keep going to get a richer, deeper flavour and colour. Check the pot every once in a while, skimming any foam that may arise on the surface. If you need to, add water if it begins to drop below the contents of the pot. Stop cooking once you are happy with the flavour.
Strain the broth through a fine mesh strainer. I find it handy to have a second stock pot for this purpose. But even straining into a large bowl will be fine. You'll want to remove all bones, veggies and bits and pieces of the herbs. If you want a clearer broth, run it through cheesecloth.
Cool the broth to room temperature before storing in containers in the refrigerator. If going into the freezer, store in appropriate containers. If in the fridge, you may discover the next day that the broth has congealed. That's fine- its all the gelatin that was extracted from the bones doing its job. Once you reheat the broth it will melt again and become a lovely silky liquid.
Reheat as much as you want to drink. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
You can follow the same procedure for a Poultry Broth: use turkey or chicken carcasses, raw wings and necks, for a flavourful broth. Make sure you have a similar weight of bones as stated above to work with the rest of the ingredients above
If you choose to drink it, you may wish to reheat with the addition of flavour enhancers such as finely sliced fresh ginger, fresh or dried mushrooms, fresh herbs, slivered garlic. The dried mushrooms, garlic and ginger can be removed before drinking.
Be sparing if choosing to add salt. Of course you can add salt and pepper, but keep it on the healthy side. You'll find that you won't miss the salt at all.