Many people get so used to using canned chicken broths. Cookbooks even recommend their favorite brands, with little consideration to the health of these stocks. Making your own homemade broth is always better than buying it from the store. Why? Because you control the sodium level, you control the spices, you also control the quality because you can buy free range chicken and cook it knowing that you are giving your family the healthiest stock available by eliminating the antibiotics that are still present after cooking the meat.
"Properly prepared, meat stocks are extremely nutritious, containing the minerals of bone, cartilage, marrow and vegetables as electrolytes, a form that is easy to assimilate. Acidic wine or vinegar added during cooking helps to draw minerals, particularly calcium, magnesium and potassium, into the broth. Dr. Francis Pottenger, author of the famous cat studies as well as articles on the benefits of gelatin in broth, taught that the stockpot was the most important piece of equipment to have in one's kitchen."
-Sally Fallon- Nourishing Traditions
So how do you make this most nourishing of foods?
1. Begin with the bones (or whole bird) of a preferably organic or free range (or at the very least, hormone and antibiotic free) chicken, or a bag of beef bones (I buy mine for $5 a bag from my Co-op, and this allows me to make a very large pot of stock). If you do not buy whole chickens, you can save the bones from your wings and legs in a bag in the freezer, until you have a sufficient amount (about equal to the size of a chicken carcass).
2. Put the bones in a large stock pot, completely covered by cold water, add a few couple tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. Let this sit for about an hour.
3. Bring to a boil, and remove the scum that rises to the top.Then add a large onion (chopped in quarters, leave the peel on for a beautiful yellow color in your stock), 2-3 carrots and 2-3 celery sticks (chopped in large pieces) I also add a bay leaf or two. I like to save the remnants of these veggies whenever I'm chopping and preparing other dishes, and put them all in a plastic bag in the freezer until I'm ready to make broth. I just dump all these remnant pieces into my broth and it works just fine, and saves money for sure!
4. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 6 to 24 hours (the longer, the better, as this will allow the gelatin to be more fully released from the bones, and results in a more flavorful broth). You can add fresh parsley or thyme to your stock in the last 10-15 minutes. Also, add salt, to bring out the flavors. If you are using a whole chicken with meat, I find that taking the meat out of the soup after two or three hours helps it to not be too dry, and usually works well in casseroles or other cheesy dishes. I ladle out all my bones onto a cookie sheet, and let them cool while the stock still simmers. removing the meat and tossing everything else back in. Lately, I've been using only leftover bones though, so I haven't done this in a while.
5. Pour through a strainer and set broth aside to cool (in the fridge is best, if you have enough room). Set aside bones and remove all meat for future soups, casseroles, etc. When broth is cool, remove layer of congealed fat from the top and discard.
6. Put broth in containers (glass is ideal- old pickle or mayonnaise jars, or even canning jars, but plastic yogurt containers work well in a pinch). I like to put mine in several different size containers, so that I can remove the size I need depending on what I am doing (2 cups to add to rice, 2 quarts for making soup, etc.). Many people also freeze broth in ice cube trays, then once frozen, store in a large ziploc to take out small amount at a time.
You may find that the stock does not have that extra strong, store-bought bouillon type of flavor. This is because it is lacking in MSG (yes, even if the ingredients don't list MSG, it is probably in there in a hidden form or under one of it's many other names that manufacturers use to hide it's presence).
Adding a bit of extra salt and seasonings to your soups will help to make up for this, although over time you will become accustomed to the more mild (yet richer at the same time) taste of homemade broth and will begin to prefer it, as I have.