It's only broth! But what delicious broth it is!
Broth, or stock, is a basic ingredient that forms the base for most soups, and is used in many other recipes as well. A good broth is not difficult to make, and the time spent is well worth the effort! It's easy to make large batches, and there are several way to preserve it to have on hand to use whenever your recipe calls for it!
Most commercially available broths and stocks are full of sodium. In fact, they typically get most of their flavor from salt, and tend to be very clear and otherwise flavorless. Even the "lower sodium" versions still have more sodium than they should! Making your own broth with fresh meats and vegetables allows you to control the salt, flavors and strength to suit your tastes and needs.
Today, the Low Sodium Queen made 3 batches, all at once. She made a light chicken broth to use in vegetable soup, and saved the white meat from the breasts to make low sodium chicken salad for her lunches this week. She used the rest of the chicken to make a darker stock to store for use in recipes as needed. And she made a batch of beef stock that she's planning to use for vegetable beef soup. Here's how the day went:
She started with 2 whole chickens, and about 6 pounds of beef soup bones. If your local grocer doesn't have packaged soup bones in the meat case, ask the butcher. While not all grocers break down meat in-store, the Queen has found that most ethnic grocers sell beef bones right in the meat case.
If you want to keep the white meat separate from the rest of the chicken, use a cleaver or large knife to separate the breasts from the rest of the bird. You don't really have to be neat and exacting in your butchering, you just want to get them apart so they can be used separately.
For the light chicken stock, put the breasts into a large pot and cover with about 6 quarts of cold water. Add 2 onions, cubed, and about 2 cups each of celery and carrots, cubed to about an inch or so. Add about 1/4 cup each of dried rosemary and dried oregano, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about an hour. After about an hour, check the breast meat for doneness. Once it's cooked, remove the breasts, allow them to cool slightly, and remove the meat from the bones. Save the meat for another use and return the bones to the pot. Continue to simmer for 6-8 hours for flavors to fully develop.
To make a more flavorful chicken stock, and always for beef stock, the bones should be roasted for about an hour at 400 degrees to let their flavors develop. This is a pan of about 6 pounds of beef bones, plus another pan with the remains of the 2 whole chickens after the breasts were removed.
After roasting for about an hour or so, the 2 pans of bones are transferred to stockpots, and covered with water. Deglaze the pans and add the rich gravy to the broth. Add onions, celery, and seasoning as above, then bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook 6-8 hours, until flavors are fully developed.
Once the stock is fully cooked and flavored to your liking, pour the stock through a collander into a large bowl or refrigerator container. Allow the bone mixture to cool slightly, and pick away any large pieces of meat for soups, salads, etc. Discard the rest.
Strain the broth again through a chinois lined with cheescloth. Skim a much fat from the top of the broth as possible. Cool the broth, then refrigerate the remainder until all remaining fat congeals at the top of the container. Remove the congealed fat and you will have 100% fat free, sodium free broth! At refrigerator temperature, your protein-rich broth may congeal into consomme, but once it's reheated it will return to it's liquid state.
Broth may be refrigerated for 3-4 days, or frozen for about 6 months. You can also can your broth in jars so it is shelf stable following the instructions for steam-pressure canning.