I’m a thrifty person – I’m not sure if it’s by nature, a result of being raised by someone with an eye to saving a penny, or the result of my family immigrating from one bad situation to another over the last century. Whatever the case, it is almost physically painful for me to pay extra for the non-concentrated laundry soap, to buy the name brand option, or – horror of horrors! – liquid boxed broth. One of my number one lessons from watching many a cooking show is to never add water when you could add more flavour to a dish with milk, juice, tea, wine, or broth. Thus, broth is an essential ingredient, especially in the perinatal period. You can pack in flavour, have a warm beverage, and turn kitchen scraps into kitchen gold.
My favourite method, being an efficient person as well, involves a slow cooker, but you can use a large pot on the stove. Just keep a lid on it and an eye on it, and probably open up the windows – it steams up your home and everything smells like delicious broth meant to be jarred up and stored for later.
I’ll share two ingredient lists for making a good, hearty broth: one meat, and one vegetarian. Both cost about the same to make. There’s no real recipe, since a lot of this is done to your taste with what you’ve got on hand. These lists are more of a jumping off point. The integral items are listed first, with optional items marked by an asterisk.
- bones! Cut your meat before it goes to table and save the bones, buy and carve a rotisserie chicken (costco’s deal can’t be beat!), or buy a bag of bones from a local butcher. Those willing to put in a little extra effort might purchase chicken feet, which make a collagen-rich broth but require more processing ahead of time, which I have no experience in. Just try to cook the bones before you make them into broth. This adds more flavour and technically makes them a stock. If you use fish and / or fish bones, be prepared for your whole home to smell strongly of fish. (That wasn’t a fun surprise!)
- apple cider vinegar, poured over the bones once water is added to help leach nutrients into the liquid
- seaweed! You can buy some dried soup seaweed from a Korean market. The kind I use is a variety from a bag I can’t read. It looked right at the store to make seaweed soup, but when I opened it up and soaked it, the leaves weren’t quite right, but it gives a necessary umami.
- mushrooms. I like to get brown ones, and if you just save and stick the stems into a bag in the freezer, you’ll eventually get a good amount.
- about 4 quarts water (I use a 5 qt pot, and cover everything and add enough water that I’ll have liquid even after some gets boiled off.)
- 1 yellow onion, washed with skin on. The skin imparts a good colour. I like to halve or quarter it.
- 1 head garlic, washed and cloves separated but not peeled. Bonus for roasting first.
- whole black peppercorns, enough. You’ll need to taste test periodically to determine what enough is for your family
- herbs and spices – I use whatever’s handy in the cabinet, usually a mix of sage, bay leaves, rosemary, and any other green herbs that seem nice that day.
- *carrots, 1 or 2. This will add sweetness to your broth.
- *extra onion, for an onion flavour
- *celery – I couldn’t tell you what flavour it has, but I can taste the absence
- *bellpepper, halved, any colour
- *assorted kitchen scraps – I’m not kidding! Rinse and save potato peels, carrot tops, fennel ends, the bits of leek the recipe doesn’t call for, turnip tops, onion ends, whatever you would usually toss or compost, so long as it’s cleaned and dirt-free can be added in.
You may notice salt is not on the list – that’s because you can either add it at the end without sacrificing taste, or omit it altogether in favour of adjusting the salt in your recipes. I’ve found a costco chicken already tastes salty to me when made into broth despite not adding any salt.
If making a bone broth, roast the bones (unless a costco chicken, that’s already cooked). Once roasted, put into the intended cooking pot and just barely cover with water before adding a generous amount of apple cider vinegar. I usually add about a 1/4 cup for a 5 qt pot. Let sit a while, but don’t worry about how long.
For either bone or vegetable broth, if desired, roast vegetables. I like to quarter onions, separate garlic cloves, and roughly chop other vegetables into similar sizes, toss in oil (if kosher or vegan) or butter (some swear by it), and add a little salt and pepper before putting into a cold oven. I then set the oven to 400F, let it heat with vegetables inside, and depending on the hardness of vegetable, check and remove from oven 20 – 45 minutes after the oven has fully preheated.
For a vegetable broth, do not roast the seaweed but I do suggest roasting the mushrooms.
Tip everything in your ingredients list – yes, everything! – into the cooking pot. Cover with water. You may need to fill a pitcher and pour that into the pot so it’s not too heavy, especially if this is a pregnancy project. Once everything is covered, add enough water for the final product to be worth your time even after some has boiled off. It probably won’t smell like much at this point, but fear not, the cooking will help release all of those flavours into the plain water until you have a lovely, flavourful mix.
Set your pot to a high heat – this may be high flame on the stove or high on a slow cooker – until it boils. Then lower the heat until it’s just barely simmering. I like to do this in a slow cooker since I can start it and let it cook overnight or even 24 hours until I’m ready to jar it!
If you’re making a meat broth, you may want to skim off the foam. This foam is harmless and does not affect the taste, but does affect the clarity of the broth. A good Korean miyeok guk or a traditional Jewish matzah ball soup both look best with a clear broth, but you do you! This method is all about what’s easy for you and your family in this season of life.
Once your broth smells good, which may require going outside for 15 minutes, then coming back in to be able to smell how good it is, taste test. Adjust as necessary. You may need more spices, more onion, or what have you. If you have a loose fitting lid, you’ll likely have to add some more water periodically, just enough to top it off.
When the time comes for it to be done, or you’re just done and have time in 2 hours, take it off the heat, move to a heat-resistant (and child and pet safe!) location, and let cool a little so you can handle it. At this point, clean the containers you’ll use to store it. I like to use old mason jars. You aren’t canning, so you don’t need to sanitize with a boiling bath, just clean enough for fridge and freezer use. Make sure you have enough lids, and if necessary run out to the store.
Once the broth (or if roasted, stock) has cooled enough to handle, I like to strain by putting a metal colander into my biggest heat-safe mixing bowl. I pour out soup until the liquid level is just below the colander, then fish it out and let drain a moment before throwing away the scraps. They have had all the nutrients pulled out and won’t taste like anything anymore (I tested).
Using a ladle and a canning funnel (about $10 or less and a great investment for prenatal meal prep!), ladle the broth into jars or your container of choice. You will notice meat broths have a thick layer of glossy fat floating on the surface. If you’re concerned about fat content, leave it be for now. Otherwise, repeat the strain, drain, and fill until your pot is empty. I like to ladle jars up to the 16 or 32 oz mark, so I don’t need to measure cups later.
Leave these on the counter, spaced out, until they are no longer warm to the touch. Once they have achieved room temperature, label! I like to write the date jarred, the best-by date (3 months from jarring date if frozen), and type of broth so I don’t grab a beef for my vegetarian friends or a fish when I want chicken. You can write directly on glass with a sharpie, which is easy to remove. Sharpie on metal takes more scrubbing later. Then place them in the fridge, again spaced out if possible, until they are cold.
If you want to remove the fat, the cold will solidify it and make it easier to remove. Pull out the jars and remove the fat cap, wipe off, and return to storage.
If you want to freeze, make sure you follow appropriate filling instructions (keep an eye on this blog for my write-up soon). With any glass there is always a chance of shattering, but I’ve been doing this for years and haven’t had a crack yet. If you do develop a crack, just throw away the jar and contents. It’s not worth it. Only once the jar has reached a fridge temperature do I recommend putting it in the freezer, on a flat surface! After the broth has frozen solid you can play freezer tetris.
And there you have it! Now you’ve got, for about 30 minutes of active work spaced into over time, broth for the price of electricity or gas to cook it. Fridge it for use in the next few weeks, or freeze for use months later. If freezing, pull out of the freezer to defrost in the fridge a couple days before intended use. Enjoy!