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A good stock (otherwise known as cheap nutrition packed with flavour)

Something I think we all should be consuming are stocks and broths. Everyone. Regardless of your current symptoms, a cast iron gut, or that “it’s stinking hot in the middle of summer”, we all benefit from these nourishing foods. And those with digestive symptoms, food allergies or intolerances, eczema, joint stiffness and arthritis should really, really, really consider adding them into your diet.

Why? Because a good stock is medicine- cheap, homemade, delicious medicine. Bone broths are extremely rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants as well as gelatin, free amino acids such as proline and glycine, collagen and glucosamine. They are incredibly healing on the body; fortifying for the immune system, soothing and enhancing for digestion and nourish everything related to collagen (joints, tendons, ligaments, skin, mucus membranes and bone). Did I mention they are healing for your gut? Just checking.

Bone is highly mineralised, so it makes sense that long-cooked bone broths will be a rich source of minerals, in a liquid, easily absorbed form. Bone broths are a great source of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, sulfate and fluoride with fish stocks being rich in iodine. It’s the gelatin component of a good stock that gives it its jelly-like consistency when cool. It’s also the gelatin that helps lubricate joints and builds blood.

In Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), bone broth builds Blood and strengthen Kidney Qi function. Blood is believed to be responsible for nurturing our vital Qi, our life force, and surplus Blood is seen in healthy hair, strong nails, a good memory, strong heart function and restful sleep. In TCM Kidney Qi function controls bone health, head hair, long term memory, stamina, motivation, willpower, reproductive health, back health, and knee health. This also covers adrenal health from a western perspective (little glands above your kidneys responsible for stress hormone production) and therefore exhaustion when “adrenally fatigued” or “burnt out”, common in our modern society.

Collagen (the protein molecule related to all things joint and bone) is also a rich source of the two amino acids I mentioned earlier, proline and glycine. Why is this so important? Well we need these two amino acids to heal wounds withing the body, including, the microscopic damage done to blood vessels and other tissues in our body caused by inflammation and infection. Collagen has been found to help heal the lining of the gastrointestinal tract (reducing leaky gut), which includes the stomach and the intestines and along with gelatin, has been shown to benefit gastric ulcers.

Besides collagen, cartilage contains something called glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). Some commonly recognised GAG’s are glucosamine, chondrotin sulphate and hyaluronic acid- you know, the supplements you may be buying to support your joints. Studies have found an underlying deficiency of glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) in patients with Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.

Tips for awesome broths (and encouragement for first timers):

* You can buy the bones with broth in mind or use keep them from meat you eat, adding them to a bag or container in the freezer til you have enough for a broth. Keep the bones from your roasts (as well as any store bought hot chooks) etc and in no time you’ll have enough to put a broth on. Yes organic, pasture raised bones are best but I would still chose consuming some bone broth over none if you don’t have access to grass fed bones.

* Add a splash of apple cider vinegar to the water- the acid helps draw more minerals out of the bones resulting in a more nutritious stock.

* Not trying to freak out those with queasy stomachs but adding chicken feet, animal joints, and knuckles to a bone broth will increase the amount of collagen available.

* If you’re new to stocks, and a very sensitive type who normally reacts to MSG and glutamates, you may need to start with meat stocks, rather than bone stocks. Read here for more.

The recipe I use is based on the those in the book, Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon.

Beef Stock

around 3kgs beef bones (marrow and knuckle bones) 1 calves foot, cut into pieces (optional, not always easy to get) 1-1.5 kgs meaty rib or neck bones 4 or more litres cold filtered water 1/2 cup vinegar 3 onions, coarsely chopped 3 carrots, coarsely chopped 3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped several sprigs of fresh thyme, tied together 1 teaspoon dried green peppercorns, crushed 1 bunch parsley

Place the knuckle and marrow bones and optional calves foot in a very large pot with vinegar and cover with water. Let stand for one hour. Meanwhile, place the meaty bones in a roasting pan and brown at 350 degrees in the oven. When well browned, add to the pot along with the vegetables.

Pour the fat out of the roasting pan, add cold water to the pan, set over a high flame and bring to a boil, stirring with a wooden spoon to loosen up coagulated juices. Add this liquid to the pot. Add additional water, if necessary, to cover the bones; but the liquid should come no higher than within one inch of the rim of the pot, as the volume expands slightly during cooking. Bring to a boil. A large amount of scum will come to the top, scrape it off with a spoon and throw it out. After you have skimmed, reduce heat and add the thyme and crushed peppercorns.

Simmer stock for at least 12 and as long as 72 hours. Just before finishing, add the parsley and simmer another 10 minutes. You will now be left with a very unattractive pot of brown liquid with lots of chunky bits in it. I admit, it’s a bit gross and as I mentioned earlier at this stage it really doesn’t even smell very nice. However stay with me!

You now need to strain it, then you’ll be left with the good stuff- a delicious and nourishing clear broth. So remove bones with tongs or a slotted spoon. Strain the stock into a large bowl. Let cool in the refrigerator and remove the congealed fat that rises to the top. Transfer to smaller containers and to the freezer for long-term storage.

Chicken Stock

1 whole free-range chicken or 1 to 1.5kg of bony chicken parts, such as frames, necks, and wings*

gizzards from one chicken (optional) 2-4 chicken feet (optional) 4 litres cold filtered water 2 tablespoons vinegar 1 large onion, coarsely chopped 2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped 3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped 1 bunch parsley

*Note: Farm-raised, free-range chickens give the best results. Many battery-raised chickens will not produce stock that gels very well.

If you are using a whole chicken, cut off the wings and remove the neck, fat glands and the gizzards from the cavity. Cut chicken parts into several pieces. (If you are using a whole chicken, remove the neck and wings and cut them into several pieces.) Place chicken or chicken pieces in a large stainless steel pot with water, vinegar and all vegetables except parsley. Let stand 30 minutes to 1 hour. Bring to a boil, and remove scum that rises to the top. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 6 to 8 hours. The longer you cook the stock, the richer and more flavorful it will be. About 10 minutes before finishing the stock, add parsley. This will impart additional mineral ions to the broth.

Remove whole chicken or pieces with a slotted spoon. If you are using a whole chicken, let cool and remove chicken meat from the carcass. Reserve for other uses, such as chicken salads, enchiladas, sandwiches or curries. Strain the stock into a large bowl and reserve in your refrigerator until the fat rises to the top and congeals. Skim off this fat and reserve the stock in covered containers in your refrigerator or freezer.

What do you think? It’s not hard, but does require a little foresight and time to get it going. Once the pot is on you can go about your business while it simmers and transforms into tummy-healing liquid gold. Reckon you could have a go?

Originally published 2nd November 2012 on my old blog.

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