Ask Chef Emily: How Do You Make Broth?

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I’ve been hearing about the health benefits of drinking bone broth and I’m wondering how I can make my own. Thanks! —Joanna from Smithtown

Broth is in the air! It must be connected to New Year’s resolutions or Brodo’s public relations budget, but yes, broth is buzzing. In case I haven’t properly introduced you, in addition to this here advice column, I also host a podcast called Sharp & Hot. On episode #112, we talked all about the broth making process, but more significantly, a vegetarian for 15+ years had her first taste of animal protein on air. But I digress …

How to make your own broth. Let’s first talk about the whys. Why on earth would you want a pot of bones and vegetable scraps bubbling away on the stovetop all day, filling the house with the smell of comfort? Well, for one thing, you know exactly what went into it. I’m not above store-bought stock. I always have some Kitchen Basics or Pacific Natural in the pantry. But when I’m “on” my home kitchen game, no store-bought analog comes close to homemade.

Also I’ll say there is stock and brown stock. Here, I’m talking brown stock, which includes the step of roasting the bones prior to simmering. You can omit that step entirely, put everything into a pot, cover with water, simmer 8-12 hours and viola! Stock.

I’m of the opinion that meat should be expensive and so I buy it as close to the source as possible, directly from the farmer at the farmers market if possible.

To prepare to make stock (or broth*) I collect in a gallon freezer bag carrot peels, onion trimmings, leek tops, celery hearts and parsley stems for a few months until I’m ready for stock day. Then, find a good source for bones. I’m of the opinion that meat should be expensive and so I buy it as close to the source as possible, directly from the farmer at the farmers market if possible. Happily, the bones themselves are inexpensive and so happy cows/chickens, happy wallet.

You’ll want about 2 pounds of bones per gallon of water and the amount of water will depend on the size of your biggest pot. It takes awhile to make and so it makes sense to make a lot, as much as your pot and freezer can accommodate.

Heat your oven to 450 degrees lay out your bones and vegetable clippings from the freezer on a sheet tray or two. (Lining with parchment makes for easier cleanup here). Roast for 20 minutes, give the pan a stir, or use tongs to rotate big bones, and roast 15-20 minutes more until you achieve a rich dark brown color. Carefully transfer everything to your big pot and add enough water to cover by a couple inches. You can throw in some peppercorns, bay leaves, some star anise if you want a pho flavor (that’s pronounced ‘fuh’) and heat. Initially, use a fairly high heat, but don’t let the pot boil. Doing so will result in a cloudy stock and part of the magic is how crystal clear it can be, and yet so flavorful. Keep the heat at a level that results in a bubble breaking the surface every second or two; not too high, not too low.

Then, go about your day and come back 8-12 hours later.

Remove the big chunks of bone and vegetable matter with tongs or a slotted spoon first (or my favorite tool for this job: a spider) then pour through a fine-meshed sieve. A plain colander will work too, but the finer the mesh, the clearer the stock. You’ll be left with a pile of bones and veg and think, “Can I do anything with all this?” Answer: Nope. After the simmering for hours, those ingredients have done their job. Discard without guilt.

Next, let the stock cool, then pour into pint and/or quart containers and label it! Blue painter’s tape and a Sharpie work best to label what it is and when you made it. Trust me, don’t skip this step unless it is the only thing in your freezer. And even then, include the date.

If a thin layer of solid fat appears on the top when it gets cold, you can remove that or just leave it be.

As for the health benefits, the science jury is out on that. While there is some evidence that soup is good for colds, I think its more that if you are the type of person who is making your own broth with healthful intentions, then you are making other life choices that are also healthful and eating broth instead of, say, hot cheetos.

Whatever the reason, eat! Enjoy! Feel healthful!

*I’m using broth and stock interchangeably here, because what we make in our home kitchens is a kind of stock-broth hybrid. According to the authorities (the French) true stock is only bones, cartilage and connective tissue, where broth contains meat, which in the home kitchen is most likely the case.

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