I shall start by stating that I am not advocating one way or the other in the debate between homemade broths and commercially prepared options. Depending upon what you will be cooking and whether or not you have the ingredients, making a homemade broth can be cost effective and fun. If you have decided to do this and you must then go out and buy many ingredients with which to complete your mission- do a cost analysis first.
Many professional chefs have told me that making a large batch of Chicken, Beef, and Vegetable broth in the fall is a great way to be sure that you have this tummy warming goodness throughout the winter months of stews and soups. Why the fall you ask? The vegetables that you will use in all of your basic broth recipes are onions, carrots, and celery, which are available year round, but are particularly tasty in the fall. Let’s take a look at a basic broth recipe.
Chicken Broth- I will typically be making chicken soup or chicken curry (non-traditional recipe) when I make this so as not to waste anything 😉
Ingredients:6 lbs of Chicken Pieces (bone and skin are good in this equation because the fat and marrow gives the broth flavor) 2 1/2 Quarts of Water 3 Stalks of Celery, with the leaves and cut into quarters 2 Medium Onions, quartered 1 Bouquet Garni either in the pouch or out (entirely up to your taste and how many herbs you want floating around in your broth) Salt and Pepper- to taste Instructions:
Toss everything into a large pot, dutch over, or stock pot- just make sure that it’s big because this will make a mess if you fill it up to the tippy top! Bring the mixture to a boil, then cover and reduce your heat to a simmer for 1 1/2 hours.
Trick: Okay- so here’s where things get a little messy. I will typically fish out the chicken, remove the fat and skin and take the meat off of the bone and set it aside in a smaller pot. My peeps love onions so I will take some of those out of the broth and cut them up a bit along with at least 2 of the celery stalks and place that into the pot with the chicken. There is truly no precise measurement going on here, just keeping a tasty ratio of chicken to onion to celery and adding some rotini or whatever noodles I happen to have in the pantry to the very same pot and pouring some of the un-strained broth in with it and boiling. Once the noodles are done, this is a fantastic light dinner or lunch or snack for us to enjoy 🙂 Back to the broth!
If you have a second pot large enough to contain the amount of liquid you’ve got in your first container, then take a strainer (preferably mesh, but something that will work) and line it with cheese cloth. If you’ve got some really sturdy paper towels, those will work, but you’ve got to pour slowly. If you haven’t got either of these things, well- time to get a little MacGuyver on it. The idea is that once you’ve removed the large pieces, you will want to strain any of the little undesirable bits from your broth (i.e.- small bone fragments, pieces of skin, tiny particles of other stuff). You will next want to take your strained deliciousness and chill it thoroughly. Once chilled you will see all of that wonderful, flavorful fat solidified on the top and you can easily skim it off with a spoon and lovingly place it in the garbage can.
I recommend that you take your ice cube trays and a ladle and go to town at this point. Homemade broth will only keep in the refrigerator for about 3 days, but it will be good frozen for up to 3 months. When you are deciding on how to freeze, one thing to think about is- when you use broth, what quantity to you typically use? The ice cube tray will be about 1 oz of liquid, but you can also freeze the broth in a 1 cup measure as well. The dollar store has many different multi-sized containers that are inexpensive and if you intend to do this more than once, are extremely handy and reduce the amount of time that you spend going back and forth to the freezer with another batch. Once frozen, I place the broth cubes into a freezer bag and store them nicely in the freezer until I need to use them.
The recipe that I’ve given you is a very basic broth recipe and I swear that it can get much more complicated from there (Alton Brown Chicken Stock Recipe). A good way to decide whether this is right for you would be to ask yourself if the flavor of a commercially dehydrated option is something that you like or dislike. There is truly no flavor substitute for a homemade stock and the best way to limit the amount of sodium and preservatives in your cooking is by making this at home, but this is really a task that will take the better part of the day, so if you are short on time and you don’t use that much broth, then this may not be the best idea, or even very cost effective for you.
TIP: Make sure that you are shopping in season for all of your vegetables! If you want to substitute one type of onion for another, don’t worry- it will change the flavor a little, but as long as you know what the onion tastes like you can adjust accordingly. I would wait until your grocery store has a sale on chicken pieces OR on whole chickens. The meat is the key flavor when making this, but you also want to try not to spend every last cent on a bird that you are going to boil the heck out of anyway.
Beef Broth will get a little more interesting because you will use the oven first and the stock pot second.
Basic Beef Broth-
Ingredients:2 lbs of beef bones 2 Large Carrots, quartered 3 Large Onions, quartered 2 Stalks Celery, with Leaves and quartered 4 Quarts of cold water, divided into 2 cup and 3 1/2 quart measures 1/4 Cup of Tomato Paste 1 Bouquet Garni 1/2 teaspoon of Black Peppercorns (ground black pepper will work just fine) 3 Cloves of Garlic, crushed
Place the bones, carrots, onion, and celery into a roasting pan. It would work best in a large metal pan, but make sure that it is of an appropriate size to later fit your stove-top for the next step. Roast these ingredients, uncovered, at 500 degrees in the middle of your oven for 45 minutes to an hour or until well browned, you can turn everything occasionally while roasting.
Take the bones and vegetables out of the roasting pan and place them into a large stock pot. Pour the 2 cups of water into your now empty roasting pan and place it on top of the stove and bring the water to a boil over a medium heat, stirring occasionally. This will release all of the yummy flavorful goodness that has gotten baked onto the pan. Once this is done, pour the water from the roasting pan along with the additional 3 1/2 quarts you’d set aside into the stock pot with the bones and vegetables.
Bring the mixture to a simmer and leave it to continue at that heat for 6 hours, partially covered. Skim the fat and foam off of the top of the stock after the first 10 minutes of simmering.
Once cooked, strain your broth (use a ladle to avoid the sediment at the bottom of your pot), discard your solids, and cover. Chill completely and discard the solidified fat on the top of the broth. This will stay fresh for up to 3 days in the refrigerator or 3 months in the freezer.
The easiest of the three type of broth that you can make is a vegetable one, hands down.
Basic Vegetable Broth Recipe-
Ingredients:1 Onion, quartered 2 Carrots, quartered 2 Stalks of Celery, with the leaves and quartered 1 Potato, chopped into large chunks 1/3 Cup of Mushrooms, halved (these need to be fresh, but get creative with the type of mushroom!) 3 Cloves of garlic 1 Bouquet Garni 1 T Soy Sauce (this can be low sodium if you want) 8 Cups of water Salt and Pepper, to taste
Place all of the ingredients into a stock pot and bring to a full, rolling boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for at least an hour. Strain the broth to remove all of the solids. This will hold for up to 3 days in the refrigerator or 3 months in the freezer.