The Original Superfood

Stock or bone broth play an important role in many cultures, yet has fallen out of favour in the modern world. Chicken stock is particularly famous as a key ingredient of “Jewish Penicillin” the miracle cure-all. I also heard from an Ecuadorian friend that women would be given chicken stock at least every day for the two weeks leading up to birth and two week afterwards, such are it’s strengthening abilities. Many times here in Guatemala, I have eaten beef caldo with families, a beef stew prepared with beef on the bone. Despite what we know about the levels of malnutrition here, perhaps it is the consumption of their traditional caldo that keeps the people here strong and more healthy than we might expect.

Lack of this incredibly nourishing food in our diets, amongst many other factors, may have given rise to the growth of incidences of diseases of the bones and connective tissues. As we are growing and using our bodies, we need to be taking in sufficient “building blocks” for the body to create or repair as necessary. When I used to train on my mountain bike a lot, I used to get the occasional knee pains. I spent my money on Glucosamine and Chondroitin supplements, which seemed to help. Unfortunately at the time I did not know that I could have possibly eased my pains, and strengthened my joints and bones, with something as simple as bone stock. Properly made stock is rich in bone minerals (particularly calcium, magnesium and potassium), gelatin, collagen and components of cartilage. For more details on the diseases that components of stock may help with, please see Sally Fallon’s excellent book “Nourishing Traditions” (page 116)

Good stock is not just beneficial for your health, the taste is amazing. When you switch from using stock cubes to your own stock, your gravies, soups and sauces will become legendary. In fact the stock is so tasty, it hardly needs any embellishment with additions. 

The base ingredients for the stock are mostly offcuts – bone, cartilage, tendons and whatever bits of meat they are attached to. Feet are also good, and usually a few organs make their way in there too – think giblets! This means that it is generally relatively cheap to make, you are using the “waste” from the butchers shop. It is certainly a lot cheaper than supplements.

Whilst you can use a large stainless steel stock pot on the stove, I use a large slow cooker (crock pot) due to the long cooking time. Poor quality cookware especially aluminium or non-stick will contaminate your food. My slow cooker is somewhere around 7.5L (8 quart), although I don’t know for sure as I was given it by some dear friends – thank you Jesper and Danisa! I found a 6.5L one on Amazon for about £30, or about the cost of 2 bottles of glucosamine with chondroitin supplement.

Stock is very simple to prepare and whilst I will give some recipes later, it is very flexible. Sometimes I have all the ingredients, sometimes I might miss one of the flavourings and add something different. It always turns out good. My staples are beef and chicken, and turkey when it is available. I have yet to try pheasant, venison or lamb due to it’s availability here. Fish stock is said to be incredibly nutritious, but between the state of the oceans here and the level of hygiene, it is also something I am yet to try.

Stock takes the minimum amount of personal time to make, although it will be simmering for a long time. I generally aim for 72 hours (yes, 3 days!) for my beef stock, and at least 24 hours for my chicken stock. The biggest issue with making it is the smell. Sometimes it smells good, then it becomes overpowering. I put my slow cooker outside on the balcony, but I would imagine a garage or shed might work well too. I do not turn it off, but leave it going for the whole cook. I do occasionally add water to it, usually every 12 hours to keep the level topped up.

Nutritious Food Starts on the Farm

You of course will be wanting to get the best nutrients out of your stock, and as such will need to buy good quality meat. Your base ingredients should be  pasture fed and organic. Organic meat is even more important than organic vegetables. Most contaminants such as pesticides are fat soluble, and so have a greater tendency to accumulate in the fats of the animals who consume them. Whilst the fat of well raised and cared for animals may contain the richest sources of fat soluble vitamins and nutrients, the fat of factory farmed animals may contain a level of very undesirable contaminants. Whilst this is true in all cases, people in the USA in particular should be wary of any meat that is not pasture raised or wild. Factory farmed animals are the most compelling reason to turn vegetarian despite the long term health issues that a vegetarian diet may bring. If the meat is not organic, pasture fed or wild game, avoid it.

Beef Stock

  • 4 lbs beef marrow bones, such as knuckles and leg bones cut into 3 inch pieces
  • 2 lbs meaty beef bones such as ribs, cut into 3 inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) raw apple cider vinegar
  • 3 onions
  • 3 carrots
  • 3 sticks of celery
  • 1 small bunch of fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon of peppercorns
  1. Put the ribs in a roasting pan in the oven and roast at 180C (350F) for about an hour until nicely browned.
  2. While the ribs are roasting, put the marrowbones in the slow cooker and cover with water. Add the vinegar and allow to stand for 1 hour.
  3. Chop the vegetables into large pieces and add to the slow cooker. Transfer the browned rib bones into the slow cooker, then deglaze the roasting pan on the hob with a little water. Add this to the slow cooker.
  4. Top the slow cooker up with water, allowing an inch or so for expansion when the liquid heats up. Set the slow cooker in its place and turn it on to high.
  5. When the stock begins to boil, skim any foam from the surface, then add the thyme.
  6. Allow the stock to simmer for at least 24 hours, but preferably up to 72 hours. Top up the liquid level at least every 12 hours.
  7. At the desired time, turn off the heat, and strain the stock into a large pot, removing the large solids. Immerse the pot in cold water to cool the stock as quickly as possible, then transfer the pot to the fridge to chill fully.
  8. Skim the solidified, floating fat from the stock and transfer into storage containers. I generally freeze my stock in ziplock bags, allowing 1 cup (250ml) per bag. To do this put the bags in old yoghurt pots during the freezing process to avoid spillage.

The frozen stock seems to last a long time, in our house it gets used very quickly. The fat is very useful for cooking, although it may need to be rendered. to do this, put it in a pan and heat it until it starts to spit – this is the water boiling out. When the fat has clarified and is no longer spitting, allow it to cool, transfer it to a glass jar and refrigerate. It is a wonderful and nutritious fat to cook with, particularly for making roast potatoes. Once you have tried roast potatoes made with beef fat, you will be making stock just to make sure you have enough fat available!

Our dogs love the bones and vegetables from the stock. Whilst roasted bones may be hard and splinter, the boiled bones are remarkably soft. Of course you will need to check this with what you produce to avoid harming your animals.

This same recipe can be used with lamb or venison.

Chicken Stock

  • 1 whole chicken of about 4-5 lbs
  • Gizzards (edible organs) of 1 chicken (optional, but advised)
  • Feet of the chicken (optional, but advised)
  • Head of the chicken (optional)
  • 2 Tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Onion
  • 2 Carrots
  • 3 Sticks of Celery
  • 1 small bunch of fresh thyme
  1. Cut the chicken into pieces. Remove the legs and wings, and chop through the bones exposing their interior. Cut the carcass into about 8 pieces, making sure you cut through the breast bone and spine. Cut the neck into several pieces.
  2. Put the chicken pieces into your slow cooker. Add the giblets, feet and head.
  3. Coarsely chop the vegetable and add them to the slow cooker.
  4. Cover with water and add the vinegar. Allow to stand for 1/2 hour.
  5. Add enough water to fill the slow cooker, allowing enough room for expansion of the liquid as it gets hot.
  6. Move the slow cooker to the place where you want to make the stock. Turn on the power and set to high. Bring the stock to a boil.
  7. Skim off any foam that rises, then add the thyme.
  8. Allow the stock to simmer for at least 12 hours, and up to 24 hours. Top up the liquid level as necessary.
  9. At the desired time, turn off the heat, and strain the stock into a large pot, removing the large solids. Immerse the pot in cold water to cool the stock as quickly as possible, then transfer the pot to the fridge to chill fully.
  10. Skim the solidified, floating fat from the stock and transfer into storage containers. I generally freeze my stock in ziplock bags, allowing 1 cup (250ml) per bag. To do this put the bags in old yoghurt pots during the freezing process to avoid spillage.

You will find that the meat from the chicken will be very easy to separate from the bones. This is ideal for making curries, stews or pies. It does not have a great deal of flavour, most of the flavour ended up in the stock, so it is not great for sandwiches.

I do not use the chicken fat recovered from the stock making, this goes to our dogs along with the bones and vegetables. Once again, the boiled bones are softened, and do not seem to cause a problem to our animals, but check this for yourself.

This recipe can also be used with turkey, pheasant, duck or goose. If you make duck or goose stock, be sure to save the fat from the process as it is highly prized!





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