When I posted Never, Ever, Ever Vol I, my dear friend Jan emailed to say I made her feel guilty. Given my Catholic upbringing, my response was… success! So, here to heap yet more guilt upon you, I give you Vol. II.
Never, ever, ever buy broth. Ever. Seriously. Don’t do it.
You talkin’ to me?
This means you. Never do it.
Most important fact first: homemade broth is hands down the easiest thing you can do in the kitchen. I’m not asking you to engage in some wild Martha Stewart craziness like wallpaper your office with leftover magazine covers you first have to dye or, horrors, make a gingerbread house. Making broth at home is easy. Even easier than vinaigrette, subject of the previous guilt inducing post. As with vinaigrette, broth made at home is infinitely better, in every way, than even the best store bought broth. It saves you money and it’s better for your body and it’s better for the environment AND it tastes much better, both the broth and anything you make with it. That’s a lot of ‘ands’, all worth making your own.
Did I mention how good it tastes? I doubt anyone would open a can of Swanson’s and drink it. Yet that’s what I do every time I make homemade broth. I drink some of it from a cup by itself, it’s that good.
Even with my crappy iPhone camera you can see a big difference between the clear, pure homemade broth on the left and an expensive store bought, pasteurized version on the right:
Homemade broth vs. store bought
Did I mention it was easy? While I’ve included some longer instructions below, this is all you need to know:
Throw a bunch of stuff in a pot, bring it to a boil, turn it down, let it simmer, strain it… broth! That’s it.
A pot of broth simmering on the stove
It’s also, dare I say it? Fun. There are few things I have come to enjoy more in the kitchen than making broth. Chicken broth, beef broth, vegetable broth, mushroom broth… it’s effortless yet very satisfying. I first discovered the brilliance of homemade broth when learning to make risotto. I love me some risotto, all kinds. People like to create a bunch of drama about risotto but it isn’t that difficult. One evening I made risotto with my own broth rather than from the store. The difference was amazing. So I dove into making broth.
I love so much what homemade broth does for a dish I even use homemade broth instead of water to make plain rice. Why use water when you can use broth and make the rice that much more flavorful? There are few things in the kitchen that call for water where I don’t instead substitute broth. Well, oatmeal, I guess… but in the same way people substitute milk for water when making oatmeal, a genius idea, substituting broth for water with savory dishes is also genius. And if you make your own broth, you always have some on hand.
For a few years I mostly made chicken broth. Given I am not a vegetarian, I didn’t understand cooking with vegetable broth. Why use veggie broth when chicken broth would be richer and more flavorful? Then I was without chicken to make broth so I made some vegetable broth for a risotto. I was surprised by the taste of the broth itself, as well as the taste of the risotto. Wow, so clean and clear and still very flavorful. Vegetable broth is so good I now use vegetable more than chicken broth in my cooking. But I always have both in the freezer. I’ve even made a quick broth in 20 minutes on the stove before making a risotto, then used the broth right from this pot to make the risotto. It’s that simple, that satisfying, that good.
Need another reason? You are benefiting the environment. (Ouch, what a guilt card… the environment!) Always keep in mind anything that goes into your trashcan ends up in a landfill. So the more you can reduce your trash, the better for the environment. If you make your own broth, you reduce cans and containers in your trash, you reduce all the energy and trash that goes into making that store bought broth as well what it takes to get it to the store. Also, you further reduce your own trash by using left over vegetables and meats you would normally throw out.
So give it a try: take an evening or an afternoon when you are already in the kitchen and make a pot, then freeze the broth in containers. You will not regret this. Trust me, you don’t have to do anymore than what I wrote above. But for those who want to really dive in, below are recipes and pictures for various kinds of broth, as well as some ideas about how to make the best broth possible.
Make you some broth. You won’t be disappointed.
If you get into making broth, as you should (guilt, guilt) you can certainly use any pot and strainer. If you make pasta, just do it the same way. I myself like to use my tall pasta pot, which is large and has a ‘built in strainer’. This makes it even easier. Add your ingredients to the strainer, fill the pot with water and make the broth. Then when the broth is finished, you just pull the strainer from the pot and the broth is left in the pot. Easy. (I then compost whatever is left over.)
Here are your basics for a simple broth (halve the ingredients if you are using a smaller pot). The great thing here is that you can use any or all of the below, or even make additions, such as a turnip or parsnip or whatever vegetable you like or have lying around. With the below recipe, though, you will get a wonderfully flavored broth ready to enhance anything you cook. Just make sure one ingredient doesn’t overwhelm the others, unless you are making a specifically flavored broth, such as mushroom broth.
2 onions, quartered, with skin
3-6 carrots, chopped in large pieces
3-6 stalks of celery, with leaves, chopped in large pieces
3 tomatoes quartered
one lemon, halved
any greens you might have on hand, from kale to spinach to lettuces
3-6 cloves are garlic, smashed
a few bay leaves
a handful of black peppercorns
Put all these into the pot, with water, bring it to a boil, then turn the heat down. Simmer it for at least 30 minutes or, if you have the time, an hour or so. You can skim the top as it simmers, if need be. When it is done, strain the broth into a large bowl and let cool. If you want very clear broth, you can use cheesecloth, which is what I do. But that’s not imperative.
Meat broths: for Chicken Broth, add few pieces of chicken (wings and/or thighs, or if you have a large pot, even a small whole chicken) to the mix. For a clearer broth, bring only the chicken to a boil, remove it from the water and toss the water, rinsing the chicken. Then start over with all the ingredients. This will take some fat and detritus out of the chicken, thus our of your broth. But you don’t have to do this. You will still have a very good broth. For Beef Broth, do the same but with some beef bones or short ribs. You can even use left over bones from cooking, though most grocery stores sell bones for broth.
Remember, you can whip up some broth for a dish you are cooking that day in 30 minutes. Even that quick of a broth will be better in every way than store bought.
If you want even more flavor, particularly for stews and such, there are two approaches:
1) Simmer your broth for a long time. I often will start my broth before bed, turn the burner as low as it will go (this works great if you have a setting where the flame goes on and off) and then let it slowly cook overnight, the pot loosely covered, the lid at a tilt. A chicken broth done this way is incredible. You want the broth simmering where a bubble or two comes up to the surface every five seconds or so. But this isn’t an exact science. It will be good.
2) Roast your vegetables and/or meats first. Preheat the oven to 400, then spread out everything you want in your pot in a large casserole. Roast, turning, for 30-45 minutes (this smells wonderful.) Then make your broth. This creates a roasted broth with intense, terrific flavor.
Want even more flavor? Boil your finished broth down by half, which will condense the flavors even more. This works particularly well with Mushroom Broth:
Put 4-6 cups water in a saucepan.
Add a few bay leaves, a bag of dried mushrooms, a carton of fresh mushrooms, an onion quartered (with skin), 2 celery stalks in large pieces, and 2 carrots in large pieces.
Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook for 20 to 30 minutes; strain.
For a denser broth, reduce by half.
*NOTE! Always remember never to put hot food/liquid of any kind in the fridge or the freezer. So let your broth come to room temperature, after you’ve strained it, before you store it in either.
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