There are endless variations on how to make soup, but the foundation of any good soup is always stock made from scratch.
I want to share directions here for how to make a basic turkey or chicken stock, and my favourite recipe for turkey stew. The old advice to eat chicken soup when you are sick may be an old wive’s tale, but it’s one with much evidence to back it up.
In Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon says that “meat stocks are extremely nutritious, containing the minerals of bone, cartilage, marrow and vegetables as electrolytes, a form that is easy to assimilate. Acidic wine or vinegar added during cooking helps to draw minerals, particularly calcium, magnesium and potassium, into the broth.” There’s good reason for why it has been dubbed “Jewish Penicillin” – it’s incredibly nourishing, and especially so for those under the weather.
Besides its amazing health benefits, soup made with homemade broth just plain tastes better, and the crisp autumn air practically begs for a steaming bowl of stew after a walk amidst the crunchy golden leaves. So, shall we?
Step One: Save the bones/carcass!
Take the leftover carcass from a whole chicken or turkey that has been roasted, and place in a large stock pot (mine is 9 qts). Fill with water, leaving an inch or two of room at the top.
We often also buy chicken backs and necks packaged up from the ranch where we get our meat – it is extremely cheap, and perfect for making stock. They aren’t roasted, but we just boil them as they are, and it works just fine. You can also throw a whole raw chicken in a pot and boil it, and the resulting stock has incredible flavour.
The meat is fine to eat as well, especially in casseroles, etc. (on GAPS you start out with boiled meat as it is the most easily digestible).
Step Two: Optional add-ins.
Add some peppercorns if you have them (I use 4-5 or so), and a splash of apple cider vinegar to help draw out the calcium and other minerals from the bones. You can also add vegetable scraps – like broccoli stems, onion peels, celery tops, carrot tops, potato peelings etc. This is an excellent and cheap way to add vitamins and minerals to the stock.
Tip: throw the (washed) scraps into a freezable bag or container and stick them in the freezer whenever you’re chopping vegetables, and then use them when you make stock!
Step Three: Add heat.
Bring stock to a boil, then lower heat to medium-low and gently simmer for several hours. I find 6-8 hours to be best. Long enough to really draw all of the good stuff from the bones, but not too long (I find my broth gets a weird taste to it if I let it go too long, although some people prefer to leave it for as long as 24 hours.
Update Fall 2013: After a reader suggested it (see the comment section), I have even experimented with a “continuous broth pot” where I just kept taking broth out as needed, and replacing it with water. This was certainly the most frugal way of doing it, although the strength and benefits of the broth decline over time. I had mine for a week, max). However long you choose to simmer it – just be sure to keep adding water as the liquid level is reduced. You don’t want it to boil dry.
Step Four: Remove from heat and strain.
Place a strainer in a bowl, and pour stock into strainer. Set aside the strainer with the bones, etc. You can now use your stock, either in cooking, or for soup-making, or for straight drinking – especially for gastrointestinal upset like the flu.
If you drink it straight be sure to add salt. Add enough to make it taste good – there’s no reason at all not to salt your food to taste if you are using real sea salt and generally eat a whole foods diet.
Step Five: Store extra stock.
I use glass jars – some mason jars that I’ve picked up second-hand, and some repurposed spaghetti sauce jars that I wash and save. A wide-mouth funnel is handy for this. Pour stock into jars, leaving an inch or two of headroom if you plan to freeze them – it will expand quite a bit (don’t learn this the hard way, like I did!).
Let the jars cool on the counter for a while, so that they are less likely to crack in the freezer (again, I learned this the hard way). It should be good for about a week in the fridge, or 4-6 months in the freezer. I always freeze it if I’m not going to use it that same day to prevent myself forgetting about it and having to throw it out and waste all that hard work! Just make sure it’s completely cooled before going in to the freezer (a brief stay in the fridge may be necessary).
UPDATE Fall 2013: I now prefer to store my broth in ice cube form. I simmer and reduce it to around triple strength, and pour into ice cube trays and freeze. Then I pop them out and store them in a large ziploc bag in my freezer.
Whenever I need broth, I can easily grab one or two or more to dilute with water. I use one in a recipe like Shepherd’s Pie or something that needs a cup or less of broth. If I’m making something like my Southwest Taco Soup in my huge stock pot I’d throw in 8-10 cubes, probably (my stock pot is a 12-quart). It’s a fantastic system – no more glass jars, no more need to defrost broth for hours, and they take way less room in my freezer! Perfect!
Step Six: Save the last bits of meat.
I grew up watching my mom do this step every single time. Back then it wasn’t some heroically frugal act – it’s just what they did. So now, it’s just what I do, too. Take the boiled carcass and pick the remaining bits of meat off the bones. This is easiest when it is cooled slightly, but still warm. Collect the meat in a bowl to add to your soup.
This is a slightly tedious and messy job (it usually takes me about half an hour or so because I go slow and get every last little bit). The good news is the animal grease is a great moisturizer for your hands. When you’re done you can throw it in with your broth, some veggies and seasonings, and voila – turkey stew!
I use your recipe for making a whole frozen chicken in the instant pot. You noted on the recipe that you throw the bones back in the instant pot and make bone broth while cleaning up and washing dishes. Can you email me the recipe for that, please. I didn’t see it posted on your site.
Thank you so much,
Another tip to add is herbs – I always add 2 bay leaves and a big ol spring of thyme- stems and all. Add other stuff if ya want for deeper flavor and nutritional value of the herbs. And I instant pot my stock now for 6-8 hours. Much faster than crock pot but less liquid so there’s that. But crock pot for 30 -40 hours.
Have you ever done the bone broth in the Instant Pot? I’ve never made any before but we love soup so I’d like to try.
I actually prefer to do mine in the slow cooker. You get a much deeper flavor, something about it starting cold and coming to temperature slower. You’ll notice the bones soften and some of the larger ones crack open releasing their marrow. It’s pretty cool.
I’ve never heard of adding apple cider vinegar to help the process. Thanks for the tip. I’m going to try that next time. Always learning 🙂 Great Post!
Can you explain what it means when you say you “simmer and reduce to triple strength” ?
Hey Ashley! I just mean that I simmer it for however long I usually would when making homemade broth (6-8 hours or so) and then I just keep simmering until the liquid has been reduced to about a third of what it was (rough estimate based on the level in the pot).
How much water do you add per ice cube?
I pressure can mine so I can gave mine at a moments’ notice and to save freezer space! I’d also check for tiny air bubbles in the glass jars if they crack in the freezer…
Sorry – I am better at making stock than keyboarding – I meant turkey.
One improvement you might like to try is to pick over the carcas of the chicken or turney before boiling and put the bits of meat in the frige for use when actually making the soup. Then put the carcas on a board and hammer it repeatedly – breaking all of the bones. Proceed as you indicated. At the end this liquid must be strained very thoroughly to get rid of the bone chips – the flavour will be doubled for sure.
That’s interesting – I hadn’t heard that idea before. I’ll have to try it sometime 🙂 Thanks!
So I successfully made my first bone broth yesterday! My problem: I have never kept or bought glass jars. I have one old spagetti jar but no lid for the thing. So…unfortunately…to the tupperware it must go. That is not something I wanted to do, as I am using tupperware less and less lately, but it seems I have no choice.
At least I know it won’t crack! (:
Hurray! I’m happy for you! Just don’t forget you will need to add salt when you use it in a recipe. The broth you buy in the stores already has salt added, so if a recipe calls for bouillon or store-bought broth, and you are subbing your homemade broth, just be sure to add salt to your recipe or it will taste gross!
No worries on the plastics for now – it’s not ideal, but I think the broth is way more important 🙂
If you use plastic do as Beth does with the ice cube trays. Once frozen take out of plastic. Will save space in freezer and use Tupperware for something else.
You can buy mason jars at most grocery stores or feed stores. Pretty cheap and they last and I use them for every day food storage and leftovers.
I tried freezing my broth in mason jars. Luke told me they would break but i was all like “no, beth says it works….” I left plenty of room and the broth was cooled, but they cracked. So now I have to admit to my husband that HE was right, which is kinda a new experience for me because I am ALWAYS right….lol.
Do you think it’s still safe to use the broth? If I strain it maybe to make sure there aren’t any little pieces of glass in it?
Dang! I don’t know why that happened to your jars. Did they *all* break? I’ve had a jar break on occasion but never all of them at once. Maybe your freezer is at a colder setting? Maybe you left too much head room? (I’ve heard that can be bad – one inch is ideal). Weird. I wouldn’t give up if I were you though! And be sure to save your spaghetti sauce/etc. glass jars from the store – they usually hold up really well in the freezer, I find.
I think I left too much head room. Thanks! I’ll try again 🙂
Are the jars you are using made to go in the freezer? I know Ball makes some that are, and some that are not. The ones that go in the freezer are usually straight at the top (they don’t curve out wider than the lid).
I don’t think you can leave too much space. You should not put lid on tight until liquid is frozen. Then go back and tighten it once it is frozen. If it expands too much for jar it will just come out top.
I freeze in mason jars all the time, just leave an inch below the “shoulder” of the jar and most importantly leave the lid loose or off until frozen solid. You can’t leave too little headroom, lol, that wouldn’t make a difference. Remember that the liquid freezes up and will not compress to accommodate where the jar narrows.
It’s very bad to ingest glass pieces or dust. If I were going to risk this I think I’d strain through coffee filters just to be sure none remained. I don’t know if I’d take the chance though.
I reduce the broth until it’s thick as paste then keep it in a small jar in the fridge, or you could freeze it in ice cube trays and store in a freezer bag. This takes up very little space and is easy to reconstitute.
I find my bigger jars tend to crack about half the time but the pint ones never do. So now I just use pint with 1.5 inch head room.
Good idea on tossing in the vegetable scraps and peelings! I never thought of it. I hate collecting the meat…should I admit that when I just do necks and backs that I haven’t been able to make myself lately?
I read somewhere about an ongoing broth pot so both Lola and I are trying it. I made a ton of broth from the turkey and picked the meat off and now I have the bones going again…basically I will just keep adding water until there is nothing left of the bones. Maybe toss a neck in now and again and that will be what I drink daily. What do you think?
Haha, I usually go so carefully and meticulously though the beginning, but but the end I’m not quite as careful… so I totally get it 🙂
Ongoing broth pot?? Sounds very interesting. Do you think the bigger bones will actually disintegrate? Hmmm. Sounds good in theory I guess.