Sunday, October 21, 2012

Preparing Bone Broth from Pastured Chickens: How and Why

Our chickens on lush July pasture
Raising pastured chickens in Oregon is a seasonal endeavor, beginning with chicks sometime in the spring and butchering the last birds by the time the grass is starting to slow its growth.  Different grass varieties grow at different rates throughout the year, but a good rule of thumb for our local pasture grasses is that it grows fastest between 50-72 or so degrees Fahrenheit.  This means we are just completing our last butchering for the year and coincidentally, it coincides with soup and stew season.  We always have lots of stewing chickens available which make the most wonderful soup stock!

I've been making soup stock/bone broth for the past 25 years, and learned from watching my mom in the kitchen with her soup pot bubbling and the wonderful aromas of herbs and aromatics filling the house for 24 hours. It wasn't until the last few years that I actually found out why bone broths are so important in our diet and I began researching this wonderful and simple food.

Now we have science that validates what my mother and her mother knew intuitively - rich, homemade chicken broth helps cure colds.  It helps with digestion - the gelatin in the stock aids in the digestive process and stock contains minerals in a form the body can absorb easily—not just calcium but also magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and trace minerals. It contains the broken down material from cartilage and tendons--stuff like chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine, now sold as expensive supplements for arthritis and joint pain.  The Weston Price Foundation recommends you begin each meal with a small bowl of bone broth based soup.

I also wondered why sometimes my stock gelled and sometimes it did not.

Sarah Pope of "The Healthy Home Economist" has a bog post on "5 Reasons Your Stock Won't Gel" and I've pasted it below:
  1. The stock rolled at too high a temperature.  If stock is simmered too high, the heat will break down and destroy the collagen.  To see what the perfect simmer on your stock should look like, see my short video on my website.
  2. The stock did not roll long enough.  Once you get that perfect simmer or “roll” going, be sure that chicken stock rolls for 6-24 hours and beef stock for 12-50 hours.  Less than that will likely not draw enough gelatin into the stock from the bones.
  3. Not enough of the right kind of bones were used that yield gelatin.  To get the right mix of bones that yield gelatin versus other types of bones that add flavor and color, make sure you use one of the following methods:  1 whole, free range layer hen with neck and wings cut up, 3-4 lbs of boney chicken parts which includes a combo of necks, backs, and wings, OR the picked carcass of 2 meat chickens.  For beef stock, use about 7 lbs bones total (4 lbs of boney bones and 3 lbs of meaty bones).
  4. Too much water was used in proportion to the bones.  For chickens, the correct proportion is 3-4 lbs of bones per 4 quarts of filtered water. For beef stock, the correct proportion is 7 lbs of bones per 4 quarts of water or more to cover.
  5. Using bones from battery chickens or chickens raised in cages.  Conventionally raised chickens or chickens raised in cages typically yield little to no gelatin.   It is worth the extra money to get quality when you buy meat especially if you will be using those bones to make stock
I thought it is interesting that store bought chickens not raised on pasture do not have enough gelatin.  We have a freezer full of USDA butchered pastured stewing chickens available for purchase just for this purpose!

Chicken Stock - from the Weston A. Price website
1 whole free-range chicken or 2 to 3 pounds of bony chicken parts, such as necks, backs, breastbones and wings*
gizzards from one chicken (optional)
2-4 chicken feet (optional)
4 quarts cold filtered water
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
1 bunch parsley

*Note: Farm-raised, free-range chickens give the best results. Many battery-raised chickens will not produce stock that gels.

If you are using a whole chicken, cut off the wings and remove the neck, fat glands and the gizzards from the cavity. Cut chicken parts into several pieces. (If you are using a whole chicken, remove the neck and wings and cut them into several pieces.) Place chicken or chicken pieces in a large stainless steel pot with water, vinegar and all vegetables except parsley. Let stand 30 minutes to 1 hour. Bring to a boil, and remove scum that rises to the top. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 6 to 8 hours. The longer you cook the stock, the richer and more flavorful it will be. About 10 minutes before finishing the stock, add parsley. This will impart additional mineral ions to the broth.

Beautifully gelled broth.

Remove whole chicken or pieces with a slotted spoon. If you are using a whole chicken, let cool and remove chicken meat from the carcass. Reserve for other uses, such as chicken salads, enchiladas, sandwiches or curries. Strain the stock into a large bowl and reserve in your refrigerator until the fat rises to the top and congeals. Skim off this fat and reserve the stock in covered containers in your refrigerator or freezer.

Cooper is our charismatic and loyal chicken guardian,
protecting them from predators day and night
Austin catches this bad boy to ready him for the freezer
Marc and Charlotte, farming to provide
our community with nutrient dense food.

Charlotte Smith
Charlotte passionately believes in the health benefits of a traditional foods diet, especially dairy products from grass-fed cows. She loves sharing time honored traditions of transforming milk into delicious and nutritious cheeses through her classes which also teem with nutrition facts and wisdom. Charlotte owns Champoeg Creamery, a pasture based raw milk dairy in St. Paul, Oregon, and is the mother of 3, a certified Nutrition Wellness Educator, and sits on the Executive Advisory Council for the Raw Milk Institute.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Thoughts on Fall Food Preservation

So far, fall around here has been pretty much perfect - warm, sunny days and evenings with just enough nip in the air to let you know that although summer may be lingering, cold weather isn't far off. Summer always starts off slow here in the Pacific Northwest ... we often have cool weather all through June and sometimes the first part of July, so the sudden and bountiful September harvest always seems to surprise me from year to year.  

{My canning pantry}

The farmers' markets and farm stands seem to suddenly explode with variety - tomatoes, corn, apples, plums, pears, potatoes, squash - and suddenly I'm scrambling to keep up!

I was once again the lucky recipient of a TON of Barlett pears from my in-laws; three large grocery sacks full! No idea how many pounds exactly, but I'd estimate 30-40. My typical long, slow cook-down into pear butter wasn't going get them into jars fast enough this year, so I canned slices in a honey-vanilla syrup, following a recipe from Tart and Sweet. After a while, I was going through honey so fast, that I decided to switch to a simple sugar syrup instead. Some were already overripe and I couldn't save them, but I rescued enough to come out with a respectable number of pint jars.

{Pear slices suspended in honey syrup, with vanilla and cinnamon}

After the pears came the apples, which I actually canned into applesauce with my mother-in-law, in her kitchen. Again, SO MANY APPLES. I can't even guess at how many. Craziness. It took a while to find a good rythym, but after we did, it seemed to go fairly quickly and two people working in the kitchen made the process much faster. So the outcome of that was a wealth of both applesauce and apple butter, plus two quarts of apple pie filling, all of which will be much appreciated during the gloomy months of winter!

Inbetween, I squeezed in a batch of tomatillo salsa, which I froze instead of canning it. I prefer the freezer for certain things, so that I don't have to abide by a tested recipe for the sake of acidity levels and such. And I enlisted my three year old to help me peel the tomatillos, which she found utterly fascinating.

{My little kitchen helper}
So combined with the food projects from early summer, we have a cupboard full of blueberry jam, peach slices (shared with us from the in-laws), pear slices, canned whole plums, plum butter, applesauce, apple butter and apple pie filling, plus the strawberry jam, blueberries, blackberries and tomatillo salsa that I have in the freezer!


 It's the most canning and putting up that I've ever done in a year, so I'm feeling pretty accomplished!

Okay, your turn to brag: what have you been up to in the kitchen this past summer and fall?

P.S. After getting a tip from my neighbor yesterday, my little girl and I went out searching for an old pear tree, that was supposedly growing just across the road from us in an abandoned lot. We found one, perfect pear that was growing low enough for us to reach. The rest were overripe and too high up, but I'm looking forward to getting out there a bit earlier next year! Such a fun little adventure and such a pretty gift from that long-forgotten old tree.

Rebekah Pike 
Rebekah is happiest with her nose in a book and enjoys making the most of her pint-sized, apartment kitchen. After leaving work in media production to become a full-time mommy, she began exploring the sustainable living movement, reconnecting with the back-to-the-earth ideals of her hippie parents. She met her husband, Darian, in 2005, working as a camp counselor in Oregon's rugged outdoors. Most of their time is spent chasing after their three year old daughter, Ashlynn, and doing serious “research” at Portland's restaurants, coffee shops and markets.


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