by Iris Weaver, Shamanic Herbalist and Educator
Do you have bouillon cubes sitting in your kitchen cupboards? Do you actually use them? When you do, are they all gooey and sticking to the foil, and looking a little icky?
You should know that there is usually a lot of salt and unfermented soy in those cubes, as well as artificial flavors and maybe even colors (sorry, I haven’t looked at them in a long while). I stopped using them several years ago, and now make my own stock or broth to use in soups and for cooking grains, beans, and so on.
Sure, it takes some work, but I love the results of what I make and have enough to last a couple weeks or more, depending on how much I’ve made and how quickly I use it up.
This all started with Bone Broth, well-loved by many people who are eating more traditional, nutrient-dense and nutritious diets. Bone broth is made with a couple pounds of bones and whatever vegetable bits you have saved, and is very wonderful.
My version has evolved as I never seem to be able to afford a really large quantity of bones, and I always seem to have a lot plant matter around, courtesy of my herb and plant work. I also have egg shells from my farm-raised eggs and save them to include in the broth. So now my broth includes a few bones, some shells, and a goodly amount of plants. The recipe is below, along with a couple of ideas about collecting the materials for your stock/broth.
To begin with—the bones. You don’t have to include them if you’re vegetarian or vegan. But if you are omnivorous, like me, then it’s great to include some. Any bones that you have, either saved from what you’ve already cooked, or bought at the store for this purpose. If you have to accumulate them over a few days or weeks, toss them in a bag or jar in the freezer until you need them.
The eggshells. These should be from organic eggs, if possible. Farm-raised is even better. You can save your shells in a basket or pot somewhere to one side of your kitchen. Don’t worry about rinsing them, they dry just fine without any smell or rotting. Crush them up to save room.
Here’s the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink part—all the veggie, herb, and plant bits and pieces and handfuls and bagfuls that you’ve been saving for your wonderful stock!
When you are chopping, trimming, etc. vegetables, all the end parts that you’d normally throw in the trash or compost are put in a bag or jar in the freezer till later. Carrot ends, onion skins, dried out garlic bulbs, celery stubs, asparagus butts, kale stalks, etc. Too tough to eat, but not too tough to stew!
You can add herbs and healthy, ingestible plants as well. If you’re stripping herbs off of stems, save the stems. Have some extra herbs from the farmer’s market or a neighbor? Toss ‘em in.
Include your “weedings” from when you’re weeding your garden and hate to throw out all those dandelions and plantain and other “weeds” that threaten to take over. You can also wildcraft them or ask a neighbor if you can have theirs, or go to a farm or a farmers market to find some of these plants. The point is to find them and use them. They will add new levels of taste and nutrition to your stock.
Here are some suggestions: dandelions leaves and roots, burdock leaves and roots, goosefoot or lamb’s quarters leaves and stems, amaranth leaves and stems, yellow dock leaves and roots, plantain (the weedy plant, not the banana) leaves and seed stalks, evening primrose leaves and roots, nettles, wild lettuce leaves, Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes), the tough stalks from flowering onions, garlic, and chives.
Play around to see what you like the taste of and what you don’t. I am finding that a lot of plantain makes for a more bitter stock, and also is slightly laxative, so probably it should be kept to ¼ cup or so. Yellow dock roots can also be slightly laxative, so use just a few small pieces.
If you are unsure if a plant is safe or not, err on the side of caution. Especially if you are not really familiar with your weeds, it is better not to take chances. A good motto is: When in doubt—don’t!
You also add vinegar. The acidic vinegar will pull out calcium from the bones and eggshells and help pull out minerals from the plants as well. Combined with the fat from bones, if you use them, this will make the minerals and fat soluble vitamins very available and easily absorbed for excellent nutrition.
Use this stock for cooking rice, beans, veggies, or as the starting point for soup. You can also heat it up, add a bit of salt (and cream if you like) and have a lovely, nutritious tonic drink.
So here’s the recipe, with approximate measurements. Don’t worry if you use more or less of anything, it will work!
1 to 2 gallons water (filtered if possible)
1 to 2 lbs. bones (chicken, beef, marrow, etc.)
As many eggshells as you’ve got
1 to 4 or 5 cups veggie trimmings, herbs, wild plants—fresh or dried or frozen
¼ cup vinegar—apple cider, red wine, home-made, etc.
Put all your ingredients in a large pot, bring to a simmer, and let simmer for 24 to 48 hours. When it is done, or you can’t stand having that large pot on your stove anymore, you can put the stock in spaghetti or canning jars and the stock will stay good in the fridge for several weeks. Or you can freeze your stock, and pull it out as you need it. Make sure to keep the wonderful fat in your stock. Your body needs it!
Iris Weaver sees clients and teaches classes at The Healing Center. She can be reached at email@example.com or 617-773-5809.