By Roben Mounger
Here is a fond yet twisted memory of broth. When I was young, I remember staring at a steaming bowl of vegetable soup as my mother said, “Now, if you finish that, you can have a chocolate cupcake.” Quite a challenge for a child growing up in a sweet-deprived home, initiated by a cavity-free father.
I focused on the beautiful golden broth. Spoonful by lovely spoonful, it was soon gone, but what to do with the vegetables? Hovering over the bowl, she said in summation, “That counts.” So began my once forced but ultimately eternal love of broth.
What Is Broth?
By definition, broth is the result of a liquid simmered amid bones, meat, fish, cereal grains and/or vegetables.
In my proper adult kitchen, while preparing the utilitarian base, I dwell in comfy satisfaction because a broth can braise pork chops or brace a soup. Frozen, it can later bring homemade goodness to stir fry, rice, sauce or gravy. A canned version of the same pales in comparison.
Ingredients for a Good Broth Recipe
My well-worn volume of Laurel’s Kitchen, a classic whole foods cookbook, says, “The difference between buying preprocessed food and preparing it from scratch yourself is that you naturally tend to make ‘wholesomeness and nourishment’ your first priority, while manufacturers first consider profit. They eliminate parts of food that do not store well, adding chemicals that mimic flavor since these steps reduce costs and lengthen shelf life.”
No mystery here – superior flavor pours from a certain standard of care. Broth, a staple of most cuisines, can be made with fresh produce and thrifty lesser cuts – necks, wings, feet and knuckles, all rich in fats and flavor. Such a stewpot delivers stock so rich that it is famously beneficial for the well being of those on the mend.
Another girlhood prompt was causal in my allegiance for homemade broth. No doubt as a follow up to the cupcake reward, reading the old folk story of Stone Soup expanded my horizons. From then on, I was smitten.
A favorite of tiny imaginations everywhere, the story demonstrates cooperation amid scarcity. When hungry strangers ask townspeople for food, a little of this and a little of that unite in a soup of satisfaction. As the South American proverb says, “Good broth will raise the dead.”
Foundational in most of my favorite dishes, I begin by tossing ingredients into the stockpot. Old as history, such activity is therapeutic and the outcome is superior to a chocolate cupcake for more reasons than one.
Recipe: Homemade Broth
- 2 large carrots, ends removed, peeled and diced
- 2 onions, peeled and diced
- 4 ribs of celery, diced
- 6 cups cold, filtered water
- 2 cups of mushrooms, sliced
- 1 leek, white and pale green parts only, diced
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- A few stalks of parsley
- A few whole peppercorns
- A few whole cloves
- Thyme or rosemary bundled with a cotton string, or any combination of fresh herbs from your garden
1. Begin with an aromatic mirepoix (French for a combination of onions, carrots and celery). Add cold, filtered water to cover the mirepoix, about 6 cups.
2. Add remaining ingredients, plus any other vegetable trimmings saved for up to a week. (At this time, you can also choose to add bones, roasted meats, fish parts or grains for added flavor. Feel free to play around with any combination of additional vegetables, except those from the cabbage family.)
3. Simmer for at least 30 minutes. Cool, and pour through a fine sieve.
4. Discard components, including the vegetables, as they are now depleted of vitamins. Salt to taste.
5. The broth can be refrigerated for several days before use or can be frozen.