Soup Season!

There is a damp chill in the air and I’m starting to think of sweaters and a whole blissful season of root vegetables (Beets! So many beets!) and making everything pumpkin. It also means my brain is shifting from salads and smoothies to soups, lots of meals from the slow cooker, and steel cut oats slowly cooking on the stove. Today, that means making a big batch of chicken stock (bone broth) with veggie scraps I’ve been saving in the freezer, and the leftovers of the last two week’s roast chickens. It is also getting to be cold and flu season and turns out the tradition of having chicken soup when you are sick originated with science! Dr. Stephen Rennard, a pulmonary specialist at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, found that chicken soup elicits an anti-inflammatory effect on the body, primarily due to the mineral-rich stock of its base. The viral bugs that cause a cold or flu stimulate formation of inflammatory compounds in the body, which are to blame for most of the icky symptoms.

Making your own chicken stock is not only cost effective (I do mine from scraps with a couple of additions) it also can be a great way to target the base nutrients you are looking to add to your diet.

So colorful and delectably fragrant. Yum!

So colorful and delectably fragrant. Yum!

The possibilities are near limitless on the ingredients you use for your stock, but today I’ll take you through mine and share some nutritional tidbits. I like my stock flavorful and rich which limits how I can use it in other recipes, but hey, that’s the beauty of making your own- it is totally your call.

Now, a disclaimer, I have no intent of this becoming a cooking blog. I rarely follow recipes and don’t claim to be a chef. That said, I adore food and the experience of cooking. Closing my eyes while breaking up basil, rosemary, and thyme and being transported to the garden; the rich, warming smell of a beef roast that has been simmering in the crock pot all day while you are at work; watching turmeric and garam masala color a curry bubbling in the pot. The act of cooking also becomes a manifesto to my body and wellness, I can provide what I feel I need and enjoy the luxury of taking a day off- or just a few minutes to prepare it.

Growing up my Mom taught me the exact science required in baking, and I can get my chemistry geek on with the best of them to make a cake. But, what I really found fun was cooking savory goodies with my Dad- smelling and tasting as we went along and learning what to add for a balanced, creative, and exquisite final result. If you love food as much as I do, and are just a bit adventurous in the kitchen (or want to learn) then we will get along just fine.

Now, back to today’s stock (still gently bubbling away on the stove) Today I filled my big soup pot (9 quarts) with all of the following goodies, and then filled with water about an inch over all the goodies.

  • 2 chicken carcasses, with some bones broken for nutritious marrow to enter the broth (plus a couple of chicken feet for extra gelatin)
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Parsley
  • Butternut Squash
  • Porcini Mushrooms (cooked in balsamic vinegar before adding- the acid in vinegar helps extract nutrients from the bones)
  • Shiitake Mushrooms
  • Bay Leaf
  • Celery
  • Carrot
  • Sweet Potato
  • Red Pepper
  • Cayenne (just a pinch)

I simmer (barely making bubbles) my stock for at least 4 hours, though 12 is ideal, tasting as I go and making additions if I need. Time is best to bring out all of the flavors and get all the minerals and goodness from the bones. You can throw it in a the slow cooker and cook as long as 24 hours (especially if you are using big beef bones) if you are inclined. An easy way to test if it is “done”, the connective tissue is gone if the bone breaks easily.

This is around 8 hours in

This is around 8 hours in

Then, after straining (just a colander, sometimes cheesecloth too) I let it cool and portion it into containers (freezer bags work fine, mason jars are my favorite) to pull out of the freezer as needed. Since I live in a small apartment, this does mean the freezer needs to be pretty empty to start with (I dream of chest freezers…) but I think it is well worth the space. You can even fill ice cube trays with broth (a cube is usually a 1/4 cup) and throw a couple in to the water for your rice or quinoa, or throw in a mug and warm for a quick breakfast or snack.

So pretty to see the first bit all strained amidst the chaos of the kitchen!

So pretty to see the first bit all strained amidst the chaos of the kitchen!

Now it is time for a quick run down of the fabulous nutrients in your broth!! (Without MSG (yeast extract is the same thing) or gobs of salt like the store bought varieties!)

First, those all important bones. The bones contribute minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. They also contribute amino acids- specifically proline and glycine. It also contains the broken down material from cartilage and tendons, good stuff like chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine (recognize those from expensive supplements for arthritis and joint pain?)

  • Glycine helps increase stomach acid secretion, which aids digestion. In fact, research published in 1982 in the American Journal of Physiology found that gastric acid (stomach acid) helps bring the amount of hydrochloric acid in the stomach to normal levels. If you have tummy troubles, including indigestion, this is great news for you. Huh?! You say, I need Tums and Antacids when my digestion is wonky and crampy but no I say! It is now understood that most often indigestion is actually a result of too little acid (Dig up: Jonathan Wright, M.D. The Myth of Acid Indigestion. Nutrition and Healing. Vol 8, Issue 9. Sept. 2001.)
  • Proline is synthesized from the amino acid L-glutamate. It helps with tissue repair, blood pressure management, and collagen formation (lotsa folks talk about its necessity for cellulite prevention if that is important to you)
  • Magnesium. Folks, I could talk about magnesium all day. If your magnesium is low your nerves can be hypersensitive to pain (If you have Fibromyalgia, magnesium can do a ton to help! Also, everybody, have some post-workout) Magnesium also ensures that your heart muscle has enough energy to beat (Not something to mess around with!) and is important for more than 300 enzyme reactions (Breaking down the protein you eat into useable fuel). It also helps potassium with blood pressure and fluid management within the body.
  • Shiitake Mushrooms are a staple in traditional Japanese medicine used to treat fatigue, muscle aches, poor circulation, and heart disease. In Chinese medicine, add treatment of colds and flu to the previous list as well as liver problems. The compound lentinan is responsible for all these benefits (immune boosting awesomeness), and don’t forget mushrooms are one of the few plant sources of vitamin D.
  • Thyme is a great digestive aid, it relaxes the smooth muscles in your intestines (and ladies, the uterus is also a smooth muscle.)
  • Rosemary like thyme relaxes those smooth muscles, and is also a preservative (ancient peoples would wrap their meat in rosemary stalks to keep it from spoiling, and it compares favorably with BHA and BHT as a preservative, throw it in your burger mix before the picnic or BBQ)

I won’t overwhelm you with all the goodness in that soup pot, you get the idea, and we can talk about the other ingredients another time, I promise. Go get your soup pots out and start cooking folks! Fantastic smelling air, and yummy reward at the end- what could be better!?!

Time to reap the benefits. Yum.

Time to reap the benefits. Yum.



One thought on “Soup Season!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s