My emphatic title is due to the frustration I felt when searching for ideas to make my broth more interesting. Paucity is the term I would, on judicious reflection, employ. There is a paucity of broth recipes out there.
I speak as one who not only scouts and scours Google search entries, but who also owns Nourishing Traditions and a 400-page soup cookbook with a whole chapter devoted to broths and stocks.
Here’s how they all go: But some bones and meat in a pot with a little vinegar and MAYBE some seasonings, then add onion, carrot, and celery. Bring broth to a boil, but then immediately reduce heat and endlessly SIMMER. Walk, don’t run. And don’t complicate! Bone broth should be simple.
This formula is repeated in so many places with so little justification, it makes my head hurt in that special place that is sensitive to overused ideas and stale information.
WHY? I beg.
Who knows? Comes whispering on the wind.
So I’ve been traipsing around to some unusual places and trying some unusual things and I believe I’ve got something. Here’s the new formula. Hang on to your soup spoons.
- Boil, don’t simmer. We aren’t French, and we need the calcium!
- Two distinct heating periods: 8 hours, then 4 hours. Strain out veggies in between.
- Forget the carrot. Or sorely reduce its use.
- Char and soften the onion before adding.
- Add in some other stuff – complicate this thing!
- Make sure the end flavor is what you intended, by tempering and/or refreshing.
- Don’t cook with salt, and season with extreme prejudice.
- Don’t add cabbage or leafy greens.
- Here’s the deal. Clear broth is called French broth, and it comes from simmering. It’s clear because of aesthetic concerns, not nutritional or flavorous ones. The only thing you pull from the bones when you restrain your cooking method to a simmer is gelatin – the other good stuff, like calcium, only yeilds to relentless boiling. The result of boiling for twelve hours is a “milky” broth like you get in a ramen house. The mouth feel is silky and the taste is deep. The nutrition is heightened. And it looks far more appetizing than anything that hasn’t been pushed through a cheesecloth.
After 8 hours of boiling, you need to get rid of the vegetables. They are about to turn bitter, they have nothing more to offer, and is time to let other flavors acquire some prominence. Cool. Drain, then strain. (No cheesecloth necessary.) Rinse the bones and mushrooms and add them back in. Pop in a few crushed fresh garlic cloves. Boil for 4 more hours. Unregrettable.
Back when you are first adding the initial ingredients to the pot, don’t feel any obligation to the carrot. It’s too sweet and is probably appreciated more for its color than its flavor. A turnip will stand you in much better stead. If you do add carrot, make it just a small one. And take it out after 8 hours!
Before adding a half sweet onion (no more, please!) do char the surfaces in hot oil, then reduce the heat and partially soften the rest of the onion before adding it to the pot.
Along with that turnip and charred onion, add some other stuff to deepen the flavor. A sliced apple, a sliced tomato, a handle of dried wakame, a half pound of portabella, the white tips from three bunches of green onions, a dozen crushed pickled garlic cloves (yes, pickled – try an Oriental grocer when you’re buying that wakame) in addition to three celery ribs and a teaspoon of black pepper, all these flavors will melt seamlessly into the broth. (Amounts appropriate to five pounds of bones.) People tell you not to complicate bone broth. But then they tell you to drink it. Is that reason? In my world, anything a person drinks needs to taste good. Mushrooms in particular mellow the flavor of broth and temper the meatiness that so many people find distasteful. If you can’t find wakame and don’t have an apple, at least add mushrooms.
If one flavor dominates near the end of 12 hours, add something to balance out that flavor, and keep boiling. Unless you specifically wanted a flavored broth. For that, add something fresh during the last hour of boiling. Suggestions: bay leaves, a teaspoon of fresh ginger, or a halved citrus fruit with the peel intact.
At no point during cooking should you add salt. Salt added at the end, when a mugful of milky brown broth is streaming on the table before you, will bring out flavor and sharpen the experience. Salt added during cooking will prematurely degrade the ingredients, lose its savor, and fruitlessly hike the sodium content of the broth. Seasonings should only be added toward the end.
Experimentation is great, but cabbages and produce in that family will embitter the flavor, while leafy greens will prevent the formation of gelatin.
Additional notes: Like many others, I appreciate the effect of roasting the bones for 20 minutes at 450 F before adding them to the pot. It does help the flavor.
If you don’t get enough flavor, you can always add a carton of store-bought broth to intensify it. Although I suspect that to many this will be cheating. You could just add more fresh stuff to begin with instead.
And finally, flavor strength depends very much on reduction. That is to say, a watery broth is less flavorful. By putting a splatter screen on your pot and boiling it without a lid for a while, you can decrease the water content and increase the flavor. Test the broth and stop when you have it where you want it.