Dig In: Soup is good for the soul (column)
I am so lucky. My husband cooks dinner for our family almost every night. And, he does the dishes. But, the best part is that he is constantly making rich, nutritious stock from the leftovers.
He makes it look so easy. Whenever we roast a chicken or have a bone-in cut of meat, he throws it in a huge pot with some onion and toddler-rejected vegetables and just leaves it to simmer for a couple of days. He adds more water now and then to keep the bones covered. Then, he strains it and pours it in a jar. Lots of the stock is in the freezer because we haven’t been using it quickly enough; but, with the weather changing, I’ve been on a soup kick and charging my way through our stash.
Every time I eat homemade soup, I wonder why I don’t eat it more often. And, as it turns out, if we all ate a bowl or two of soup every day, we’d be happier, feel healthier and live longer, more fulfilled lives. That seems like an overstatement, but, according to the books I’ve been reading, it’s absolutely true.
Two books caught my eye recently and have launched me into a whole new chapter in my quest for optimal wellness: “Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect your Brain — for Life,” by David Perlmutter, author of “Grain Brain” and “Nourishing Broth: An Old-fashioned Remedy for the Modern World,” by Sally Fallon Morell, the founding president of the Weston A. Price Foundation. Both describe the gut as the keystone of wellness and disease. The part that I find the most exciting is the connection between gut health and mental health.
Mental illness has burst the seams of our nation. Both books site the same grim statistic from the National Institute of Mental Health: One in four American adults suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder. I am one of them. Are you?
What if the cure isn’t a pill but a bowl of soup? Instead of popping pills behind closed doors, what if we sat down at the kitchen table with the people we loved and shared a delicious bowl of soup made from nutrient-rich stock and that made us feel great, mind, body and soul? Too good to be true? Or, is that stuff that’s always bubbling away on the stove in my kitchen the key to happiness, a cure for disease and the recipe for optimal wellness? I’m going to find out. Follow #bitobroth to watch the experiment in action.
Ben’s Recipe for Chicken Stock:
The best made stock will gel when cooled. If your stock won’t gel, see page 144 in “Nourishing Broth.”
1 leftover free-range chicken carcass plus any chicken skin that didn’t get eaten. (Eat the skin! That’s where all the good stuff is.)
2 stalks of organic celery, chopped
2 organic onions, chopped
2 organic carrots, peeled and chopped
Any other cooked or raw veggies that need a purpose, but no potatoes.
Place all the ingredients in a pot large enough to have some spare room, and fill it with enough water to just cover all the bones. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. This part is important. You don’t want a dramatic, splattering boil, but a subdued, rational boil. High heat will deteriorate the gelatin, and your stock won’t gel. It’ll still be full of curative powers, though, so don’t despair if you walk away at the critical moment, and your stock gets all wild and crazy.
Cover the pot, and turn the heat down to low. Maintain a soft simmer for six to 48 hours. If you go for the long haul, you will need to add extra water periodically. This can also be done in a crock pot, I’m told, and I look forward to trying it immediately. I’ve always suspected that the crock pot was the secret to happiness and that my resistance to it was sheer petulance.
Strain the liquid and jar it up. It can also be stored in freezer bags. The stock will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week and in the freezer for up to six months.
Julia’s Recipe for Beef Stock:
I love beef stock and the cheap cuts with the most cartilage make the best stock.
4 tbsp pastured butter
1 grass-fed beef tail
8 2-3” wide grass-fed beef short ribs
1 organic onion, cut into eighths
2 stalks of organic celery, roughly chopped
2 organic carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
Melt the butter over medium heat in a large pot wide enough to lay all the beef in one layer (it can be crowded). Arrange the beef, and let it brown for about 5 minutes. If you want, you can flip all the pieces and brown the other side, but I don’t bother. While the beef is browning, roughly chop the veggies and throw them on top. Fill the pot with about 8 cups of filtered water. Since the pan is hot, there will be some sputtering and bubbling when you add the cool water. Follow the same instructions as for the chicken stock. Once the stock cools and gels, a thick layer of fat will solidify at the top. This beautiful rendered beef fat is an excellent substitute for butter.
Turn stock-making into a weekly ritual, and you’ll reach enlightenment before you know it.
In the meantime, here’s my daughter’s favorite soup recipe:
Layla’s “More Please” Carrot and Dill Soup
4 tbsp pastured butter, I use Kalona brand
1 organic yellow onion, diced
1 tsp salt (or as desired)
1 cup organic potatoes, diced
5 large organic carrots, diced
1 quart nutrient rich stock
2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
Melt the butter in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onions and salt, and cook until the onions are translucent, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes. Stir in the potatoes and carrots until they are nicely coated with the onion mixture. Cook, stirring occasionally for another few minutes. Pour in the stock, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to a simmer, and cook until the potatoes and carrots are soft, about 30 minutes. Stir in the chopped dill right before turning off the heat. Pour the soup into a blender (carefully). Securely attach the lid with the center piece removed, and cover the hole with a thick folded kitchen towel or potholder. This is a great way to burn yourself terribly, so be very careful and make sure the blender is on low before turning it on. Puree on low or medium-low until smooth (1-2 minutes). Pour into bowls and serve. Soups are always better the next day, so make it ahead for a quick, easy dinner or save the last bowl for tomorrow’s lunch.
Striving to grow made-from-scratch kids in a machine-made world, Julia Landon is the chef-owner of Bun in the Oven High Nutrient Bakery. Landon can be contacted at email@example.com. Find more inspiration at http://www.bunintheovenfrisco.com or on Instagram or Twitter @BITOFrisco.
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