Thursday, March 6, 2008

Real Food I: Soup Stock

Making soup stock is a common practice in cultures throughout the world. It's a way of maximizing the value, nutrition and flavor of foods that are not always abundant. It's particularly relevant in the 21st century, when it's important to make the most of animal products that have a large environmental footprint.

The simplest way to make stock is to keep a "stock bag" in the freezer. Keep two plastic freezer bags (or whatever container you prefer) in the freezer, ready to accept food scraps whenever you have them. One is for vegetable scraps such as carrot peels, onion skins (not the brown part!), radish tops, etc. The other is for animal scraps such as bones, fish heads/tails, gristle, etc.

These are examples of vegetable scraps that are appropriate for stock:

Vegetable peels
Carrot ends
Onion scraps
Wilted greens
Asparagus stems

These are examples of animal products that are good for stock:

Fish heads/tails
Chicken feet
Parmesan rinds (thanks Debs!)

These should not be used for stock:

Brown onion skins
Anything covered in dirt
Anything rotten or unpleasant-smelling
Celery greens, carrot greens and other bitter greens

Vegetable stock is the easiest. Take a generous amount of vegetable scraps out of your stock bag and put them in a pot full of water. Boil for one hour, then strain.

In my opinion, the best stock is made with animal bones. It's rich in minerals and gelatin, and has a full, meaty flavor. Break the bones to expose the marrow, put them in a pot full of water or a crockpot, add 2 tablespoons vinegar, and simmer for 1-20 hours. Add vegetable scraps for the last hour, then strain. Large bones from beef or lamb require long cooking to draw out their full flavor, while thinner chicken bones and fish parts require less. The vinegar helps draw the minerals out of the bones into solution.

Fish heads also make a delicious, nutritious stock. They're full of minerals (including iodine), omega-3 fats and vitamin A from the eyes. You can often get them dirt-cheap at the fish counter. Boil them for one hour with vegetable scraps and two tablespoons of vinegar, strain, pick off the meat and add it to your soup.


Anna said...

I'd eat soup at your house, Stephen. Great post. Great blog.

Stephan Guyenet said...

Thanks Anna. I just read your post on gelatin broth, that looks delicious. Have you read any books by Sally Fallon?

Anna said...

Yup. Nourishing Traditions took over a year to read and fully "digest" and even longer to cross-reference, but it was a major turning point for me. By conventional standards, I was already a "healthy" cook and eater in many ways (though I was already doing low carb because of my blood sugar problems), but I really branched off onto a more non-industrial food path after I looked further into NT, WAPF, and other soruces of info. I also have her book on cooking traditionally with coconut (EAt Fat, Lose Fat? I can't remember the title exactly). It looks like I read many of the same blogs as you, too. If it wasn't for the blogosphere, I would feel really isolated in my food, diet, and nutrition views.

Stephan Guyenet said...

That's great. I thought I detected some Sally Fallon on your site. I just read "Nourishing Traditions" last year. I like her focus on wholesome foods, although it gets a little too far out for me at times.

"Nutrition and Physical Degeneration" was a paradigm-shifting book for me. I think it's one of the most important books ever written on nutrition, if not the most important. Pair that with "Good, Calories, Bad Calories" and you're on the right track!

I'd like to do book reviews of those eventually.

Anna said...

lrqalgI'm not without some reservations about certain NT assertions. One of the areas in NT that I have never been able to understand well enough to embrace is the notion of enzyme depletion (Howell). There is a lot in NT that I just haven't been able to convincingly cross-reference to my satisfaction.

I also think NT still has too heavy heavy an emphasis on grain and sugar. Maple syrup, rapadura, and honey are still concentrated sugars in my mind, even if they aren't as refined as white sugar. And now the darling of the alternative sugars, agave syrup/nectar, is rising in popularity everywhere, which would be hilarious if it wasn't so potentially problematic (very high in concentrated fructose). Substituting on superstimulous for another, I guess.

And many of the recipes just don't seem to be well-tested. Members of a local NT email discussion group have all pretty much agreed that the NT ferments are too high in salt. We all reduce the salt quite a bit. I guess recipe-wise (especially for the fermentations and culturing), I use NT as inspiration, but I also get additional, more specific information on technique. That gives me a bit more confidence when treading into new culinary technique waters.

Additionally, there is a lot of raw milk regulation stuff going on here in CA currently, and some of the Fallon/WAPF news alerts that have gone out are rushed, misleading, full of typos, and sometimes even inaccurate. That has bothered me, because even though I am a supporter, it is especially important to be reasoned and credible in this area. Too many people who are anti-raw dairy think raw dairy supporters are nuts, so there's no point in giving them ammunition.

Was raw dairy one of the "too far out" areas for you? I'd love to know what you consider too far out.

I also thought N & PD was a great, but overlooked book. I've also read Pottenger's book about his cat research, which was very interesting and informative, but there are some limitations to using that as a conclusive example (inconsistencies with scientific methodology, etc.). It did lay the groundwork for further research into cat diets and eventually transitioning my two cats to a raw, homemade diet, though (the older sickly cat has improved much, while the younger one is thriving).

I really liked Taubes's book, and need to reread it. While Price was never mentioned in the book, it was interesting to read in the Acknowledgements that N & PD was a heavy influence throughout the book (the examples of British colonial physicians was excellent, though, and perhaps brought more credibility to the book than an inquiring dentist would have). I love GCBC's complexity and detail, but at the same time, realize those are the very aspects which will greatly reduce its readership. And most people just really aren't interested.

Have you read Modern Nutritional Diseases and How to Prevent Them (by Drs. Ottoboni, a husband?wife team in their 80s)? I think that might be a good "lighter" option for folks who would be intimidated by Taubes book, yet it is still very scientifically grounded.

Stephan Guyenet said...

I agree with everything you just said. Especially about the agave. Sugar is sugar, unfortunately, and I don't think there's any way to get around that. And SF's fermentation recipes are definitely too salty sometimes.

The enzyme thing is a little wishy-washy. It also bothers me that it's a buzzword that gets thrown around a lot on the internet with no understanding whatsoever behind it. I understand the idea that enzymes in food might be able to help digestion and assimilation, but I just haven't seen any convincing evidence of it. I will say that I find homemade sauerkraut to be an excellent digestive aid, but it could just be the pH.

I do drink and advocate raw milk. From what I can tell, it's not really a health risk in the US unless you have a compromised immune system. You might have a slightly higher chance of food poisoning than someone who only drinks pasteurized milk, but the risk is still pretty low. And there are measurable benefits to raw milk, such as the probiotic bacteria and lactase content (OK I'll hand it to Sally Fallon, it's an enzyme!). Anecdotally, I know people who tolerate raw milk better than pasteurized milk.

I buy grass-fed raw milk and ferment it into yogurt. I don't know if it's actually healthier than fermenting pasteurized milk, but I do believe fermented milk is easier to assimilate.

Anonymous said...

Anna! Finally I've heard someone say what I've thought for years about NT philosophy! Thank you for your comments about the grains, especially. I was really into NT, and then I read Nutrition and Physical Degeneration - and noted that there was very little mention of grain consumption... and only certain grains, not "all" of them - and I believe the only legume mentioned was lentils - where NT includes all the legumes!
Stephan - I was wondering if you could say why you wouldn't include the brown onions skins, celery or carrot greens in your stock? I haven't heard that before? Thanks!

Te4t0n said...


I too wonder this:

"Stephan - I was wondering if you could say why you wouldn't include the brown onions skins, celery or carrot greens in your stock?"

Unknown said...

I too am curious why you recommend omitting the brown onion skin? If I recall correctl...Jerry Brunetti Cancer Nutrition and Healing...suggests that the onion skin is rich in inulin and should be prized...

Christian said...


I wonder if it is really necessary to add vinegar or lemon-juice to a bone-broth to leach out the minerals from the bones, into the soup-water?

I mean, the indians of the rocky mountains probably didn't have apple-cider vinegar and lemons in their broths made from bones of bison and elk?

Unknown said...

I was searching for a recipe for vegetable stock and came across this blog, where I saw mentioned that celery greens shouldn't be used for vegetable stock. I would like to ask why it can't be used? Also, by celery greens do you mean the long green stalks of the celery or just the leafy part at the top? Thank you. Cristina M.

DrFood said...

I've been making broth for years, and your best tool for this is a (modern) pressure cooker. I will save bones from whole roasted chickens until I have a pot full, then just cover them with water and cook. I bring the pot up to "the second ring" on my Kuhn-Rikon, for high pressure, and then turn my (electric) range element down to 1 or 2, whatever it takes to keep it there. After I've found the right amount of heat, there is no noise, no sputtering and not much energy expended over the next 24 hrs or so while I extract everything from those bones. After that much time, even the legs of pastured hens will snap and crumble between your finger tips.

When I tried doing the "long simmer" method of broth production, I got cloudy broth. When I use the pressure cooker I always get clear broth with a lot of gelatin dissolved in it.

When I process a steer, I save EVERYTHING, including the silver skins you peel off many roasts, and other gristly things. They all go onto a baking sheet and get roasted prior to the broth cooking. I give a lot of our bones to our puppy, but there's still plenty of material for making broth from the tendons and other bits and pieces.