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Winter Nourishment: Soup, Stocks and Broths
by Linda Conroy


I like to call our Urban Permaculture Farm, the Herbal Homestead. I call it this, because for me it all started with herbs. My first herb teachers were wise woman herbalists. They encouraged me to focus on the herbs growing right outside of my doorstep and this has remained as a pivotal place for me to return over and over again.

A lot happens at our homestead. We grow food and medicine, we wild forage from green spaces in our community as well as neighbors yards. We tend the critters in our space, we feed ourselves, as well as our family and friends. We strive to expand our understanding of life and to weave ourselves into our surroundings.

This column will highlight some of the things that happen here at The Herbal Homestead. It is an invitation to spend time with me through stories of daily life. 

This morning I awoke and it was cold. We heat our home with a wood furnace, so sleeping 8 hours means that you wake up to a chilly house. My wool comforter made by the local woolen mill, keeps me very warm at night, yet when I emerge from under the covers I have two goals.

  1. To reignite the wood stove

     2. To make something warm to drink.

I often make a cup of tea, but some mornings only a cup of broth will do.  I was inspired a couple of years ago when I attended a Weston A. Price Foundation Conference to begin incorporating broth into my breakfast routine. At the conference they served broth for breakfast. It was winter and I will never forget how satisfying that morning cup of broth was. I realized that by stereotyping broth as an afternoon or evening food, I was missing out on a very special morning opportunity. Of course I still incorporate broth into my winter stews and soups, but I now have expanded my horizons and added it to our homestead breakfast list!

Below are a few of my favorite recipes for broth. Broth can be made and frozen for future use.

How to Make Soup Stock: 3 Easy Broth Recipes

Soup stocks are incredibly healthy, nutrient dense and serve as a quintessential comfort food on a cold day. Soup stock has a long history as a nourishing and healing food. While the village herbalist has always known the healing power of soup stock and chicken soup in particular, it took until the year 2000 for CNN headlines to read, "Chicken soup is medicine, U.S. scientists confirm." Glad they caught up.

There is no doubt that homemade soup and soup stock is healthy, tastes good and is easy to make.  The following are recipes that serve as guidelines. I say guidelines, as I am a scratch cook, which means that I add what I have. I love to add new herbs, spices, vegetables and animals parts. A couple of years ago I began adding egg shells. It means the stock that I make is always new and interesting. I often add herbs and spices not only for flavor, but to increase the nutrient density of the stock.

Vegetable Stock

Place the chopped vegetables, herbs, and spices into a crock pot or stockpot. I like a crockpot, as it can be left unattended for long periods of time. Add enough cold water to cover the vegetables. Simmer for approximately 24 hours. Many people make vegetable stock from scraps such as peels and stems. If you use vegetable scraps to make your stock, you will need to strain them from the stock and discard them when finished. And to note, when you boil vegetables for a meal, a lot of their flavor and nutrients leach out into the water.

The next time you boil vegetables, save the water and add it to your vegetable stock or next batch of soup. Of course being the seaweed lover that I am, I sometimes thicken and enhance the consistency of a vegetable broth by adding a red seaweed ie dulse, turkish towel and/or irish moss. Red seaweed contains carrageenan, which adds viscosity or thickness to the broth and is nutritious. Carrageenan is particularly supportive to the digestive system.    


Chicken or Turkey Stock

Place chicken or turkey bones, spare meat, vegetable scraps, herbs and spices into a stockpot or slow cooker. If you have access to the feet of the animal you will want to add them, as this will add gelatin to the broth for a thick, rich, highly nutritious broth. Add enough cold water to cover the vegetables and bones. Simmer for 24 hours. Foam will form on the surface of the stock as it simmers. Use a spoon, or ladle, to skim it off. Strain the bones and vegetable scraps from the stock and discard them.

Beef Stock

Begin by baking the beef soup bones in the oven at 450 degrees for half an hour. If you have access to oxtail bones you will want to add them, as this will add gelatin. As with chicken or turkey broth, the gelatin will create a thick nutritious broth.  Put the beef bones, spare meat, vegetable scraps, herbs and spices into a stockpot. Add enough cold water to cover the vegetables and bones. Simmer for approximately 24 hours. Foam will form on the surface of the beef stock as it simmers. Use a spoon, or ladle, to skim it off. Strain the bones and vegetable scraps from the stock and discard them.

 *For bone broths you will want to place your stock in the refrigerator for 8 hours in order to separate the fat and for the broth to gel. The best broth will be quite gelatinous.

*Adding herbs to any of these broths will also increase their nutrient density. I often add seaweed, burdock, astragalus, mushrooms, lovage, alfalfa, nettle and whatever else happens to be near by. There is no limit to what you can add to your stocks! Have fun! Seaweed added to stock contributes much needed trace minerals.

Gelatin extracted from bones is a nutritious source of protein as well as collagen, calcium, minerals and the amino acids proline and glycine.

Stock made from poultry or other bones increases endurance and strengthens the immune system and veins, arteries, muscles, tendons, skin and bones. It also soothes and heals the gastro-intestinal tract and is thus a potent medicine for people suffering from food sensitivities and digestive or bowel problems. All stock provides an easily assimilable form of vitamins and minerals.

 Using Your Stock

You can use the stock immediately as a base for soup, or you can freeze it and begin making your soup on another day. If you freeze the soup stock, leave a bit of space in the top of the container for expansion. It is a good idea to freeze the stock into the portion size that works best for you. A single cup of stock can be warmed on a cold day for an instant meal for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Tossing in leftover meat and vegetables from the refrigerator creates a wonderful meal. Adding cream, pureed vegetables, starch, or flour can thicken soup stock. I also cook rice and other grains in soup stock for added nutrition and flavor. This is a very creative process and a great way to enjoy leftovers in a new and refreshing form.

May the stock be with you during these cold winter days.

Linda Conroy is a bioregional, wise woman herbalist, educator,wildcrafter, permaculturist and an advocate for women's health.

She is the proprietress of Moonwise Herbs and the founder of Wild Eats: a movement to encourage people and communities to incorporate whole and wild food into their daily lives. She is passionate about women's health and has been working with women for over 20 years in a wide variety of settings.

Linda is a student of nonviolent communication and she has a masters degree in Social Work as well as Law and Social Policy. Linda has been offering hands on herbal programs and food education classes for well over a decade.

She has completed two herbal apprenticeship programs, one of which was with Susun Weed at the Wise Woman Center and she has a certificate in Permaculture Design.

Linda is a curious woman whose primary teachers are the plants; they never cease to instill a sense of awe and amazement.

Her poetic friend Julene Tripp Weaver, eloquently describes Linda when she writes, "She listens to the bees, takes tips from the moon, and follows her heart."

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