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In the autumn we make broth. And I don't mean we enjoy some brothy chicken soup. Nope. We have been saving bones for the past year and we make a lot of canned broth to compliment our soups in the coming year. We eat about one soup each week, so that means I need around 50 quarts of broth. That is 12 1/2 gallons of broth. And we are up to the challenge.
One of my favorite aspects of making broth is that it is almost free, made out of scrap and what would otherwise be trash or compost. This gives me an especially warm and thrifty feeling when I see the cans and boxes of broth in the store for dollars. I have to pay for jars...but less and less every year as I acquire more and more jars. I have to pay for the heat to can them and the water to make the broth, but these are negligible expenses. When we buy meat by the side, we often get soup bones or "dog bones not intended for consumption". Those cost a little.
These instructions are based on filling a 5 gallons stock pot. You can make adjustments for your own family if 5 gallons seems like a lot. From a 5 gallons pot, you will end up with between 2-3 1/2 gallons of actual broth.
Meat (Bone!) Broth:
Simple. Save all your bones. Beef in one bag, chicken in another, pork in a third (I usually add lamb or goat bones to the beef). Label your bags! If I have the slow cooker out I will cook my bones with a quart or two of water over night to pull out the really deep nutrition and make an almost jelly-like bone broth. Then I throw this broth and bones in a labeled bag for the next broth day. If the slow cooker is not easily available or I am in a rush, I just toss the bones in the current bag. I use about 3-4 bags of bones per 5 gallons stock pot.
Vegetable (Compost!) Broth:
This is so thrifty it almost hurts. Save your old veggie ends. Nothing moldy, manky, or rotten of course, but anything old (wilty carrots and celery, just past gone potatoes, etc...). Store them in a labeled gallon ziplock bag in the freezer. When you are cooking, throw your vegetable ends in the bag (mushroom stems, celery tops and bottoms, onion and garlic ends and peels, kale stems, whatever...). When you steam or boil veggies, cool the water and add that to the bag. To fill the 5 gallon stock pot, I use 3 bags of frozen veggie ends.
Make one batch in a day. It's a low, slow process for most of the day. At the end of the day your house will smell warmly of your broth of choice, which I find very comforting.
Put the contents of your broth bags into the stock pot. Add water to about 3 inches from the top. For veggie broth, do a quick check of the fridge for anything that could go in the broth instead of being wasted. For meat broth, add 4-6 firm potatoes (I prefer smallish red ones and I will explain why) to increase the potassium content. Bring the stock to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Leave it simmering for 2 or more hours. It really can't cook for too long; in the case of bone broth, the longer it cooks the more nutrients you get out of the bones.
I don't add any herbs or salt. I can always add those at a future time. What I want is plain broth that I can fix up later, depending on what I am cooking.
Once it's cooked, I pressure can my broth in quarts. My freezer is usually packed, and I don't want to wait for broth to defrost anyway. I want to pour it into the soup pot and get it going right away. I use the reliable instructions from Ball Canning. You must use a pressure canner when canning meat or vegetable products. If you don't have a pressure canner, freeze your broth in freezer bags.
With bone broth, I cool the bones and pick them over for meat scraps. I always fill at least a quart freezer bag with "pulled meat" for later. I also pull out the potatoes that have been cooked full of brothy-goodness for frying up with dinner or breakfast...or just eating right there as I pick the bones over. This is an entirely optional procedure, but I hate to waste any part of our meat. Sister-Bug's favorite part is sorting the bones and she's getting pretty good at it for a 2-year old.
This all takes time, but it's mostly down time while I wait for the broth to cook down or the canner to vibrate at pressure, and having ready-to-pour broth of all kinds at hand is more than worth taking a couple of days to make our broth.
And it tastes SO much better than the broth from the store.