Any-which-way broth

Rather than a recipe this is a reminder, a reminder that broth needs no recipe. In winter I make broth as frequently as possible, and every variation depends on the circumstances.

Sometimes, I plan ahead and buy beef bones and chicken carcasses at the butcher’s. If there is time, or if I intend to make pho, I might grill the bones in the oven first, with some halved onions and pieces of ginger.

I might add bay leaves or garlic cloves, celery stalks and peppercorns; always some acidity.

Sometimes, all it takes are some leftover chicken bones, from a whole chicken or just legs, covered with water and a few glugs of vinegar.

In most cases I let the broth cook for hours, sometimes days — I turn it off overnight and light the flame again in the morning, the pot often still warm. The length of time I let it cook has usually more to do with my availability to strain and store it, before which the broth needs a few hours to cool completely.

Once broth is in the house, any combination of vegetables becomes soup in one fell swoop and our favourite winter dinner: soup with bread and any combination cheeses, ham, saucisson, smoked mackerel, pickled herring, … — our winter version of Abendbrot. Occasionally there is purpose, as for pho or ramen, and the broth becomes the star. It can, at times, be an excuse for risotto. But often broth is just an intention, a promise, an investment. Hopefully, I never open a freezer empty of broth.

No recipe broth

Bones — chicken and/or beef. They can be raw, roasted specially, or leftover from another meal (leftover bones keep in the fridge no longer than 2 days, but can be stored in the freezer in a ziplock bag until needed).

Acidity — cider or red wine vinegar, or lemon juice, a large glug equivalent to a few of tablespoons

Aromatics — black peppercorns (a small handful), bay leaves, onions (skin on), unpeeled garlic, slices of ginger or fresh turmeric root, celery stalks, …

Salt — I usually salt the broth later when I want to use it, but salt can be added before cooking.

Place the bones in a large pot. Cover with cold water. Add acidity and aromatics as inspired. Bring to a boil and then simmer very gently for at least 2 hours and up to a couple of days, checking on the water level regularly and adding water as needed (the water does evaporate fairly quickly). I usually turn the broth off overnight or when I need to leave the house, and turn it on again when I can.

When ready, strain the bones and aromatics through a fine-mesh sieve and harvest the broth in a bowl. Let it cool completely before storing in the fridge (no longer than 2 days) or in the freezer.

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