By Heidi Weiss, NTP, MPH
A few years ago, I went to a friend’s for a holiday meal, and I watched with horror after the meal as the turkey was shoveled into the garbage. It still had plenty of small pieces of meat on it, as well as a lot of nutrition in the form of collagen-loaded skin and cartilage, mineral-rich bone, and umami-filled juices.
As a former vegetarian, I feel strongly about the need to consume animal products mindfully and with reverence. Part of that means reducing waste and thinking about how to use the whole animal that has given its life for our sustenance and enjoyment.
While animal foods have wonderful nutritional benefits, they do carry a higher carbon footprint. In my opinion, part of mindful living and stepping lightly on the Earth means mindfully consuming them.
So what do I wish was done with the turkey/roast after the holiday meal? Soup!
Soups are easy to digest, easy to make, and prevent a great deal of food from going to waste. In addition, those made using the bones of an animal have added nutritional value as the broth will contain nutrients like collagen, gelatin, calcium, and other minerals, all of which we need more of to deal with the stressors of modern living.
To add even more nutritional and digestive benefits, greens (even those bitter ones like kale, dandelion, and chicories) are a delicious addition to soups.
If you aren’t a soup lover, you can still benefit from this process:
Reserve small pieces of meat and save or freeze for salads, enchiladas, or sandwiches. Turkey stripped off the bone makes great salads, as Katherine Armer, LAc reminded us in her article on surviving the holidays. (Her quick recipe: mix meat leftovers with chopped celery, mayo, and any other fresh veggies!)
Make the broth alone (see recipe below). My favorite use for nutrient dense-bone broth is to use it in place of water to cook rice, noodles, or any grain. You will be amazed at the difference in flavor!
Even if you think you aren’t a soup person, be open to exploring different kinds — because not liking soup is a little like not liking vegetables: there are sure to be a couple kinds that you enjoy when prepared well, and it’s best to grow out of this attitude!
If you don’t love broth-y soups, try blending the finished product (after it cools), and possibly adding a thickening agent like cream, coconut milk, arrow-root powder, or agar. Interestingly, good quality bone broth will gelatinize on its own, so that after refrigeration, it is in a semi-solid state.
If you aren’t a fan of creamy soups, strain out all the veggies, bones, and meat remnants, add a slice or two of fresh ginger root, and simmer for 10-20 minutes. This broth is a wonderful tonic when you are run-down.
Basic Bone Broth Soup Template
You can use any kind of meat, any veggies you have on hand, and voila! You will have beautiful soup! Here’s the formula:
- 4 or more quarts water
- 1 or more pound of bones from any animal
- 2-3 onions chopped
- 3 carrots chopped
- 3 celery sticks chopped
- 1/2 cup vinegar (optional)
- 1 T. cornstarch or arrowroot powder (optional)
1. After removing meat from the bones, place them, along with any juices, skin, and cartilage in stock pot and cover well with water. You can also add vegetables at this point, if you desire: onions, celery, and carrots are the classic choices, but not required. I recommend tossing in anything that you have lying around in the fridge that you don’t have another use for so that it doesn’t go to waste – broccoli stems, for example, are loaded with nutrients. For even greater economy, some people save the outer layers of onions and tops of veggies that are unusable in other recipes throughout the week for broths. 2. This is an optional step – add 1 T. of any kind of vinegar to the pot and let sit for half an hour before adding heat. This will help to draw out minerals into the broth, particularly calcium, magnesium and potassium.
3. Bring the pot to a boil, and then reduce heat to a low simmer. Cook for 4-24 hours.
4. Cool, then remove bones with a slotted spoon or tongs, or pour into a strainer placed over another pot. If you want a clear broth, remove all veggies as well, and transfer to storage.
5. If you wish to continue to make a soup, you may want to leave some of the veggies in the broth (especially if you plan to puree the soup, as they may be very soft). Add 2-4 cups of other vegetables here, starting with the most dense veggies. I recommend adding greens as well. You may also want to add back some of the reserved meat from step 1.
6. Continue to cook until veggies are soft, then season with salt and pepper to taste.
7. If you would like a creamy soup, puree with a handheld blender after cooling. You may also add 1-3 cups of cream, milk, or a plant-based substitute. Or, mix 1 T. arrowroot or cornstarch with 1/4 c. water until dissolved. Add this to the soup as a thickener.