Friday, February 1, 2013

Historically-Inspired Recipes: Chicken Broth

People are very interested in how their ancestors ate.  Look no further than the popularity of "paleo" diets, based on the idea that humans were designed to eat certain things in certain ways.  American history is riddled with tales of poor nutrition, epidemics, starving times, and people possibly eating their friends on the Oregon Trail.*  In spite of these problems, most people in America did find ways of making do with little, producing basic but nutritious food.  Bone broth was one of the most common, and I will experiment with this today.  While a bit time-consuming, it's not actually difficult, and tastes loads better than store-bought broth.

Soups and stews were extremely popular foods in the American past.  They can be made with a variety of types of bones -- whatever was available.  Chickens were commonly-kept livestock and reproduced quickly.  Stews and soups were warm and filling, could be stretched to feed a crowd, and made with minimal ingredients if necessary.

Step 1:  Put in chicken & water.
It begins with a chicken and water.

Put a chicken, whole or cut up, into 4 quarts of water in a large pot.  Bring the water to a boil. then turn it down to a simmer.  That's it:  chicken in water.

I usually let it go about an hour to an hour and a half.  The historical cook would probably go chop firewood or begin another load of handwashed laundry.  But you can put on an episode of Law and Order.

Step 2:  Skim off the foam.
Keep checking on the broth.  Skim off the foam at the top and give the pieces a stir so they don't stick.  If you have cats or small children, cover partially.  Historically this would have cooked slowly over fire.  The boiling step was critical to cook the meat and disinfect the horrid water they were likely using.

After the hour and change has transpired, remove the chicken from the pot, and keep the broth simmering.  With two forks, shred the chicken into a bowl.  You won't have to work very hard to get the meat off. (I am not showing a picture of the carcass-y broth at this stage.  This blog has some dignity.)  This is also the stage where any pets around you will start to lose their ever-loving minds.