I recently realized that my kitchen is much more dedicated to efficiency than most people’s are. It’s not that I don’t like cooking…
I love combining flavours in new ways, trying out new international spice blends. But I really like minimizing the time, mess, and fuss, while maximizing the benefits by cooking only the things that have to be cooked last-minute for each meal to be hyper-nourishing (primarily vegetables). Everything else, I’m constantly seeking for ways to reduce time and energy investment.
Bone broth is something that takes a long time to simmer. Whether you’re using stock pots or crockpots, electricity or flames, you’re better off making a whole bunch at once. It has to be kept steamy-but-not-boiling for up to several days, depending on the size of the bones, and the acidity of your liquids. So if you’ve a place to freeze soup stock, you save a lot of time and energy if you make the largest quantity you can possibly simmer and store.
Before Christmas, I realized that my way of making stock could save other GAPS kitchens an awful lot of time and effort through a conversation with a client, who was making enough for only one or two meals at a time. So when I made organic turkey stock after the bird fed our winter Solstice gathering, I recorded the process as best I could, for you.
If you have tips to add that also make the process yield more nutrients etc. for the time invested, or heighten food safety, would you please add them to the comments below?
Organic bone broths are super-helpful for those of us with autism (and yes, the organic, range-fed, or biodynamic part really matters). Non-organic animals bio-accumulate a number of harmful contaminants in their bones, which enter the soup, and become just another weight holding back our recovery of some degree of health and function. So please, please choose good bones!
In terms of being helpful for autistics, the organic broth is about the most restorative food for the strafed-and-painful gut lining which the majority of us autistics have from gut dysbiosis. But healing the gut lining isn’t visible, and it’s more of a non-symptom, meaning you notice the pain more than the relief.
On the more visible end of the results, bone broth is pretty good at dealing with cell membranes that aren’t transporting potassium (K, for the Latin, Kalium) very well. A lot of K gets used up in detoxification, something we autistics invariably have to do a lot more because of our blocked detox pathways and higher body burden.
So why is this result more visible to you? In recent research, K-channel blockage in cell membranes has been linked with sensory over-sensitivity. And let me tell you, when you don’t feel like you have a toxin hang-over all the time – lights-too-bright, noises-too-loud, clothing-maddeningly-textured – life is a LOT better. Believe me. We smile more… and that’s visible!
So first, because I hand-wash dishes, I use thick gloves and have the water as hot as possible, always washing all my thoroughly-rinsed glass food jars and their metal lids first, before I do any other dishes. No plastic, no migration of female-hormone-mimics into the food, no migration of any spoilage into and out of the plastic, and nothing in that wash-water except heat and soap. The jars are air dried on a 45 degree angle to prevent puddling or contamination from a towel, then stored perfectly dry with their lids on to keep them relatively sterile.
What this means is that the jars in my cupboard are prepped ahead, and pretty good at keeping food uncontaminated, so food losses are lower (and the plastic-free food is safer for anyone with hormones) without much fuss. I always freeze anything in them with the jars perfectly upright, so that the rubbery seal at the rim of the lid doesn’t contact the food, either. Any lids that have rust spots or food-contaminated rubbery rims get recycled!
I haven’t taken photos of the part where I pull most of the meat off the turkey to put in jars for the freezer, because my hands get far too greasy to handle a camera, at that point, but I’ll trust you’ve got that part down. If you really want photos, it’ll have to wait until next Thanksgiving’s turkey, and depend on whether I can talk Bill into staffing the camera…
As I put the meat in jars, I put the bones, organs, neck, and skin into a big stock pot with filtered water. For smaller soup stocks (chicken bones, fish racks, a single piece of elk bone), I’ll use a 7 liter slow-cooker, but turkeys are BIG! Since our kitchen has a reverse-osmosis filter, the food-safe water is very acidic (often around a pH of 5, instead of the optimal 7).
While this acidity is a health problem for drinking water, requiring remineralization, acid is ideal for dissolving the best nutrients out of alkaline bones in a soup stock. If your water is neutral, you’ll need to add organic apple cider vinegar, or lemon juice, to get the most nutritious bone broth possible from those bones.
I fill the stock pot to more-than-cover all the bones, aiming for about the same area in the pot devoted to liquid alone as there is to immersed skin-and-bones. The stock then simmers (and stays topped up with additional acidic liquids) until the leg bones – the big, strong ones – snap and crumble easily. A child should be able to break one with no effort.
Side note: This bone-snapping gives you a better understanding of osteoporosis, where acidic body fluids such as the bloodstream leach the minerals out of our bones until they’re too soft to hold us together. The easy solution? Eat lots of alkaline vegetables, and gut-healing bone broths to normalize your body’s acid-base balance, and give your bones the materials to rebuild themselves once your body isn’t acidic anymore!
Once the bones in the stock are good and crumbly, I set a steel strainer or sieve into a large stainless steel bowl. With the stock nice and hot, I pour the liquid through the sieve to strain out the solids. I place the stainless canning funnel – carefully, without dripping liquid onto the jar mouth – into the top of a jar, and carefully ladle in the hot stock.
Why am I picky about this? A small amount of finesse with the funnel and jar rim allows the lid to heat-seal to the clean rim, which it very often does. I then have double-protection on my soup stock, with it being both heat-sealed and frozen. If it gets tipped over by accident, it doesn’t leak all over the freezer.
This finicky care with the funnel prevents a lot of potential bother, mess, and clean-up. That steel canning funnel is so worth its weight and space to me, I’ve actually wondered about getting a second one so that, if one of them gets a little messy, I can sterilize it and set it to dry while I take up the alternate one.
Using the steel sieve means that, whether or not I have time at the end to sort out the bits of meat from the skin and bones (often while listening to recorded course materials, occasionally to music), I have kept any little bones out of the broth. As soft as the bones are, they can be a choking hazard when unexpected!
While I sort the meat out to add to one or two jars of stock if I can, I don’t worry too much about it when time is tight, because virtually all the good in the meat has spread itself out equally throughout the broth. By the time the simmering is done, the meat bits are just for “show”.
We also have a municipal green bin program here for compostables that would be too inviting to city pests if composted in the backyard. I pop the bones into the food dryer before putting them inside the bin, to keep the smell and mess there to a minimum (saves me time cleaning that bin, yuck!).
Now, there’s another little trick with filling the jars. When liquids freeze, they expand. And if they expand inside something that doesn’t expand, the container can split or shatter. When you freeze in food-safe glass jars, not only do splits and shatters leave you throwing out good food (for concern about minute glass shards and unintentional organ surgery), it also leaves a time-consuming clean-up job in your freezer.
You can prevent your glass jars from splitting or shattering altogether.
The key is, you have to choose your jars carefully! I’m a fan of the jars our local companies use for nut butter and apple sauce – straight sides, wide lids, minimal shoulders high on the jar. Jars you don’t want are ones that get gradually smaller as they rise toward the screw-top, or that have any narrowing lower down, such as the common salad dressing jars.
You can fill a straight-sided jar to 1/4″ or about 8 mm below the inside curve of the shoulder. When the liquid expands as it freezes, it has room to move up in the jar. Especially when there’s some nice fat floating on top, which stays softer, you can be sure of no breakage. However, this only works well if you freeze your jars upright. On their sides, the only space to expand into is narrower than the ice below…
If you’ve the freezer space to spare, you can set your mind at ease by doing a few experiments with straight-sided jars, water, and a good grease pencil. Pour some water into the jar, filling it to well below the shoulder, and record the height of the liquid water on the outside of the jar with your grease pencil. Put the jar in the freezer. When it’s frozen, measure the distance between your grease pencil mark and the height of the ice in the jar.
Voila: Any distance larger than that measurement, left between the inner curve of the shoulder and the height of your unfrozen food, will prevent splitting or shattering (as long as you don’t rough things around in your freezer, that is).
Speaking of grease pencils, these have been my favourite kitchen tools for keeping track of leftovers, dried foods, and frozen foods. Unlike other sticky, messy, or wasteful ways of marking the contents and dates on each jar (masking tape, hockey tape on paper, labels), grease pencils are an easy-on, easy-off solution. And I can get lots of pretty colours from the art supply store, too!
I use a grease pencil to write what’s in the jar, and the date, on the lid when I put the lid on the filled jar. When the jar gets emptied, the note simply washes off with hot water and soap, no sticky label or tape residue, no wad of paper or tape to throw out. This lets me keep track of best-before timing, and manage my freezer contents easily, with a minimum of time, effort, and fuss from start to finish.
A further note on jar selection, here. Many of my friends began with canning jars, when they started using glass to freeze food. I like canning jars, especially the wide-mouthed ones, but they have a few disadvantages. The ones with straight sides have a lot of space between the shoulder and the lid… and we’re talking a significant loss of valuable real estate, in my freezer!
And the canning jars with sides that slope outwards as you go up and have no shoulder, while safe for freezing, have a similar loss of freezer space around their narrower bases (which are also less stable on their own, and for stacking on top of each other).
Finally, while canning jars are a standard size and easily available, I find the double lids both fiddly, and hard to use when my hands are sore. Sore hands are fairly normal, when you have high levels of inflammation (a commonality for all autistics, though not all autistics have sore hands from it, and even if they do, not necessarily all the time).
However, tailor your jar selection to the height of your freezer. I laughed (a bit embarrassed) that I was taking this photo to show you. But you would not believe the number of people who, when randomly seeing inside my freezer, wanted to know how I kept it so accessible and organized. I figure this organization is an important part of knowing what you’ve got, and having great bone stock (and other foods that freeze well) on hand when you want them.
When I’ve planned ahead, I can take out a jar in the morning to thaw in the sink, and put together a fast soup or stew for dinner. When I haven’t planned ahead (and it happens), I can warm a frozen jar in hot water while I chop vegetables, and usually have the stock thawed enough to get out of the slightly-narrowed jar mouth before supper… another count against really narrow-mouthed jars!
Hint: If you have to thaw a jar in a hurry, don’t pour out the warmed-up liquid around the ice core. Water is highly conductive of heat, while air is an insulator. Gradually warming that liquid around the frozen core while it’s still in your jar will get all of it out and into your soup pot a lot faster than putting the melted liquid into your pot, and then trying to warm the air-insulated ice enough to get it past the narrowed rim of the jar!
Warning: Glass jars do not like temperature contrasts, especially when contrasts happen rapidly or adjacent. If you try to pour your heated soup liquid back onto that core of ice to melt it, the likelihood of shattering your jar is much higher…
Happy stock-making, and please, if you have alternate or additional efficiency, hyper-nourishment, and safety tips, add your comments below!