(and How to Get More in Your Stock)
by Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist on August 30, 2011
One of the main reasons to make your own stock or broth as a base for homemade soups and sauces is to supply hydrophilic colloids to the diet in the form natural gelatin.
The hydrophilic nature of the gelatin in homemade meat broths has the unusual property of attracting digestive juices to itself in the same manner as raw foods.
There is an extensive amount of research on the beneficial effects of gelatin in the diet. Gelatin obviously aids digestion by rendering digestive juices more effective by attracting them to itself. It also has been found successful in treating digestive disorders such as IBS, colitis, and even Crohn’s disease.
Even anemia and other blood disorders respond to gelatin in the diet. The first known reference to gelatin from 204 AD in Chinese writings describes the use of gelatin as an agent to arrest bleeding or hemorrhage.
Gelatin as a Home Remedy
Homemade stock is indispensable when a stomach flu makes its way around a household as it can slow and stop diarrhea when small amounts are consumed every few minutes.
In addition to stopping the runs, gelatin assists in neutralizing whatever intestinal poison is causing the problem in the first place. So, unlike anti-diarrhea medicine from the pharmacy which only masks symptoms, gelatin actually goes to the root of the problem and facilitates healing.
Households where gelatinous broths, soups, and sauces are frequently consumed very often get passed by when a stomach bug is making the rounds in a community. Time spent in the kitchen preparing this age old remedy will be repaid many times over with fewer sleepless nights from ill children and no doubt far fewer visits to the doctor.
Get More Gelatin in Your Stock
A frequent question I get from folks new to Traditional Cooking, is “how do I get my stock to gel?” This is because a successful batch of homemade stock will turn semi-solid in the refrigerator as gelatin solidifies as it cools.
The #1 most common reason for stock that does not gel in the refrigerator is too much water was used to make the stock. The amount of filtered water should just cover the bones. As the water boils off, feel free to add more water as the stock simmers for the required 4- 24 hours (or up to 72 hours if making beef stock), but only ever add enough additional water to cover the bones.
Stock can always be boiled down on the stove if too much water was inadvertently used. You can even boil it way down to a very concentrated, syrupy, reduction sauce, known as fumee, and then reconstitute with water when you are ready to use it.
If your stock is already gelling nicely but you want even more gelatin in the final product, be sure to ask your local poultry farmer for the feet and heads from your pastured chickens. Chicken feet and heads will add loads of nutritious and healing gelatin to stock.
Another tip is to scald the chicken feet in boiling water to remove the skin before placing them in the stockpot. This will allow even more gelatin to get into your stock.
One more tip is to always start with cold water and let the bones sit in the water with the bit of vinegar for 30 minutes to an hour before turning on the heat. This allows the fibers of bones and cartilage to open slowly to release the maximum amount of flavorful juices and gelatin.