Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bone Broth - the good stuff

The first time I ever heard anything about bone broth was on the Sufficient Self forum.  I figured it was just boiling up the leftover bones from chicken or turkey to make stock.  I was wrong.

According to the knowledgable people on that forum, you need a glug of ACV in with the water and bones to make bone broth.  The vinegar pulls out the nutrients from the bones and makes the most yummy tasting broth!  It looks much richer than the pale, watery stuff I used to make (that I thought was so good) or the really pale stuff you get from Swanson's in the grocery store (which is just a step up from plain ol' water).  An added bonus is that if you cook it long enough, the bones get really soft.  So soft that you can take the leg bone and just mush the end of it between your fingers.  And no, you don't taste any vinegar.

The first time I tried it was in my old pressure cooker.  I used turkey bones.  Holy momma, that was good stuff.  To make the bones soft enough that I felt safe in mixing them with homemade dog/cat chow, I had to pressure cook it for 2-1/2 hours.  I loved the idea of using the bones, but not the idea that I had to have the range on for that long.

The next time I just did it all in my big slow cooker.  I used chicken bones that time.  Plunked them all in the Crock Pot, added water to cover and a glug of apple cider vinegar (a glug is a technical term used in some kitchens).  I put the cooker on low, and forgot about it until the next day.  When I checked it, all the bones were easily mushing up.  Since this batch was just for dog/cat food, they got all the broth and marrow-y goodness from the mushed bones.  All the four legged critters gave it two paws up!

I'm already saving chicken bones in the freezer for the next batch. I'll keep the rich broth for a pot of chicken and noodles this time.  Who knew that simple ACV could make such a difference?

If you have never cooked with stock or bone broth, you're in for a treat.  Once you start using it, you'll never go back to using water.

I found this great site that lists more details on how to make bone broth with beef, chicken and pork bones:

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Making ACV - Apple Cider Vinegar

I have my first batch of apple cider vinegar (ACV) cooking.  Not really cooking, but doin' it's thing on top of the frig.  For some reason, this appeals to the inner scientist in me.  Let's try this and see if it works.

I had read on Earth Clinic over 120 posts from people saying that ACV helped lower their blood pressure (15 said it didn't work for them).  You had to slug down as much as two tablespoons of organic ACV that had the 'mother' in it on a regular basis.  Nasty stuff, I'm tellin' ya.  The crazy thing is that 30 minutes later, my blood pressure was over 10 points lower.  I did the trials twice a day over the course of two weeks, taking my BP readings before and after AVC.  I kept an eye on my activities prior to and following, so I would have a more accurate trial.  By cracky, it was working!  I wasn't taking my BP medication, yet my BP was pretty reasonable and gradually dropping.

But I had to stop.  Besides bringing tears to my eyes, it felt like it was stripping off a layer of skin in my gullet and left me gasping for breath.  Didn't make my stomach feel any too good, either.  HOW do people do this???   Eventually I tried it again, and again had the same results.  Blood pressure was going down, anxiety about having to drink it was going up.  Maybe my blood pressure reading would have been lower if I had better tolerance of the vinegar?  I tried all the things mentioned on the Earth Clinic site, adding honey, adding water, etc, etc.  Yeck.

Okay, so then I went to a lot less ACV, about a teaspoon or so with some water, 3 times a day.  I survived, wasn't too bad to get down and my BP still stayed reasonably controlled.  Yay!  But I was still taking one BP pill every other day (I had stopped the other one).  Hey, I am okay with this.

I like to buy locally if I can.  I don't want to order stuff that has to be shipped, either.  But the only organic ACV was 35 miles away and $7 a quart at the health food store.  I wish I could say that making ACV is the green thing to do, but actually I'm making it because I'm cheap.  And I'm hoping it tastes better, too.

So, after some research, Q & A's on the Sufficient Self forum, there's this big jar of weird stuff sitting on my refrigerator.  I started with some $3 organic apple juice and the bottom inch of dregs and vinegar from the pricey stuff, Braggs.  I put a clean hankerchief over the top of the jar, secured with a rubber band.  From what I read, air is very important, so my jar has probably a 4" opening.  I stir it every other day.  It's been sitting there for a couple of weeks and the changes to it are....well, interesting.

It started to get this slimy, jelly type goo on the top. Of course, I figured it was mold. Yeck.  Not that the rest of it looked any better.  The organic juice had solids in it, and then I added more from the vinegar bottle.  But it smelled like apples and vinegar, not icky like moldy stuff.  More reading.  That big, honking lugie was actually the 'mother'.

I finally got brave enough to taste a bit of it today.  Nice, apple-y tasting vinegar, not real strong.  I think it still tastes more like apple juice than vinegar, so I'll leave it a bit longer.  After I strain it through a coffee filter, it should look better.  If your vinegar ever has that acetone smell, kind of like nail polish remover, it needs more oxygen.  So stir it once or twice a day and the smell should go away in a few days.

And the 'mother'?  I read that women used to keep it in a jar in the cupboard so they'd have it to kickstart another batch of vinegar.  They would also use it to help heal small cuts and wounds.  It does appear to have some antiseptic or healing properties.  I'll probably get another bottle of organic apple juice and get some more vinegar going.  I might save a bit just to try on a cut or something. too.

Edited to add on 4/10/11 - The vinegar is wonderful!! I tried to strain it through a coffee filter, but it was taking too long.  But that half cup of strained vinegar was gorgeous.  I finally decided that I could live with some solids, so I poured off some from the top of the bigger jar.  Of course, I fished out the loogie, I mean, mother, first.  That went into the compost can by the sink (red Folger's coffee cannister).  I figured that since I was going to be adding more apple juice to the old stuff in the big jar, I'd still get more mother brewing.  I did put the jar of somewhat strained vinegar into the frig, mostly because I'd rather drink cold or hot, rather than room temperature.  I wondered if it would keep getting stronger, too...and I like it as it is now!

Oh, and putting mother on cuts?  It works!  I had this painful, annoying little tear in a cuticle.  You know the kind.  They aren't big enough that anyone gives you any sympathy, but you're very aware if it because you bump it all the time.  So I pinched off a bit of mother/jelly and rubbed it on the cuticle.  Dang, the pain was gone in a couple seconds!  Unfortunately, it was back right after I washed my hands.  I think I'll keep some vinegar brewing all the time, so hopefully I'll always have some mother to put on minor cuts, etc.  Besides that, it's always fun to watch the expression on people's faces when you show it to them.  :o)