“As marinara sauce is central to any Italian family legacy, so is bone broth to me, an Iowa girl with humble roots.”
The comparison of bone broth in my family to marinara sauce in an Italian family has me thinking of the ways our different cultures pass down the recipes that nourish (and define) our tribes. In my observation Italians and others of pure-bred ethnicity have a sense of sacredness attached to their vault of family recipes. Sworn loyalty to their family’s way of doing things is the only key to unlock the secrets inside to the next matriarch/patriarch who is trusted to preserve the traditions.
This is not the case of my story. I am a European hybrid Midwesterner born into rural culture. Farming is a part of everyone's familial makeup where I live yet strangely an unhealthy relationship to food can still be found. [Side Note: When I worked at my last integrative healthcare clinic I always found it fascinating that farmers were were both the most unhealthy clients - by means of eating a copious amount of processed food - and the most eager to buy into wholesome organic eating. What the what?!]
My ancestors (or speaking collectively - our ancestors) tamed the elements and ran intuitive sustainable operations so their families could survive and thrive from their small plots of land. Recipes were created entirely of seasonal homegrown ingredients that were self-preserved or fermented for use in the colder months.
Eventually commercial agriculture with large cash mono-crop systems and the Industrial Revolution changed the landscape and the way they ate. The hard life of making everything from their own hands was happily exchanged for modern conveniences. Enter the era of the casserole and the Catch-All-Feed-All Midwestern wonder made of creamed canned soup, noodles, boxed stock, processed cheeses, and leftover stale bread (anything leftover actually).
My mom, Mama B, changed that for me/us, but we were of few who escaped. A two year stint in Australia in the 70’s had my parents choosing fresh foods from open air farmers' markets. Each day they devoured beautiful produce and artisan products that at one time also decorated the bountiful family farm tables in Iowa. By then eating whole fruits and vegetables and making fresh sourdough bread from scratch was ‘so European’. Mom’s family had long been urban dwellers and Dad’s family had also begun the process of leaving the farm behind for better opportunity in the towns, cities, and countries abroad. Just like that a disconnect from food happened in our culture as paradoxical as it seems. Iowans like Mom and Dad who were fed by the richest soil on the planet in youth had to learn about fresh food as adults in a country across the world.
I am proud to report that the family farm is reviving here in Iowa (check out my future posts) and Mama B is responsible for initiating the renaissance of homegrown, made-from-scratch, handcrafted foods in our family. After moving back to the Midwest she planted a massive garden and began her own sourdough starter that we have been nourished by for over 30 years.
She breathed new life into the long lost recipes of our ancestors and incorporated a fusion of foods and flavors she discovered from her worldly travels. My food story contains a hodge-podge of rootsy, rustic, seasonal dishes with iterative global influences and I love it.
Mom was an original foodie before the term existed and before blogs made people famous for their creative use of zucchini as pasta noodles. Mama B has been doing things like that since I was born. I grew up this way - gasp - without the use of a fancy guillotine-sized spiralizer! Instead of passing down a vault of coveted family heirlooms, my mom passed down an ideology: be free to create based on the day’s bounty and always commit to using wholesome ingredients. She taught me that every home cooked meal prepared this way has a story.
The story of BRAISED Bone Broth is therefore made of equal parts historical and modern influences based on the worldview I inherited. Traditional, nourishing and authentic bone broth crafted in the farm kitchens of my ancestors was created from a long slow-simmer of a few humble ingredients: water, bones, vinegar, and salt. Over the years Mama B and I have slowly made our own interpretation to this basic recipe. Each ingredient added has a thoughtful purpose and together it becomes a modern finished product with a story as robust as its flavor.
The Basic Ingredients of BRAISED Bone Broth:
Filtered, to avoid contaminants and off-putting chemical flavors.
Organic free-range chicken bones from Pitman Family Farms because sourcing animals that eat their native diet helps create a broth closest to our native diet. What an animal eats affects the nutrition they provide. There is no comparison between conventional and consciously-raised animal sources. The organic bones are free of the toxins (hormones, GMOs, antibiotics, etc.) often found in feedlot animals and provide clean nutrition in the form of collagen, gelatin, amino acids, and minerals. Organic free-range chicken feet are added for an extra dose of collagen.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Unfiltered, because it is unrefined and the most nutritional. The acid helps to pull nutrients from the bones and into the broth.
Redmond’s Real Salt, because it is balancing to the body and full of minerals. We are not shy about the use of salt in our recipes, but the right kind of salt is necessary if it is to be considered healthy. Salt is an essential nutrient in the human body and very misunderstood. The ways in which we need and use sodium for optimal health are too numerous to list, but here is one fun fact: sodium is necessary for a robust immune system, used to kill bacteria, worms, viruses, fungus, microorganisms and to ward off other pathogens. You could say it is nature's cleansing agent. Mineral-rich Redmond's Real Salt is far better than other salts in balancing and replacing important electrolytes.
The Ingredients We Add:
Added for flavor and for the bio-nutrients found in their flesh and skins. Onions can be exposed to heat as soon as they are chopped without losing any of their health benefits. Once fully cooked, at least 30% of their quercetin, a compound being investigated for its antiviral, antibacterial, and anticancer properties, is transferred to the broth.*
Added for flavor and for the higher bioavailability of their nutrients when cooked and boiled into the broth.*
Added for flavor and as an excellent source of vitamin K, a fat-soluble vitamin needed for the complete synthesis of certain proteins required for blood coagulation and binding of calcium in bone and other tissues, and molybdenum which acts as a catalyst for enzymes facilitating the breakdown of certain amino acids in the body.
Added for its “superfood” status and high nutritional value including glucosinolates, calcium, vitamin C, antioxidants, and other phytonutrients. Kale is the most beneficial vegetable in the crucifer family with research showing that it is very effective for preventing and slowing the growth of cancer.*
Added for flavor and for its superfood status being an excellent source of vitamin K, C, A, folate, iron, and flavonoids. Herbs are full of micronutrients and parsley is a nutritional powerhouse. It is known to bind and purge heavy metals from the body, cleanse and purify the tissues, organs and blood; improve digestion and guard against free radical damage.
Whole clove added for flavor and for its superfood status and proven (and promising) properties including antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral, anticlotting, and anticancer. We follow the "press, then rest" method before adding garlic to the broth to preserve its medicinal properties - namely allicin - which can otherwise be destroyed by the heat.*
Add for umami (mouth feel) and for its superfood status containing high amounts of iodine, iron, vitamins C and A, minerals, and enzymes. Kombu is a sea vegetable known to reduce blood cholesterol and hypertension, support thyroid function (iodine), help to carry oxygen to the cells (iron), support the bones and teeth (calcium), and support the eyes and immune system (C and A). We source our kombu from the cold waters of the upper East Coast, US, to eliminate concerns of possible toxins and/or radiation in seaweed sourced from Asia.
Added for the deep nourishing flavor tones it lends to the broth and for its excellent levels of iron, manganese, vitamins and minerals. Cumin belongs to an exclusive group of spices revered as most anti-inflammatory.
Shitake Mushroom Extract
The extract offers an earthy flavor and a dose of medicinal nutrients including B vitamins, niacin, choline, folate, minerals, unique phytonutrients, and immune-supportive components called polysaccharide glucans.
Turmeric Root / Coriander / Thyme
Used for flavor and for their powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients. Turmeric, in particular, is known as a superfood and is used medicinally for many inflammatory conditions.
Used for flavor and because of its antioxidant nutrients. The capsaicin in cayenne is known to have antiviral, antibiotic and diaphoretic properties that boost the immune system.
Used for flavor and as an antioxidant for 100% natural preservation of the broth and its nutrients.
*Reference: Robinson, Jo. Eating on the Wild Side NYC: Hachette Book Group, 2013. Print.