A friend, who wishes to be anonymous, forwarded me this tweet before Christmas. “The most powerful resource in the future is not coal, oil or minerals: It will be food! America, wake up and prepare. Can you grow food?” We, as farmers, have vast opportunities just outside our doors to take up this challenge and teach our children how to feed themselves, not just the rest of the country. Ours decided to look over our staples and see where we could improve.
Considering the vast number of struggling families across the Prairies, this challenge could also help them to keep their food budgets manageable. It is certainly helping ours.
The most costly item on the grocery list is usually proteins. We have already trimmed a lot of cost in this department by only eating meat we grow here and doing our own cutting and wrapping. We believe in the superiority of grass-finished meat, but part of the animal that is greatly overlooked is the bones. Our local cut-and-wrap shop shared with us that most people don’t take home any scraps, which could be because people have forgotten how to use them.
Since our move towards cooking more from scratch, the most nutritious and least costly food that has evolved into a staple in our home is homemade bone broth, which I use in cooking soups, stews and as a cooking water for starches such as rice and lentils. These broths not only utilize all the scraps and bones from meat cutting, they also use all the vegetable peels and trimmings and it is easy.
MAKING THE BROTH
Making bone broth is simple. Place in your stockpot the raw bones (can be browned first but not necessary) from any animal, with or without meat or skin and enough water or reserved meat drippings to just cover the bones. It is recommended to keep a jar in the fridge, and every time meat is roasted the dripping/gravy leftovers can be added. Bones can also be frozen for later use, or if you have too large of a quantity to use them right away. Add one tablespoon of vinegar (apple cider, red or white wine, rice, balsamic) for every quart of liquid you used. Vegetable scraps may be added at this point if you wish. To keep a steady supply of vegetable trimmings, keep an ice cream pail in the fridge freezer, and every time vegetables are prepared wash the trimmings and add them to the pail. When your pot is full, bring to a simmer. Stock should be covered and simmered for hours until the bones have imparted their minerals to the water. Usually four to six hours is acceptable and the resulting broth should be strained; meat bits can be picked off the bones and added to the broth, and put into glass storage containers because plastic can impart chemicals to hot food. Bone broth is packed with nutritional components from the bones and cartilage. For a detailed list and definitions of its components this website is helpful: http://www.townsendletter.com/FebMarch2005/broth0205.htm.
Homemade soups have become our version of convenience foods. Once the broth is made and in the freezer or fridge a stockpot full of delicious hearty food is never long in the making.
2 c. grated carrots 2 stalks celery 1 onion (chopped)
2 gallons turkey/chicken broth Any leftover gravy (frozen if soup isn’t prepared immediately) Dill (optional)
Previously cooked or other fresh vegetables can be added if desired Homemade egg noodles (recipe below)
Prepare the broth as described above. Bring the broth back to a boil and add the rest of the ingredients except the homemade egg noodles. When the vegetables are cooked then add the noodles and cook till they are ready. Noodles can be added to the whole pot but sometimes they disintegrate in the leftovers, so many cooks make just enough for the meal and add them fresh when they serve the leftover soup.
Traditionally these noodles were prepared days ahead in order to create a sourdough, easily digestible noodle, but they can be prepared the same day as needed.
HOMEMADE EGG NOODLES
2-3 c. 100% organic wheat flour
1 tsp. sea salt
3 egg yolks
1 c. water (bone broth can also be used)
Sift 2 cups of flour and salt together into a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre of the flour. Mix egg yolks and liquid and pour into the well of flour. Mix all together and add more flour as necessary until the mass forms a ball. The dough should be elastic, but not stiff. Forcing too much flour into it reduces elasticity. Knead and work the dough until the dough no longer sticks to your hands or the work surface. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, turning once to grease the top of the dough, and cover with plastic wrap. Sit at room temperature for two or three days, adding a bit of flour if needed and kneading once or twice a day. After two or three days the dough is ready to roll out and cut into desired shapes. To store the pasta, dust the cut dough with flour and allow to dry at room temperature or in the dehydrator until brittle. To store noodles, either vacuum seal them or place them in a clean, dry glass jar and put in a dry environment.
We are finding that these kinds of traditional cooking methods are reconnecting our family to what real food is all about. We are able to consume nutrient-dense foods affordably and without all the chemicals and preservatives that we found questionable. It is quite a peaceful feeling knowing that most of what we need we can provide for ourselves right here on our farms.
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