Homemade broth is frugal, healthy, and can be seasoned completely to your own taste.
Store-bought broth is expensive, usually contains undesirable ingredients, and contains amazing amounts of salt — even the lower sodium varieties.
Expensive: I do store some store-bought chicken broth, because I do occasionally run out of homemade broth, and it’s a good thing to have in emergency storage. I can occasionally find store brand broth for 2/$1. Considering that it would take at least 16 cans to equal what I get from a single pot of broth, it would cost at least $8 plus tax for what I can make for the cost of the electricity it takes to cook it, and the cost of the water I put in the pot. This is much less than $8, actually more like 25 cents (based on our electricity cost, at about 30 minutes on high, and then 2 – 3 hours on low – medium low)!
Undesirable ingredients: Most store-bought broths, including some “organic” ones, contain ingredients like monosodium glutamate (MSG), autolyzed yeast extract,, disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate, partially hydrogenated oils, hydrolyzed soy protein, hydrolyzed whey protein, hydrolyzed wheat protein… what? What are these things needed for? They’re not (they are there to improve the flavor and texture, which should tell you something). And… if you need a gluten-free or milk-free or MSG-free diet, they could make you ill. Homemade broth contains only what you put into it.
Amazing amounts of salt: Regular Swanson chicken broth has 860mg of sodium per cup of broth. Their lower sodium version has 400mg per cup. Much better, yes, but if you can’t or don’t eat much salt, it’s still too salty. My mom has congestive heart failure, and, therefore, cannot eat much salt. When we use store-bought broth in our cooking, we have to be very careful.
Homemade broth also has an amazing flavor that is much superior to store-bought broth.
So, how do you make your own broth? First of all, you save lots of things you would normally throw away. That is why I did not include the cost of the items you put into the water in my calculation above.
Eating chicken, turkey, rabbit, pork, or any other kind of meat? Save the bones, whether raw or cooked! If it’s been cooked wet for over an hour, like in fricassee, then the bones are pretty much spent and can be discarded. If it’s a rotisserie chicken, baked chicken, etc., it will work great! Preferably, the bones will still have some meat on them. We save some of the skin, too. On a rotisserie or baked chicken, this will have some nice seasoning on it (this will add salt). Chicken skin itself actually does have some good nutrients in it, and the broth won’t have much fat (though the more skin and fat you put in, the more fat you will have in the broth — you can take it off easily, though, after freezing). We pretty much save whatever of it we didn’t eat. We’ll label a gallon bag in the freezer, and add bones to it (chicken to chicken, rabbit to rabbit, etc.) until it is full. We will sometimes combine chicken bones with either turkey or rabbit bones, but that’s all the mixing we do.
Vegetable broth can be made the same way. As you clean the vegetables, any part that is not spoiled, but would be thrown away, can be put into a bag in the freezer. Herb stems, carrot ends, bean ends, potato peels, celery trimmings, anything. Rinse and put them in the bag.
When you have a full gallon bag, you’re ready to make broth (or stock, whichever you call it).
Get out a nice, big soup pot. A dutch oven or something. Add your bones (straight from the freezer is fine) or trimmings, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Watch for foaming at first. Once it’s at a good boil, turn it down to just above a simmer — so that you still see a little bubbling at the top. Cock a lid on top of it to help some of the steam condense back into the pot. Check and stir occasionally over the next few hours. Turn it off, let it cool, and strain it or thoroughly go through it, lifting everything out of the broth with a kitchamajig. Take the meat off of the bones and save it for soups, pot pies, or dumplings (it won’t be good for much else, as most of the flavor is already in the broth).
We usually add onion and garlic powder to the water when we make broth. This allows the broth to be used in pretty much anything, because we add onion and garlic to most things we use broth in. Broth made from cooked bones will have some extra seasoning, but not too much.
We measure out the broth two cups at a time, and pour it into quart freezer bags, squeezing out most of the air. If there’s fat at the top, we make sure to measure to the bottom of the fat where the top of the broth is, rather than including the fat in the measurement. We freeze them laying flat. They don’t get freezer burn.
Some people roast their bones and skin in the oven first, and then make stock. I’ve never tried this, but I’m sure it would give a nice flavor. I’ve seen where some people freeze their broth in water bottles standing up, then they lay them down for stacking in the freezer. If you want to remove nearly all of the fat, just heat the bag in the microwave for about 20 seconds, and then scrape off the fat.
Seafood broth can be made from shrimp, crawfish, or crab shells, or fish bones and fins. The heads and other normally discarded pieces (like the so-called “fat” in crawfish — which is actually hepatopancreatic tissue — that some people discard) will add a lot more flavor, too.
Today, my mom made two big pots of turkey broth, one of chicken broth, and one of rabbit broth. We just finished putting it all up. Mom picked through the bones for the meat, and I bagged the broth. We got something over 30 bags of broth put away, and two bags of meat — one of turkey, and one of chicken and rabbit. The meat actually was enough that we will get at least four meals out of it!