Whenever I think back to the times when I have felt the most whole, the most well, the most real, they all carry the same core: taking care of others in concrete ways, most often through food.
My heart hums at the memory of the sun on my back and speckles reaching through the brim of my hat as I dug up the ghost roots of stubborn weeds in the North Carolina soil; or the numb feeling in my knuckles driving back in the open van past mint fields and broken houses after a day of pulling suckers off of corn; or the look of delight and surprise on Nola's face upon discovering that she had made dinner all on her own.
So many foods store memories from when we last ate them or when we got to share them for the first time and my memories surrounding chicken broth are particularly precious to me.
It was my senior year of college and I found myself in a small house with three other women, a very large kitchen, and the freedom to cook for myself. At the time Katie Jay lived a solid thirty minute drive away but each week I boiled a whole chicken, conserved the broth, and sent her home with large jars of it. At the time she could eat little else.
It became part of our rhythm and I got very good at dressing up dry, boiled chicken. I often over-boiled the meat in order to get as much nourishment into her as possible. With her further away and as sick as she was, it was something for me to do; some way to feed and warm and care.
Months into this being our habit, Katie Jay's housemate came across her warming a mug of the ever-present broth. She watched for a moment and then burst out with "How do you do that? YOu always have chicken broth but you never have chicken. Do you have a chicken broth fairy?"
To date it is the title that I hold with most pride.
We still keep broth as a staple of our diet, though now we tend to make bone broth in the crock pot allowing us to enjoy the nutrients while still cooking the meat in sundry delicious ways. We always buy our meat bone-in so much of our broth is simply using what would have otherwise been thrown away. We've also been known to toss already-cooked bones into the mix along with raw ones. I get the most amazing knuckle bones from my butcher at $1.50 a pound.
Here's my method:
makes about 2 quarts
1 lb raw bones
4 quarts water
Place in your crock pot.
Set on high.
Forget it for 24 hours.
Strain the broth into jars.
Pop in the fridge.
Compost the bones.
Use as the base for soups or season with salt, pepper, or your favorite spices and herbs to drink on its own.