Vote with your fork to save our broken food system

vote-with-your-fork

The simple desire to feed my family wholesome, nutritious and delicious food was the driving force that led me first to cooking and later into gardening. The more I learned, the more I could do─and wanted to do─for myself. That compulsion led me down the rabbit hole in pursuit of a more sustainable life, and eventually led me to farming and beekeeping.

I’ve been thinking about food a lot lately; ever since I saw Michael Pollan’s new Netflix series “Cooked“. For those who do not recognize the name, Michael Pollan is synonymous with the local food movement; he is the award-winning author of a number of books about our relationship with nature via food and agriculture. “The Omnivore’s Dilemma“, and “In Defense of Food” are two of his popular titles, both of which sit on my bookshelves.

Pollan says:

We’re beginning to wake up to the astonishing realization that we have to think about─not just feeding ourselves─but feeding all those other selves that we move through life together with.”

vote-with-your-fork-to-save-our-broken-food-systemThe food system is broken

The bald truth of the matter is the food system is broken. Health care costs, climate change, energy independence, and security threats can all be attributed to this flawed system and most people don’t even realize it’s a problem.

According to a report entitled “The Future of Food & Farming” published in January 2011 by the British government’s Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, the world’s food system is failing half the people on Earth. Over a billion people on the planet are hungry and starving, one billion people are suffering malnourishment from lack of a proper diet, and still another billion people are “substantially overconsuming”, creating a public health epidemic.

Our food system has been consolidated through industrialization into a few supermarkets and fast-food companies; these corporations have set new standards for the food industry─requiring that food is produced with high standards for quality, but never abiding by workers’ rights. According to the USDA─American farmers are currently receiving only 19-cents for every dollar consumers spend on food. The majority of farm laborers are working 12 and 14 hour days in hazardous conditions for an average of $6.18 according to the US Department of Labor, without benefits or job security.

To provide the meat available at the supermarket livestock has suffered horrific conditions at concentrated feedlot operations (CFOs) where practices like cramming laying hens together into cages so small that the birds are sometimes driven to cannibalize their cagemates is routine. The USDA’s recommended treatment for this behavior is to snip the beaks off hens with hot knives without anesthetic. Similarly, to prevent hogs in CFOs from biting the tails off each other, the USDA recommends producers snip tails off piglets without anesthetic using a pair of pliers.

The current system requires copious amounts of fossil fuels in the form of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and fuel to transport these foods worldwide. As a result the agricultural sector is actually contributing more greenhouse gas emissions than our transportation sector.

Furthermore, we’ve seen a tragic loss of skills, tradition, and community associated with the food system. Many people don’t even know how to cook the variety of foods available to them. In a survey performed in 2015 Americans spend an average of 6.5 hours per week preparing meals, while people in India and the Ukraine spend 13.2 and 13.1 hours.

How did we get here?

In 1790, before the onslaught of the Industrial Revolution, 95% of the population lived in rural areas of the country. Over the course of the 19th century many people moved to urban areas for work; by the early 1900s 40% of Americans lived in cities. To meet the growing urban demands food producers increased output, utilizing industrialized methods of mass production that radically transformed the food system.

Roosevelt’s advisers believed the Great Depression was in part caused by the high production of farmers. The supply was greater than the demand resulting in a drop in prices. To reestablish a balance the administration crafted the New Deal, which offered payments to farmers in exchange for taking a portion of their land out of production.

World wars I and II also had an impact on the American food system when civilians were required to modify their eating habits to consume more fresh foods like produce, eggs, and dairy─foods that could not be shipped to the warfront. To feed the army the food industry began developing new processed food replacements for soldiers; when the war ended the food industry then sought new markets for those products calling them “convenience foods” and targeting the American housewife. Since then the market for processed food products has grown exponentially.

Post-war, soldiers returned to their farms with new knowledge and skills. New technologies and the availability of cheap fossil fuel (the key ingredient in synthetic fertilizers and pesticides) led to a tremendous increase in the productivity of the American farmers. Yet serious challenges drove millions of farmers to seek work in town or in the city. Over the next couple of decades farms were consolidated and became more specialized. In 1900 farms produced at least five of the seventeen major crop commodities, but in 1992 most farms were only producing two.

The processing of food has continued to be an extremely profitable endeavor. Growth of these large-scale, vertically integrated food production businesses was encouraged by US agricultural policy and market competition. Bankers monetized the world’s food supply, making food just another thing that could be speculated on for a profit.

Note: a vertical production business is when the supply chain of a company is also owned by that company – ie: Tyson chicken.

We now have this industry which is deliberately trying to sabotage the practice of cooking. These corporations go to great lengths to convince us that cooking is such a difficult, time consuming and messy task that you’d be better off letting them do the work for you. For the food industry, cooking traditional foods at home is an obstacle to their product. There is a vested interest in destroying food culture altogether.

To cook or not to cook?

Our response to that question comes with consequences. Cooking has become optional, we’re no longer required to cook and whether they don’t have the time, the skill, or the inclination many people are choosing not to cook. Yet every time we eat we’re casting a vote and we have to accept the consequences of these votes. The importance of cooking should not be overlooked.

In the “Fire” episode of Michael Pollan’s “Cooked” series he states:

We are the species who cooks. No other species cooks; when we learned to do this, that is when we became “human”.

According to Richard Ringham, a biologist at the University of Berkeley in California, humans are biologically adapted to eating our food cooked. Homo erectus is the ape that has become human with smaller mouths and teeth than apes, and weak muscles for chewing.

Compared to our ape ancestors our brain size increased significantly, and this organ requires a tremendous amount of energy. It was essential that we save our energy for brain functions rather than for chewing and digesting. Ringham says that humans evolved when an ape learned to cook. Cooking relieves us of the burden of chewing a lot.

Human culture has evolved and advanced technologically through cooking. For example: cooking with water. Because you cannot cook with liquids until you have pots that can withstand fire, ten thousand years ago we developed clay-fired pottery. Suddenly we were able to do amazing new things with our food. We could mix flavors, use herbs and spices. There were many foods we couldn’t even eat until we had fire and water to soften them. That was how we came to have cuisine.

maine-fiddleheads
Fiddleheads are a spring delicacy here in Maine that we look forward to every year!

Food and cooking makes us who we are. Entire cultures are developed around the foods and flavors available in the region, and lend themselves naturally to tradition. Here in Maine lobster, potatoes and fiddleheads are just a few of the foods that make up our food culture, while in India, who is known for its’ spice trade, their cuisine is characterized by the extensive use of various Indian spices and fresh produce.

There are lots of things we’ve outsourced to corporations─that we no longer do for ourselves. I’m perfectly happy to allow corporations to make my toilet paper, but cooking is not like that. Cooking draws us together. It fosters love and a sense of community. We all have powerful memories of being cooked for, and those acts of generosity and love run deep within us.

Food is not just a thing or a product. Food is the direct relationship we have with other species in nature and with the world around us. We are also a part of nature and we have a part to play in the food chain.

Pollan goes on to say:

the cook stands in a very interesting relationship to the world. On one side he looks toward people and community, family─giving this incredible gift of love which is the meal. But on the other side, you’re looking to nature, working with plants and animals. And you reconnect to the fact that the industry doesn’t feed us. Nature does.”

Waking up

The local food movement is growing. Even in the face of the pervasive financialization of food, nearly 80% of Americans say that sustainability is a priority to them when purchasing food. There are 8400 farmers’ markets listed in the USDA’s National Farmers’ Market Directory, and even mainstream supermarkets market organic and local products. Sales of organic food is approaching $40-billion a year, and while “local food” is harder to quantify, statistics gauge that around $7-billion and north of $50-billion in economic activity that is in one way or another opposed to the conventional food system.

The global food crisis can only be solved if we can get the bankers out of the system and begin to regulate the $648-trillion global derivatives that have made food into a speculative buy. We need the government to stop subsidizing the major crops and we need a level playing field for organic and small farmers.

These changes need to come from the coalescence of a broad-based political movement based on reforming the food system, but that has yet to happen.

Vote with your fork!

Every day, 3 times a day, we can vote for the kind of food system we want through our food choices. By making the choice to eat real food─food that hasn’t been processed beyond recognition─we’re taking a stand against the industrial system. We can opt to purchase ingredients and make the time to actually cook a meal; we can learn to cook more things for ourselves or to cook more often. And then we can share that that independence with friends and family to spur the movement on.

Once we get used to cooking for ourselves we can take it a step further and through our food choices we can vote for the kinds of farms we want to support. We can give our money in support of an industrial farm thousands of miles away with farming practices we don’t want to think about, or we can choose to shop with farms closer to home, get to know our farmer and how he or she produces the carrots or the herbed-chevre we love so much.

We have the power to make a difference and it starts right at home. Making the choice to buy real food doesn’t mean it will always be a perfect meal; it just means it will be real food. Give it a try; vote with your fork!

References & Recommended Reading

Michael Pollan Articles – via Michael Pollan’s website; peruse the archives of his articles here.

Bet the Farm: How Food Stopped Being Food – a book review via Sustainable Table.

Our Broken Global Food System – article from Scientific American.

How Industrial Food Impacts Your Health – via Sustainable Table.

Six Reasons Why Food is a Really Big Deal – via The Conversation.

A Sustainable Food System Could Be a Trillion-Dollar Global Windfall – recommended reading via the Huffington Post.

Big Food Strikes Back: Why did the Obamas fail to take on corporate agriculture? – NYTimes article written by Michael Pollan.

Talking pollinators at the Common Ground Fair

At 2pm on Saturday, September 24th I will be in Unity at MOFGA’s annual Common Ground Fair to give a talk Ive dubbed “Pollinator Conservation through Agriculture”. *Insert excited squeal here.*

pollinator conservation at common ground fairThere’s a decided interest from the public in pollinators, I’m excited to be able to say. You see it in the news, in the increasing numbers of backyard-beekeepers, at your local garden center, and we see it in the Call Center at Johnny’s Selected Seeds. The representatives who answer the phone there are getting more calls every year from gardeners and farmers wanting to grow plants for pollinators. People want to help, they want to raise pollinator-friendly plants that offer food and habitat for bees, and they want to reduce the risk of pesticide poisoning to bees.

I’m sure the fact that I’m a bee-nut was not the main reason Johnny’s hired me, lol. That was just an added bonus─or a peculiarity they decided was worth tolerating. Lol, I think I’ve grown on them though, they asked me to represent the company by giving a presentation at the Common Ground Fair. Can you believe it?!

Actually I think when Amy LeClaire first mentioned it to me I was horrified and flabbergasted: “But what will I talk about!?” This is a different scale of audience then the Somerset County 4H and the Madison or East Madison Grange. It’s not the Solon Summer Rec Program or the kindergarten class at the Carrabec Community School in North Anson. We’re talking about the Common Ground Fair─the fair of fairs, a revelry for sustainable living, a festival to pay homage to Maine’s agricultural roots.

Amy looked at me patiently, spreading her hands out before her as if the answer should be obvious and said, “Bees?”

Of course! Duh! So I dubiously said yes, I’d do it, and set about revamping one of my favorite presentations about pollinator conservation.

pollinator conservation through agriculture
Monarch butterflies are becoming more rare, but we had one at Runamuk this season.

This presentation first covers why bees and pollinators are in peril, and then discusses specific actions gardeners and farmers can take to benefit and even increase their local populations of pollinators. All of the information I present is garnered from credible sources such as the Xerces Society, the Pollinator Partnership, the NRCS, and more. I’ll throw in some personal anecdotes of my beekeeping misadventures along the way just to keep things interesting. Along with my presentation I’ll have lots of handouts available, as well as book and website recommendations for further learning.

It’s been 7 years since my first hive─when I was suddenly overcome by this fascination with pollinators. Come spend an hour with me, let me share with you my love for bees, and learn what you can do to support local pollinators in your backyard, in the garden or on the farm.

Mark your calendars or fair guides:

Pollinator Conservation Through Agriculture
Saturday, September 24th – 2pm at MOFGA’s Common Ground Fair in Unity, ME
Railcar Speakers’ Tent

Saturday’s soap workshop

soap-making workshop

After a number of mornings last week up at 4am to work on a new power-point presentation for soap-making, Saturday’s workshop went off without a hitch. I am relieved and ecstatic.

soap-making workshop
Chatting while stirring ingredients on the stove.

2 women came to the farm Saturday morning to learn a new skill. We began with a tour of the farm and apiary, I introduced the ladies to the chickens and turkeys─and Michael the goose─and then we ventured inside to make ourselves comfortable at the dinning room table to go through what I refer to as “the book-work”.

We covered the hows and whys of soap-making, I passed out handouts for the ladies to take back home with them and answered their questions before we moved on to actually making a batch of soap.

It was a very relaxed atmosphere and we chatted as we measured out ingredients, adding them to the kettle on the stove.

I offered up lunch while we waited for the temperatures of the oils and the lye to come in range of each other. It was nothing fancy─ham sandwiches with lettuce on oatmeal bread from the Apple Tree Firehouse Bakery in Madison. Simple fare on this simple farm.

We made blueberry scented soap and added some Indigo powder that I happened to have on hand. I hoped to make blue soap, but because some of the oils I use in my recipe are yellow, along with the yellow beeswax, Runamuk soap is very difficult to color. Anything I add to the batch to color the soap is affected by the naturally yellow coloring, and so on Saturday we ended up making green blueberry-scented beeswax soap. Oh well.

So that I would be able to show these women how to cut and stamp the soap too, I’d made a batch ahead, and I pulled the soap-loaves out onto the kitchen table and proceeded to demonstrate the process once or twice before handing over the soap cutter. As she sliced the bars off a soap-loaf, one of these ladies said that it was “a very satisfying feeling”, and she’s quite right.

I let each of my guests pick a bar of cured soap off the shelves in the soap-room, and I’m sure they left feeling equally satisfied with their time spent at Runamuk Acres. One of them even posted this on her facebook page yesterday: “Thank you so much Samantha Burns for opening up your kitchen for a soap making workshop. Runamuk Farm is lovely.”

I think that’s a good indication of a job well-done. I’m very pleased with the workshops in general. I like teaching and sharing knowledge and experience. I like the format I’ve set up here on the farm, and I hope to bring more people to the farm in the future─to make it a place of learning. Sure it was just two people, but it’s a great start and I’m happy with it.

Porcupine on the farm

problems with porcupine on the homestead

We have a bit of a problem on our farm. A porcupine problem–to be specific. With an overabundant population they’re devastating the trees of our forest and repeatedly coming into contact with our dogs. But what can you do about porcupine problems on your homestead or farm?

problems with porcupine on the farmDisclaimer: This post contains images that may be too graphic for some readers, please be advised.

Problems with porcupine

When we moved out of town and onto the property last winter we fully expected that the dogs would occasionally encounter a porcupine. We’ve had some selective cutting done on the property to improve the health of the forest and the forester told us that we had an overabundant population of porcupine here. In fact–we have so many that they’re putting the health of our forest at risk. So we knew that there are lots of the prickly little beasts out here.

trouble with porcupine on the homestead
Poor Willow with a muzzle of quills as we wait for the veterinarian’s office to open.

Still–we weren’t prepared for that first night that Ava came home with a handful of quills in her muzzle. I felt awful! I felt so bad that our dog was in pain, and ashamed that we let her run loose, allowing her to encounter a porcupine.

Of course that’s what the dogs want–roaming the farm, protecting the property–it’s how they’re happiest. And it’s what we have them for–you know-apart from their loving companionship.

Keith’s dog Ava was a beagle-jack russle terrier cross and about the size of jack russle (she had the terrier’s energy, and the beagle’s howling bark–it was a great combination, if you catch my drift), so she was small and we could easily handle her and remove the half-dozen offending quills.

Little Ava died this summer–killed by the local fox. We still miss her terribly. Read more about Ava here.

It wasn’t long after that when my girl Willow turned up on the front steps early one morning with a nose full of quills. Then the new puppy, Teyla (pronounced: “Tay-lah”) came in one night looking more like a pin-cushion than a dog, two weeks ago Willow came in again with a nose and mouth full of quills, and then last week both the dogs came in with quills.

We’ve spent more than $800 on quill-removal this summer.

About the porcupine

Have you ever seen a porcupine up close? They’re incredibly cute! We love wildlife–even porcupines.

These creatures are herbivorous with a diet that depends on the season–in the summer porcupines will eat shrubs, crops, wildflowers, clover, leaves and acorns, tender twigs, roots, seeds and buds; while in the winter they’ll eat needles and tree bark, and will dine on hemlock, birch, beech, aspen (which is known as “popple” or “poplar” here in Maine), elm, oak, pine, willow, spruce and fir.

Also referred to as the “quill-pig”, porcupines are actually a rodent–the 3rd largest of all the rodents–grow to be 18 to 23-inches long and can weigh up to 28-pounds. With 30,000 quills covering their back, sides, and tails, they can resemble a little armored ball moving slowly through the forest.

dealing with porcupine on the farmThey are primarily nocturnal animals and make their dens in hollow trees or beneath downed logs, under a rock ledge or in the abandoned burrow of another animal.

Contrary to popular belief, porcupines cannot “throw” their quills–the animal has to actually come into contact with the porcupine for this defensive measure to be effective. Nevertheless, it is an extremely effective defense, and very few animals have figured out the secret to eating porcupines. Those that have discovered that flipping the porcupine over to get at it’s tender belly include fishers, wolverines, bobcats, coyotes, wolves, bears, mountain lions, golden eagles, and the great horned owl.

As humanity continues to expand it’s population local wildlife populations continue to be affected, which means that ecosystems are thrown out of balance.

In our area in particular, many of the porcupine’s predators have been pushed out of this habitat. We no longer see wolverines, wolves, or mountain lions. Locals speculate whether or not the fisher and bobcat still reside in some of the more remote areas of the region, and black bears, coyotes, and the great horned owl are significantly reduced in numbers here.

All this results in the porcupine population becoming out of balance, as we are now seeing.

Warning: Graphic images below.

What can you do about porcupines?

Dogs are not the only animals at-risk of porcupine encounters on the farm or homestead. Horses, donkeys, cows, and more, can all come into contact with a quill-pig. I am by no means an expert–so when we began to have problems with porcupines here at Runamuk we turned to those whom we knew would have the answers. Below are a few suggestions based on our experiences this summer.

Talk to a forester, biologist, or game warden.

Find out more about the porcupine population in your area. Some states don’t have such an abundance as we have here in Maine, and in some states porcupines may be rare and even protected. If you live in an area with a healthy or overabundant population, it’s a good idea to walk the property with one of these “experts” to see how the porcupine population is affecting your property specifically.

what to do with porcupineLook up state regulations

If you contact your local game warden about your porcupine population and determine that you do in fact have a problem, you can ask him or her at the same time about the laws regarding hunting or trapping porcupine. Here in Maine–as it turns out–there is no closed season and no bag-limit on porcupine; you can find more details about Maine hunting regulations here.

Have a good local veterinarian

Many veterinarian services offer after-hours emergency vet-care. It’s a good idea to keep their number handy and know their policies regarding emergency vet service. For example–our local veterinarian requires that pets be a current patient to receive emergency care; all the more reason to make sure your pets have been seen by the vet and are up-to-date on their shots. If your vet does not offer emergency care, find out where the nearest emergency animal hospital is and add their number to your address book.

Do NOT try to relocate wild animals

It’s a popular misconception that troublesome critters can simply be trapped and relocated. This may be the simplest course of action for the homesteader or farmer, but it can be disastrous for the animal. Relocation can be stressful–putting the creature at risk for disease or predation. The relocated animals have no prior knowledge of this new home, which is a huge disadvantage in finding food and shelter. What’s more, they lack the knowledge of existing animal hierarchies and may even spread disease. For more details about relocating wildlife check out this article from the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Learn to tolerate wildlife

Humanity relies on the biodiversity of our planet for our own sustainability. Whether we appreciate it or not, we can set off a whole chain of events when we attempt to alter nature and Her natural patterns. Every creature plays an important role on our planet and that’s why it’s important to learn tolerance for wildlife and–even if we may not appreciate a particular creature–accept that it is an important part of life on Earth just the same. And so I accept too that occasionally one of the dogs are going to come home stuck with porcupine quills, it is a part of life in rural Maine.

Hook your dogs at night

Willow really loathes being hooked or leashed at all, but with so many porcupines causing so much trouble for us this year, we’ve taken to hooking the dogs at night. It may not eliminate the problem altogether, but since porcupines are primarily nocturnal creatures, hooking the dogs will significantly reduce quilling incidents and save us from making such frequent trips to the veterinarian’s office.

Porcupine stew

We know that we have far too many porcupine for our ecosystem to sustain here at Runamuk, and since there is no closed season for hunting porcupine Keith borrowed a .22 rifle from his father. So far his porcupine hunts have been instigated by the dogs’ porcupine encounters and he’s killed 3, but with this most recent incident he has begun to take a more pro-active stance on porcupine hunting.

Note: Keith suggests that if you’re going to attempt to skin a porcupine, ensure that you have a pair of thick gloves to prevent getting stuck with the quills in the process.

how to make porcupine stewOnce we’ve killed the animal, we’re not going to waste it–and so we’ve had 3 porcupine dinners this summer. But how to you cook porcupine???

I had to look it up online for the answer–and most results said to roast it in the oven with root vegetables like potatoes and carrots. So I did. And that was the chewiest meat I’ve ever tasted. Keith wouldn’t even eat it because it still looked too much like a porcupine, and because–having been raised on meat from the grocery store–we’re still adjusting to butchering our own. There’s an element of self-doubt that comes with acquiring these new skills, you’re wondering if you did it right, worrying about what could happen if you did it wrong. But the kids exclaimed with gusto that it was “the best porcupine they’d ever tasted!”

The second one I stewed as you would an old hen or a gamey rooster, and that was delicious. The flavor and texture of the meat was something of a cross between roast beef and rabbit, with that distinctive gamey flavor. I seasoned it with rosemary, sage, salt and pepper–a bay leaf would have been good too.

I was so proud of that stew! Made almost entirely with ingredients grown on this farm–carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic–and, of course, the porcupine. The only ingredients not from the farm were the vegetable stock I boiled the porcupine in (to save time I used some I’d purchased at the grocery store), and the celery, which I have yet to master growing.

Practicing good stewardship

So that’s what we’re doing about our porcupine troubles here at Runamuk. We have a pretty high tolerance for animal-interactions anyway, since we’re so passionate about nature and wildlife. Yet maintaining proper biodiversity of all the species in this habitat is our responsibility as stewards of this land, so until such time as the porcupine population is reduced to a level that the forest can maintain, we will continue to hunt them. And because we are loathe to squander the animal’s life–we will eat them, feeding our family so that we may continue our work here–reclaiming this old farm.

Have you had trouble with porcupine? Got tips about cooking them? Feel free to share in the comments section below!

 

DIY broths from kitchen scraps

finished diy vegetable broth

diy broth from kitchen scrapsI’m one of those people who really loves soups and stews.  A good soup simmering on the stove makes a house feel like home, it offers comfort during stressful times, and it warms you through and through when it’s bitterly cold outside.  In addition to all that–soups offer lots of health benefits since they’re typically made with fresh, low-fat ingredients, contain a minimal amount of salt and extra fats, and provide vitamins like A and C.  And since nothing makes a great soup like a good stock base, I’ve long-since learned to make my own broths to use in my soups and stews.

frozen kitchen scraps for diy vegetable broth
My collection of frozen kitchen scraps.

 

Hint: Making your own broth doesn’t have to cost extra; each time you peel or trim vegetables put the scraps in a ziplock bag in the freezer rather than adding them to your compost bin.  Vegetables store the majority of their flavor–not to mention a host of vitamins–in their skins, so they make superior broths.

What to put in your broth

You can use practically anything to make a delicious broth–from the traditional to the unusual–making soup lends itself to experimentation, so feel free to get creative and try new things.  Save celery leaves and ends, potato and carrot peelings, mushroom and garlic bits, the outer cabbage leaves, lettuce and other greens, uneaten bits of corn, peas, mashed potatoes, squash, rutabaga, beans, rice and other grains–they will all add valuable nutrients and flavor.

The same goes for meats–each time you serve a roast, put the bones, skin and fat trimmings into a designated freezer bag for later use.  Or use the most inexpensive cuts to make a beef broth, use the bones of a roasted chicken, or save the meaty ham bone from your traditional baken ham dinner to make the best pea soup ever!  Be sure to save the broth in the bottom of your roasting pan to add to the mix when you are ready to make your meat-based broth.

How to make the broth

use a meaty ham-bone to make pea soup
I like a good pea soup once in a great while, so I save the bone from a baked ham for just such an occasion!

When you have saved enough scraps to make a good batch of broth place everything in a large stock pot, fill with water and cover.  Bring the stock to a boil for the first few minutes to ensure that any bacteria is killed, then reduce the temperature to a simmer.

Simmer your stock at a low temperature anywhere from 6-8 or 12-24 hours.  The larger the bones the longer you should cook them, until all the marrow and flavor has been extracted.  Then strain the broth to remove then bones–remove any meat remaining on the bone or bones and save for later; for a vegetable broth you will again strain to remove the vegetable peelings, then put the stock through a sieve to remove any remaining bits.  At this point I prefer to put the stock back into the pot and continue to simmer the broth to boil it down, which intensifies the flavor–but this is a personal preference and optional.

Storing your homemade broth

finished diy vegetable broth
Finished vegetable broth cooling on the stove.

 

Once you have achieved the desired flavor with your broth or stock, remove it from the heat and allow it to cool completely before storing.  You can keep your broth in the refrigerator for 2-3 days, or store it in quart-sized ziplock bags and freeze it.  You can even can it to preserve it long-term, and keep it in your pantry or cold-storage facility for later use.

 Conclusion

Making your own broth is a great way to save money; by re-purposing those discarded kitchen scraps you’ll be able to stretch your food budget even further.  Not to mention you’ll have some fabulous broth to make fantastic meals with when you’re finished.  Start saving your kitchen scraps today and give it a try!

Have you made your own broth before?  Have any tips, tricks or hints you’d like to share?  Feel free to leave a comment below!  🙂