Meat broths and stocks are nutritious, comforting and easy to swallow and digest.
Good homemade stock can be made by boiling up the bones and cartilage from beef, lamb, chicken or fish with vegetables, herbs and spices. Nothing goes to waste as you can drink the broth or use it to enrich soups, stews, sauces and rice dishes. Meat stocks concentrate the flavours and nutrients from its ingredients, and consumed on a daily or regular basis, many people believe they offer protection from a variety of health complaints.
There is an old wives tale that traditional chicken soup is a useful cold remedy and natural decongestant which may yet turn out to be true. In the 12th century, the Jewish physician Moses Maimonides prescribed the ‘chicken soup cure’ as a treatment for colds and asthma, declaring that chicken soup “is recommended as an excellent food as well as medication.” Although there is only limited scientific evidence for this, a study in 2000 found chicken soup did indeed reduce upper respiratory symptoms and supported the immune system to fight a cold.
The soup used in the study contained chicken, onions, sweet potatoes, parsnips, turnips, carrots, celery stems, parsley, salt and pepper. It appears that no single compound on its own is responsible for loosening congestion. The combination of all ingredients working together is likely to be the therapeutic factor. Minerals from the bones, cartilage, marrow and vegetables are easy to absorb and chicken contains the amino acid cysteine which is released into the soup, aiding the breakdown of mucous in the respiratory tract.
Meat-based stocks, broths or bouillons are much more than just cold remedies. Records from 18th century Germany reveal that meat stocks were used for wasting diseases, dysentery and hyperacidity of the stomach. During the slow simmering process, the cartilage from joints and the marrow from bones are gradually incorporated into the broth. Cartilage contains collagen which has been used to treat digestive disorders for centuries and is also believed to improve skin, maintain a healthy gut lining, promote wound healing, and strengthen connective tissue and bones.
Bone marrow is the soft substance found inside bones and contains protein, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals as well as important immune factors. It appears to have been much prized by our ancestors in the Stone Age. They did not waste food resources and went to great lengths to break open the bones of their prey and feast on the rich marrow.
Adding vinegar, acidic wine or lemon juice to your stock pot at the beginning of cooking draws minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium into the broth (add 2 tbsp per 2 lbs of bones). Beef and lamb bones contain more bone marrow than chicken and provide a tastier broth if roasted in the oven before cooking. Once chilled, meat stocks set as a soft jelly and can be kept in the fridge for up to a week, or frozen for up to 6 months. Commercially available soups, bouillons and stock cubes are best avoided as they are generally high in sodium and additives.