My family might be getting a little tired of eating soup. Every time we finish one batch, I begin another, and I plan to continue this habit through the winter. Not only is soup warming and easy to prepare, but it is also incredibly nourishing and full of health benefits.
Soups, especially those made of bone broths — prepared by boiling the bones of chicken, beef, fish, or any other animal — are part of traditional diets in almost every culture. Easy to digest and nutrient-dense, these brothy soups promote healing on many different levels.
One way soup can heal is through the many minerals that are released from the bones as the broth is created: calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, silicon and sulfur, to name a few, as well as collagen and glycine. Bone broth also contains glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, which are often promoted as supplements to reduce arthritis, inflammation and joint pain.
Another reason to eat soup made from bone broth is that it helps to restore a healthy gut lining for combating food sensitivities, and promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in the digestive tract, thanks to the gelatin and collagen found in this miracle liquid. Researchers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center found that the amino acids made in the preparation of chicken stock improved digestion and reduced inflammation in the respiratory system. Additional health benefits include increased detoxification, stronger immune system function, boosted metabolism and healthy skin. It’s more than just a comfort food — it is medicine.
Though there are trendy bone broth shops popping up in cities around our country, your best bet locally is to make it yourself, ideally from the bones and meat of grass-fed or pastured animals. In our house, we tend to make chicken bone broth from the raw carcasses or already-roasted bones, but it is very likely that you can find other animal bones by asking around at the farmers market or anyone you know who raises livestock for meat.
Making bone broth is as simple as placing the bones, meat, animal fat, and any vegetables you have on hand, like carrots, onions and garlic, in a large stock pot and covering with water. Add a bit of apple cider vinegar and let sit for an hour or so. The vinegar helps to draw out the minerals, making an extra-nutritious soup. Bring to a boil, skim the top, and then simmer for 24-72 hours. I have now moved to making bone broth in our Instant Pot electric pressure cooker. You can do so for 2 hours at high pressure, with a natural steam release.
After you strain out the bones and veggies, you are left with an amazingly rich, nutrient-dense food and medicine. It is the perfect base for any soup you might want to make, or to simply have on its own with a pinch of salt. I find it very nourishing, especially when I’m sick, to just drink a cup of plain broth.
But, I also love flavorful soups. It took me a couple years to figure out how to make delicious soups, but now it feels simple and the template is very often the same no matter what type of soup you’re making. The first step is to sauté plenty of onions. Add garlic a minute or so before you put your broth in. Add veggies to cook until tender, meat, noodles, or anything else you might like. Season with plenty of salt, pepper, or other spices you like. Here’s one of my favorites that is great for this time of year.
Butternut squash soup with apples
1-2 onions, chopped
2-6 cloves garlic, diced
1 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed
2-3 apples, peeled, cored and cubed
1-2 quarts bone broth
1 can coconut milk
salt and pepper, to taste
Sauté onions until they are translucent and just beginning to brown. Peel your squash, cut it in half, and scoop out the seeds before cutting it into cubes. Next, add the squash and chopped apples and sauté for a few minutes. Add the garlic and cook for just 1-2 minutes. Add the bone broth and coconut milk. Cook until the squash and apples are easy to mash with a fork. Use an immersion blender (an amazing addition to anyone’s kitchen) or a regular blender to purée the soup until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. This soup is also delicious paired with some sautéed greens like kale or chard on the side.
Lindsay Courcelle, CMT is a myofascial release therapist, part-time vegetable farmer, and natural health advocate. Email her at alchemyMFR@gmail.com.