Lately, I’ve been giving more thought to traditional foods. Things that I remember my mom and my grandmothers cooking, that somehow over time have become relegated to just memories. And I thought about the fact that often those old recipes and foods, like all “ancient wisdom,” are part of a sort of beneficial knowledge that we should attempt to preserve. We have so many food options available today that we get confused and often forget about basic tenets of healthy eating. We are also very far removed from food in its original form because it is in abundant supply and we don’t have to make the most of it, and use up as much as we can. Milk at stores is pasteurized and homogenized. Meat at the butcher is mostly devoid of bones and fat. Chicken and cow parts that our ancestors considered food (feet, bones, cartilage), we now throw in the trash or feed to pets.
I recalled a dish that my mom would sometimes make for my father when I was little – and still often does – kholodetz. I remember it being this jellied soup-like stuff, made with bones, tripe (stomach), cartilage, some chicken meat and vegetables, and always very pungent with garlic and spices. The sight of it was not appetizing to me in the least, although it actually smelled pretty good. Dad would go crazy over it, usually eating it chilled, with a dab of spicy Russian mustard and a hunk of crusty bread. So I quizzed my mom about it one night – what is it, why do you make it, and most importantly – how does a soup turn to jello???
And what I found out has made me a believer in bone broth. Soup broth made with feet, bones, a whole chicken carcass, you name it – bones and cartilage – is actually immensely good for you. It is full of minerals that your body uses to strengthen your bones and teeth. Imagine that – eating bones for bone health! It’s that ancient wisdom, I tell ya! And the gelatinous consistency – that takes place thanks to all the natural silicon that cooks out of the bones and that your body can use to lubricate your joints! The longer you simmer the broth, the more gelatinous it will get, and the more benefit you will get from of it.
Here is a great article that explains all the benefits of bone broth. There is no set recipe for this, necessarily. I recently made my first batch, with cow feet. I simmered them with onion, garlic, bay leaves, celery, parsley root, and some vinegar for 12 hours (the broth needs to cook on low heat) – started just before breakfast on a Sunday morning, and turned the pot off just after dinnertime – and the results were great. I decided to omit the tripe and to strain out all of the cooked bits and pieces, leaving just the clear, fragrant broth. After I chilled it overnight in the fridge, and removed the fat on top, I was left with a thick jello!!! When warmed up on low heat in a pot, it turns back into a drinkable liquid broth (see image above on the right), so if you are weirded out by the concept of eating soup jello, you can just add it to regular soup broth, or to your rice/quinoa/buckwheat or stew, for extra flavor and thickness. I cut up my jellied bone broth into cubes and froze them for future use.