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Broth or Stock? There’s Really No Debate.

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You can call it bone broth, but most folks know it's still stock.

Kate Elia, owner of Growers and Cooks, a Durham-based company making homemade stocks for home cooks, says customers keep asking her about bone broth. It's become fashionable for those looking for a healing elixir with restorative properties.

"It's a term created for the health-minded subset," Elia says. "They are people typically wanting to consume a liquid for health benefits."

Kate Elia - PHOTO BY BEN MCKEOWN
  • Photo by Ben McKeown
  • Kate Elia

Elia explains that in culinary terms, stock is a cooking liquid made from simmering bones. "You can add aromatics and vegetables such as onion and carrots," she says. The bones cook on a low heat from three to eight hours. Chicken bones normally break down in four to five hours; beef bones take more like eight to nine.

For a bone broth more robust in health benefits, you can simmer meat bones for up to twenty-four hours, says Elia. You "really want to dissolve the bone into the liquid," she says, adding that some people add vinegar to aid in that process.

But that extracts more collagen than flavor. Elia warns that she would never add vinegar to her stock because it sours the taste. Elia, who thinks of herself as the home cooks' new "BFF" wants customers to have a quality stock as a hearty base for soups, risottos, or other dishes.

"I was looking to help home cooks make incredible recipes that are simple. But I know they don't always have four hours to make stock," she says.

She says many store-bought broths and stocks are made out of dehydrated powder, yeast products, and loaded with sodium. Her chicken stock is flavored with pastured raised chicken parts, leeks, carrots, onions, garlic, bay leaf, and black pepper. No salt for her small batches of stock. Growers and Cooks is available at several Triangle-area locations, at the Carrboro and Durham farmers markets, and online.

Then there's broth. Cookbook author Nancie McDermott aptly describes it this way: "Broth is when you intentionally make something you are going to eat." Stock is often just a cooking liquid, whereas broth may be a bowl of chicken soup. At home in Chapel Hill, McDermott likes simmering together "yummy chicken parts," onions, celery, and carrots in water. She then pulls the meat off the bones and returns it to the pot, making a tasty soup.

McDermott, author of Southern Soups and Stews, suggests being choosy before throwing just anything into a soup pot. Don't use cruciferous vegetables in broth, like bok choy, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, or cabbage. Once overcooked, they don't smell or taste good. These ingredients work better in broth bowls, she says, which is pouring hot liquid over slightly cooked vegetables.

Kate Elia of Growers and Cooks in Durham prepares a pumpkin soup with chicken and pork stocks at her home. - PHOTO BY BEN MCKEOWN
  • Photo by Ben McKeown
  • Kate Elia of Growers and Cooks in Durham prepares a pumpkin soup with chicken and pork stocks at her home.

The real key to making a mouthwatering bowl is to layer the flavors, says Jennifer Seay, co-manager of Cary's Whisk kitchen school and a soup master.

A memorable soup needs to be cared for, Seay explains. You can make a butternut squash soup with sautéed onions, broth, and squash. But if you want it to taste better than baby food, it needs more nuanced flavors and textures. Start with the mirepoix. Roast the vegetables first for a depth of flavor. Add some ginger, orange peel, and lemongrass. "It adds bright and spicy notes," Seay says. Because butternut is sweet, she suggests a garnish of toasted pumpkin seeds, crispy pancetta, or a dollop of mascarpone cream.

The upcoming holidays are a great time to make soups for people. "It's such a generous thing to do," Seay says. "It heals and nourishes. It's the ultimate comfort."


Chicken Soup for Every Soul

Local Cookbook Authors Share Stock Tips

To finish off a chicken soup, Nancie McDermott suggests adding scallions or green onions toward the end. Sliced thinly, they prettily float to the top. You want little bites, no big chunks. Use both the white and green parts.

For an Asian touch, McDermott says ginger adds zing to any broth. Slice it into pieces the size of a quarter, and don't peel it (the skin harbors lots of flavor). Remove the ginger before you ladle the soup into bowls. Finish it off with a drizzle of toasted sesame oil, for an incredible aroma and nutty flavor, and chopped cilantro.

To create an Italian version, McDermott suggests throwing in cannellini beans. Rinse them first if you use canned ones. For color and texture, add chopped Swiss chard. Add the stems first; wait to add the chard leaves at the last minute so they quickly wilt without getting soggy. Stir in diced tomatoes and garnish with a little basil at the end. Or heat olive oil in a pan with chopped fresh garlic. Cook for five to ten minutes, sizzling until golden. Spoon that on top of soup.

For Latin flavor, cookbook author Sandra Gutierrez suggests throwing a small, tied bunch of cilantro in the pot for a minute (stems, too) to immerse its aromatics, then removing it. Finish off each bowl with a few drops of hot sauce and a squeeze of lime. Then garnish the soup with fried tortilla strips and cubes of avocado. "Boom," says Gutierrez, author of four cookbooks, including Latin American Street Food. "It livens up the soup. You get that contrast of fresh and cooked."

For a more Caribbean flavor, Gutierrez suggests sautéing a mixture of chopped onions, sweet peppers, and tomatoes in olive oil, then adding it to the soup at the end. "That's called sofrito," she says. "It adds an extra layer of flavor and awakens the palate."

This article appeared in print with the headline "Broth vs. Stock"

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