Well, after four straight days in the mid-nineties, the heat has finally broken. A round of storms has rolled in, and that is just fine with me! I've been doing great with my pregnancy so far, but at 31 weeks, the heat and humidity has been just killing me. Stepping out into the 90+ degree weather, I instantly feel all of my energy fizzling away. On top of the heat, it's been an incredibly rainy spring and early summer, which means two not-so-good things: more blood-sucking mosquitoes than I think I've ever seen in my life, and out-of-control weeds that I just can't keep up with. I have a feeling that I'm going to have to adapt the old "just do what you can do and let the rest go attitude" with the garden this summer, which is not an easy pill to swallow (but a necessary one!).
So when the rains started falling this morning, I eagerly donned my gardening gloves and headed outside. After all this crazy heat, weeding in the rain was bliss! Messy, yes, but wonderful. I weeded until I was soaked through and covered in mud, thoroughly enjoying the cooling splash of the light raindrops on my skin. When the storms really started picking up, I headed indoors.
The slight cooling means I can also finally catch up on a few things that are near impossible when it's sweltering: making chicken broth, baking bread, and finally baking one of my favorite spring treats, rhubarb coffee cake, before my last bit of rhubarb goes bad. I simply have not been able to turn on the oven- it's just too hot!
So I thought I'd include a recipe for my "Anything Goes Chicken Broth". It's quite simple- there are no strict rules or ingredients, and it always comes out delicious. I guess really it's more of a chicken AND vegetable broth, and it works well in just about any recipe that calls for either of the two.
Here's how we start: when we cook a whole chicken, I save the back (which doesn't have a ton of meat) and all the bones after we're finished eating, throwing them in a Ziplock bag and into the freezer until I'm ready to make broth. Because we raise our chickens, the best part is that I know my broth will be all-natural and free of nasty chemicals. And it's great to use every part of the chicken for something!
Then when I get to the point where I have some veggies, like carrots, onions, and celery, that are getting old and need to be used up, it's Broth Day. I throw the chicken carcass into a big pot of water, adding any veggies that I have on hand. Onions, garlic, carrots and celery are a must. Keep the skins on the onions and garlic, washing and halving them. Be sure to use the leafy part of the celery, it's the best for adding flavor for broth. I'll even blanch and then freeze that leafy part for later when I have celery, if I'm not ready to make broth.
Other veggies that I often throw in, if I've got them, include some collard greens, Swiss chard, cabbage, and beet greens. Then I add some fresh herbs (or dried if that's all I've got), like thyme, sage, parsley, oregano, basil, and rosemary. Whatever you like, really, just throw it in! Finish with some whole peppercorns and salt, and you're good to go.
I usually let the broth simmer for a few hours, and the longer the better. When it's finished, strain all the chunks and pieces out (I use a collander), and then you can freeze the broth in small Tupperware- type containers. I tried using glass canning jars, only to discover that about half of them cracked in the freezer (they are not meant to withstand freezing), so plastic it must be. I try to freeze the broth in one- or two-cup serving sizes, since that is what I often need for my recipes.
And voila, you have homemade, healthy, yummalicious broth!