As promised, I’ll share my secrets to making a soup base from chicken or turkey, that is both low salt and also deliciously rich and eye-pleasing. Well, there aren’t really that many secrets to it, but a few extra “ingredients” can go a long way in stocking your freezer with plenty of tasty soup stock in the months ahead.
When my husband was told quite a few years ago he had to take high-blood pressure medicine and go on a low-salt diet, I knew it was time to get serious about not using pre-processed canned or packaged items, including any form of chicken bullion. That went right out of the cupboard. Many years before that, though, I did make homemade chicken broth, but on a very irregular basis, and half the time I would forget about those containers in the freezer until they were so ice-crystal laden and freezer burnt that the thought of using them made me cringe.
I have always loved reading cookbooks, almost as a hobby in itself. One year after college, I received — probably from my mother — a boxed set of cookbooks by Jeff Smith, also known as The Frugal Gourmet. I think he came up in the news in years past about some unsavory behavior, but I didn’t follow it that close, and refuse to taint the image of his delightful shows on TV and the wonderful hours of reading his stories accompanying the recipes. But I do remember two great tips from his books.
You know those pesky onions skins that wreak havoc with your garbage disposal? Why throw them out? If you add those onion skins to the pot, they help develop a beautiful yellow base to your broth. That doesn’t look low-salt at all, does it now? Just wash the onion before chopping it, and don’t bother peeling the skin. Throw it into the water! Regarding celery, don’t chop off those leaves on the end either. The celery leaves have just as much flavor (or more) as the stalk. Toss them right in, too. Those two hints really led me to the start of my journey of making some great homemade broth.
My next tip regards garlic. Freshly pressed garlic has a wonderful aroma and taste, but the jars of pre-minced garlic in oil have a place of their own. The juice from the oil is packed with flavor that heightens the otherwise blandness of a low-to-no-sodium broth. When making the broth, in addition to adding the minced garlic (which will get strained off in the end), add some of the juice from the jar. This will add a depthness of flavor to your broth that no salt could replace.
My last tip is Mrs. Dash. There are some wonderful flavors available now of these no-salt herb substitutes, and I guarantee you will not be disappointed with this in your cooking. This brand even has a Southwest Chipotle flavor! We use many of them liberally in our cooking now.
I’ll be completely vague with the amounts, because you can use this recipe whether you are using an entire chicken or turkey carcass, or just poaching a couple of chicken breasts for an enchilada recipe. Just learn to eyeball the amounts you think you will need depending on how much you are making. Half the fun of cooking is experimenting. OK, on to the recipe.
Low-Salt Chicken (or Turkey) Broth
Chicken or Turkey bones, with or without meat on them
Yellow onion, with skins
Carrots (no don’t peel them, just wash them)
Celery, with the leaves
Minced garlic from a jar, plus some of the oil
Mrs. Dash Garlic and Herb Blend
Fresh or dried parsley
Salt (if any) and pepper
In a pot large enough to handle the meat and/or bones, cover with water to a half inch to an inch over them. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer about 40 minutes, skimming the top of the pot of any froth and fat that may rise to the surface. When done, drain the broth through a colander or sieve. Don’t forget to put another pot or receptacle under it during this process. I’ll never forget the time I put the colander in the sink without that, and poured my entire efforts down the drain, lol. You can imagine my shock and dismay when I realized what I had just done. For that reason, I do still keep a couple of cans of low-sodium canned chicken broth in the cupboard.
As a side note, I let the vegetables cool and bag them up in the fridge and add them to my dog’s food as extra yummies the next day or so. Double mileage!