"I love you with my heart and I love you with my liver, if I had you in my mouth I'd spit you in the river..."
She'd always chant this little rhyme as she bundled us up to go outside in the cold. Crooked fingers fumbling with the zipper pulls on our jackets, always zipping them up a little too high and wrapping our scarves just a little too tight, before planting a wet kiss on our cheeks and giving us a gentle shove out the door into the snow.
I've thought of her every day since she died, but this morning especially, she was on my mind. Always so concerned that we were warm and comfortable. Her house was a temple of warmth - from the various throws and blankets folded neatly on the love seat, to the space heater on the floor by her feet, to the chunky, mustard-coloured cardigan she wore over a turtle neck every single day (a Kleenex rolled tightly into the fold of her sleeve), to the wall of west-facing windows that let in the winter sunlight. And there was always a pot of soup kept hot on the back burner of the stove. When we'd come in, rosy cheeked, with frozen hair, chattering teeth and icicles dangling from our noses, she sit us down at the table, wrap one of those warm blankets around our shoulders, crank up the space heater, and ladle us a steaming bowl of soup. Always made with her meaty, gelatinous bone broth.
It's so easy these days to run to the store and buy a box of stock. The art of making bone broth is sadly fading to memory. The basic human instinct that kept our ancestors alive, that instinct that says "Don't waste a thing," is quickly being repressed by our modern craving for convenience. But that instinct was alive in her. She survived and thrived during the Great Depression and knew a thing or two about using what you have to make something out of nothing. Let me assure you that nothing went to waste in her kitchen. She'd gather all the bones from the Sunday roast, Wednesday's chicken and Friday's stew, and stash them in the freezer, then use them to make the richest, most velvety homemade stock. She lived on soup, and I could always count on a pot of one type or another on the bottom shelf of her sparse refrigerator. She ate soup every day, as a light lunch with buttered crackers, a hearty snack, or a first course with dinner.
I follow in her footsteps. I love to have some soup in the fridge, too, just in case. And in the winter months my body craves good, old-fashioned bone broth just as she would make it. I'm discovering that as the years go by I'm becoming more and more like her. And that's OK.
This afternoon I bundled my kids up to play in the snow, making sure to zip them up a little too high and tie the scarf a little to tight. Then, just for fun, I said, in the singsong-y way I remember, " I love you with my heart, I love you with my liver, if I had you in my mouth I'd spit you in the river!"
"Ewwww!" They both squealed, cringing and looking at me quizzically. I shooed them out the door into the fluffy snow that awaited, and smiled.
Beef Bone Broth
1 Tbsp olive oil
2-3 beef soup bones
1 large onion, peeled and cut into quarters
3 organic carrots, peeled and in half lengthwise
3 organic celery stalks, chopped
2 cloves garlic, smashed
2 bay leaves
12 cups cold water
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
Rinse the bones to remove any bone fragments and pat dry. In a large stock pot heat the oil over med-high heat. Brown the bones on all sides and remove to a plate. Add the veggies and the bay leaves and cook until starting to caramelize. Add the bones back to the pot and pour in 12 cups water and the vinegar. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.
As the broth begins to simmer, foam and impurities will rise to the surface. Skim these off with a wide spoon. Continue skimming until foam no longer appears.
Turn the heat to low and cover the pot loosely. Simmer very gently (the water should just barely boil) for 6 - 8 hours. (A little additional water can be added if the liquid seems to be evaporating too quickly, or you can leave it for a more concentrated flavour.)
Remove the bones and allow to cool. Remove the meat and reserve in the refrigerator to add to soups or stews.
Strain the broth through a fine, mesh sieve and discard the vegetables. Season to taste either now or when you use it. Cool the broth to room temperature and then refrigerate. The fat will rise and solidify on the surface and can be easily removed and discarded before using.
Rustic Onion Soup
4 Tbsp butter
2 large yellow onions, sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1.5 Tbsp flour
6 cups beef bone broth
salt and pepper
Heat the butter in a large pot over med-low heat. Add the sliced onions and a pinch of salt and cook stirring occasionally until the onions are golden brown, about 25 minutes. Add the garlic and cook a minute longer. Stir in the flour and cook another 30 seconds to a minute. Whisk in the broth and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if necessary.
Pasta e Fagioli
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 a large onion, minced
1 organic carrot, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp tomato paste
6 cups homemade beef bone broth (plus any reserved meat, optional, see recipe above)
1/4 tsp dry thyme
1/4 tsp dry oregano
1 bay leaf
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (to taste)
1 can of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup ditalini pasta
Parmesan cheese, to garnish
Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic and saute until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook a minute longer. Stir in the bone broth and herbs and bring to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes. Add the beans, pasta and optional meat, if using, and simmer for 10 minutes longer, until the pasta is cooked through. Ladle into bowls and serve with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and additional red pepper flakes, if desired.