Today I made two batches of broth. In my previous life, I didn't eat a lot of meat and what meat we did cook generally came in some kind of bone-free configuration. Now, however, dealing directly with the butchers, we tend to get more bone-in stuff ... and those bones are still a good source of nutrition and shouldn't be allowed to go to waste.
So ... I'm learning to make broth.
The Reluctant Farmer picked up a really big stock pot at Princess Auto (for oh, $14 or something) and we just put two additional filters in the British Berkefeld water filter (meaning it runs water through twice as fast, so it's not such a big deal to use up the water that is there). First two hurdles overcome: pot and water. Check.
Next, bones. I have been putting the bones from our meals (with whatever meat is still attached) in The Bone Bowl in the freezer, and then when it's time to make broth, I grab the bones and dump them in the stock pot with some water. Today I did two batches: one of ham broth (half of which subsequently became the base for a pot of pea soup), and one of lamb (and possibly some beef, I can't remember what all those bones were from). The Green Cookbook provided the list of spices to add to the broth, and somewhere or other I gathered the information that a shot of vinegar helps pull out the calcium from the bones. Since we were all home today (and it was cold), the fireplace was on all day, and the stock pot just sat there on top of the wood stove, burbling away. I peeled potatoes for the dinner stew (cooking in the slow cooker on the counter) and tossed the peels in with the simmering broth to add a bit more nutrition and flavour. I also added a shot of the dehydrated garden greens I put up this summer (mostly beet tops, but some carrot and radish greens are in the mix as well).
When the whole batch was done cooking, the broth was scooped out and poured through a filter, then set to cool. Any fat that congeals on the surface will be scooped off with a spoon and put in a different jar to be rendered into clean lard or tallow later on (or potentially just added to dog food in the winter to help them through the cold days). The clean broth can then go into the freezer for use in stews and soups over the winter. The leftover bits of meat and such are fed to the outside critters (after all the smaller bones are removed, to avoid having anyone choke).
It's really not all that time consuming, and it's certainly more cost effective than buying canned broth or even bullion cubes ... and when you know what all the ingredients are and exactly how it was prepared, somehow, that just seems like a good thing.
I do feel tired sometimes, thinking that I don't really "take a break" anywhere near as often as I would like - there is always something else to do. Sometimes I want to whine about that, it's true. Still, I try to remind myself that a big part of what I am doing is practicing new skills: if I didn't have a well-paying job to go to, I wouldn't mind doing these things ... mostly because I wouldn't be squeezing them in on weekends and days off, they'd just be part of my every day work. However, should these kinds of tasks become my every day work (because I no longer have my well-paying job, for instance) ... well, that wouldn't really be the moment to stop and learn how to do these things. If you need to be sure that if you had to, you could make broth from scratch or put in a successful garden or properly put up the harvest from said garden, well, you'd better have practiced those things earlier, back when you had other options in case your experiments didn't turn out as well as you might have hoped. This year, for instance, I'm really glad we can buy tomatoes at the store - our crop didn't mature before the frost hit. (Next year, I'm going to try some earlier varieties.)
Options. Alternatives. It's nice to have them.
When I bow my head to say grace at dinner after a long day at work, I try to remember to be thankful for the job that has made me weary, because even though I might have rather spent the day doing other things, my tiredness means I have a good paycheque coming and the bills will be paid. On days when I have worked hard on farm jobs or gardening or preserving and my body aches all over and I think I might just be too tired to lift my spoon, I try to remember to be thankful for the opportunity to have worked to exhaustion, because it means I have been making good use of the skills and the land that we have been blessed with.
We really are very fortunate. I could still be living in my little suburban duplex, trudging the long hour and a half commute to a soulless Dilbert job that left me drained and miserable, with bass stero rhythms pounding from teenager's cars outside my window every night. I still have a long commute, but it's a fairly pleasant country drive, and I work with great people doing reasonably interesting things. When I come home, I can look out the window and see the animals munching on hay, and I rest my head against the flank of my lovely cow every morning and hear the sound of milk streaming into the steel bucket between my feet. I look in the potato bin and the pantry and see the results of this year's garden, and I know that next year we can do even more.