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Chicken broth -- help!

I start with a chicken or turkey carcass. I add some combination of the following:

ginger (root)
various herbs (rosemary, thyme, parsley, ect.)

I skim periodically, allowing it to simmer uncovered. I lavish much love on my work in progress. And blah. I get blah broth. I've tried using Kitchen Basics unsalted stock for soup, and even jazzed up with a packet of unsalted Herb Ox bullion, I get bland soup. My dad recently had a heart attack and is on a low-sodium diet, so adding salt is something I'm trying to avoid. Can anyone help?

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  1. with the raw chicken parts add 2 Tbls. apple cider vinegar along with the vegetables you've mentioned above, (except I only put parsely in at the end). let it sit 30 min. - 1 hr. then bring pot to a BOIL. After it boils, you can turn it down and skim and simmer up to 24 hours, but not less than 6 hours. Add more water if needed.

    Good broth has parsley at the end because otherwise supposedly the minerals will cook out.

    It sounds like maybe you're just not letting it get hot enough - boil first then allow to simmer. The vinegar leaches the minerals out of the bones i think - not sure, but you don't taste it and it makes a much richer stock. Also, i add clean, organic veg with skins on - onion skin and garlic. I don't use ginger.. but that's just me! sometimes if i have white wine screaming at me i'll add about a cup of that as well, but it's not necessary.

    BTW all this comes from Nourishing Traditions cookbook, by Sally Fallon (hope i didn't offend any copyright police..) Good luck!

    3 Replies
    1. re: rmarisco

      This is the second time I have heard of adding cider vinegar, I am going to try it next time I make a soup.

      1. re: Ruthie789

        I use the cider vinegar and I'm a big fan! I really do think it helps pull the gelatin out of the bones (remember that elementary school science experiment where you put the chicken bone in vinegar and it gets soft?) and either you don't taste it or it adds just a little tang to the broth that doesn't actually make it taste sour or vinegary, it just some how turns up the other flavors.

        I am wondering if the OP's problem might be that s/he's using too much water or not reducing enough? One chicken carcass won't actually make a whole lot of stock. If you simmer it in a big pot of water, you will get a watery stock unless you reduce it quite a bit. Try saving a few carcasses in the freezer and then using them in one batch, or supplementing them with some raw wings, which are cheap and make an excellent stock. Actually, the Whole Foods in my area sells the chicken backs it has leftover from butchering birds for a dollar a pound--good quality raw material for stock, practically free! See if you can find a deal like that (or ask for one) if you make stock regularly.

        One thing though--I strongly disagree with the suggestion to simmer the stock for anywhere CLOSE to 24 hours! I know this is Sally Fallon's thing but that's because she has this completely wacky, pseudo-scientific nutrition dogma and thinks that stocks have magical healing powers if you cook them to death. Most chefs advise to simmer the stock anywhere from 4-8 hours. As far as I know, there isn't any actual evidence that bones have any more to give after this amount of time, or even that they give up a lot of minerals like calcium to begin with. (Acid does leach calcium but I don't know if such a dilute solution is enough to be effective in this case, although I think it does have an effect as far as collagen goes. If anyone has any actual studies about that, I'd be interested but, one thing's for sure, Sally Fallon sure doesn't have them.) I usually simmer my chicken stock for 6-7 hours and, by then, the bones pretty much crumble. They're tapped out! I've heard some people say that simmering a stock that long will start to damage the flavor. I wouldn't know, I've never tried it, but I do know that it's completely unnecessary for getting a tasty, rich stock and a HUGE waste of energy.

        1. re: Lady_Tenar

          because of unexpected plans, I wound up cooking my turkey stock in the slow cooker for almost 24 hours. It was the best turkey stock I ever made, which could have been due to the great turkey carcass which had a little more than my usual amount of meat left on it or that it was my first time using the slow cooker for this. But in any case cooking it for that long didn't hurt it.

          My dad also has to eat low sodium, so what I do is just don't add salt to my stock and instead add the salt to whatever I am cooking with it. It gives me a lot more control and the balancing flavors in the absence of salt (lemon zest, garlic, cayenne, etc) might be different in different dishes.

    2. Try roasting the carcass and veggies first.

      1. Roasting the veggies and carcass is good, as wyogal suggests. I've always found that including legs or wings with the carcass will make for a richer tasting broth-into-stock.

        1. Unfortunately, the salt is a huge component in the final flavor of your soup.

          A couple of thoughts:

          1. I lavish minimal love on my stock by making it in a crock pot. Toss everything in, cover with water, slow cook overnight. Perfect stock in the morning.

          2. Since you don't want to add salt, try taking your stock and reducing it after you remove the carcass and veggies. You'll lose a lot of volume, but you'll intensify the flavor.

          But seriously, the no salt thing is going to be hard to overcome. Maybe try adding a little bit of salt?

          4 Replies
          1. re: TorontoJo

            I've been doing the same thing, slow cooker stock rocks! Leave until you want to deal with it, usually overnight.
            And yes, reducing the resulting stock/broth will make for better flavor.

            1. re: wyogal

              It's the best, isn't it? I recently told my mother that I make stock in a slow cooker. She tried it herself and hasn't stopped thanking me since! And this is from a woman who has been making her own stock for 50+ years. :o)

              1. re: TorontoJo

                How big is your slow cooker? The largest we have is 6 quarts and that's not big enough. The part about making stock that is time consuming is the skimming and straining. To me it takes just as much effort to make it in a slow cooker in a smaller quantity as it does in a large stockpot.

                1. re: John E.

                  I have a 6 quart as well. I manage to put two small-ish chicken carcasses and plenty of veggies in there. Cover with water, then set and forget. No skimming necessary. Mind you, I'm not using raw chicken, so I don't know whether skimming would come into play there. Straining is done in the morning by dumping everything through a colander. If I need a clearer stock, I'll do a second strain through a cheesecloth, but for my everyday use, I don't bother with that.

          2. Tell us something - does your broth become jello after refrigeration?

            1 Reply
            1. re: cutipie721

              It does become jello after refrigeration. Bland jello. Before the heart attack, I never realized how many recipes called for chicken broth. Thanks for all suggestions.

            2. A agree with Marisco in how long to simmer and the ingredients.Get rid of the ginger..use the onion peel too and cut a whole garlic head in half and throw it in skins and all.I go 12-16 hours myself.You really need at least 3 lbs meat/bones.Roasting the vegetables and meat/bones before adding the water will help the flavor since you wanted low or no salt,as does the whole head of garlic

              2 Replies
              1. re: shikken

                i prefer ginger and never use celery. i use onions or scallions, not both. big bunches of herbs, stems and all. dried thyme and peppercorns. a good glug of vinegar.

                for chicken stock i use bones, heads, backs and feet. about 5 pounds worth in an 8-qt pot. i don't like roasted stuff in there because i prefer a lighter, more versatile, stock.

                i cook it for about 12 hours, then strain and reduce.

                when you cook with it try adding an acid, like lemon or oj, to amp up the flavor.

                1. re: shikken

                  I also agree to remove the ginger it is too much all at once for me.

                2. I'll never understand why so many people end up with "blah broth". I'm certainly no stock maven, but I've never had that problem, & my list of ingredients isn't any different than the OP's.

                  What I do do is, after simmering for a few hours & straining out all the solids, is reduce, Reduce, REDUCE - until the broth is tastier than tasty. Currently have quarts of fabulous turkey stock, chicken stock, lobster stock, crab stock, & mussel broth in the freezer. Simply begging to be turned into a future wonderful stew or soup.

                  Reducing at a simmer with frequent checking (you don't want to reduce to the scorch point) is your flavorful-stock friend. Time-consuming, but worth every minute.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: Bacardi1

                    Lots of good advice by many, but agree that key is cooking it down over a long time. I don't skim. I refrigerate for a night and take off the congealed fat when ready to use the stock.

                    Also try fennel plant (not anise) instead of celery and use some barley, potato or rice.

                    Another thing, is I save the water from steamed veggies and reuse it until I make a stock out of the concentrated veggie water.

                    1. re: Bacardi1

                      How much do you reduce 2:1? I had some blah stock last week and just let it roll on the stove and it turned into stock greatness, even gelled at room temperature but just wondering how much reduction to get to that hearty point.

                      1. re: fldhkybnva

                        We can't answer the 'how much reduction' question because the starting point is not well defined. We don't know the strength of the stock you started with. You just have to go by your own experience.

                        1. re: paulj

                          Very good point, of course. I don't have much experience reducing stock so I guess I'll do some experimenting.

                          1. re: fldhkybnva

                            Be sure you don't add too much salt before you start your reduction. I have learned not to add much salt at all after the infamous shrimp polenta incident of 2011.

                            1. re: John E.

                              safest is to not add any salt before reducing.

                              add salt later, when reconstituting for other meals.

                      1. re: ButterYum


                        Ive made tons of stock and I never add salt until I'm ready to use it tor a dish- but it always tastes like its missing something until the salt is in, even a small amount.

                        1. re: alkonost

                          Same here - I don't add the salt until the stock is finished.

                          1. re: alkonost

                            Adding salt at the beginning of the process will add a bitter note. Like when adding dried pasta to boiling water. You add the salt just before tossing the pasta in.

                          2. re: ButterYum

                            Literally so. That's the first lesson in cooking school: How salt makes chicken broth taste good.

                            Took 10 cups of broth with zero salt to way too much to teach proper seasoning.

                          3. Let me start by saying my chicken soup is not the classic "light broth" version.
                            Use a whole chicken, rather than just a carcass. If you don't have a carcass to use in addition to the chicken, you can add 4 chicken wings along with a 4 lb chicken (the older the chicken the better - more flavor) to get some extra gelatin in the broth.
                            I agree with browning the veggies and the chicken prior to adding the stock. Sometimes I deglaze the pan with a little bit of white wine then cook it down thoroughly to get rid of any alcohol taste. Add a leek to your list of browned veggies, as well as a few porcini mushrooms. Put one tablespoon of very good tomato paste (the stuff in the tube), at the bottom of your pot and let it caramelize a bit before adding any water.
                            I also add a small bit of ginger to my soup and like the end result.
                            I use bay leaf, thyme, sage, and peppercorns in my bouquet -garni. I find that rosemary adds too strong of a "piney" taste.
                            Lastly, I recommend adding a small parmesan rind to add flavor without adding too much salt. Add it at the end of your cooking process (when you have only 15 or 20 minutes left), and remove it if the broth starts tasting too salty.
                            Oh, I also shred a freshly poached chicken breast (you can also add it in in the last 20 minutes of cooking)in the soup rather than the soup chicken, because chicken that has been cooking for a few hours tastes stringy and dry to me...
                            Hope this helps.

                            1. I lavish very little love on my work in progress. My method is to fill the stockpot with a variety of poultry bones, both cooked and uncooked. I chop the thigh bones with a cleaver to reveal the marrow (flavour!). No seasonings, vegetables or onions... I prefer my storage stock to be completely neutral, and allergen free. Cover with cold water. Simmer 2-4 hours. Strain and reduce by at least half; taste and reduce further if needed. I usually add measured amounts of salt into the recipes later.

                              1. I watch my sodium intake so I rarely add salt to anything, and certainly not until a given dish is almost finished. But I do put celery in my chicken stock and celery has a lot of sodium though you wouldn't know it.

                                I have never been pleased with cooked-carcass-only stock/broth. Add some raw chicken; cheap parts are best since they have plenty of gelatin and fat. I remove the fat once the completed stock has cooled.

                                Somewhat OT, Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute is a salt-free seasoning blend that more than compensates for lack of salt in most dishes.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: greygarious

                                  Yes celery is surprisingly high in sodium.

                                2. You might also want to try adding chicken feet. Its cheap and makes wonderful stock.

                                  1. There have been many great ideas. The one thing that will really amp up the flavor is.......salt.

                                    Perhaps you can use a product like "NoSalt" which is sodium free. It is potassium chloride instead of the sodium chloride.

                                    I use it to reduce my sodium intake and in home-made rehydration solutions.


                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: seamunky

                                      I was also going to suggest trying No Salt, we used it when my BP was too high.

                                    2. You say you start with "a chicken or turkey carcass" but don't say how much water you use. I think most home cooks don't use nearly enough bones per gallon of water for their stock making. The Culinary Institute of America recipe calls for 5.5 lbs of bones for each gallon of water you start with. Add to this ~1.6 lbs of mirepoix (onions, celery, carrots) per gallon near the end of cooking. The final result will be ~0.8 gallons of stock (loss from skimming & evaporation). I use this ratio and my stock tastes like liquid chicken.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: kmcarr

                                        I agree that this may be OP's issue. The first few times that I made broth, I didn't get a good flavor or color, nor did I get a gelatinous consistency from my chilled broth. I finally realized that I was using way too much water for my bones, and not reducing for nearly enough. Ratios - so important!

                                      2. Do you cook the broth with the skin on? Try this and chill it and skim the fat off and you will have a nice broth. As well I put a whole onion with the skin on and it gives me a nice golden broth. I only put onions and celery with leaves at the beginning of my broth. Herbs for the end. I do add a teaspoon of salt to a large pot of broth it does add flavour. In comparison to commercial broth there is much less salt in a homemade broth.

                                        1. Have you tried Cecilia Chiang's chicken broth recipe? It's my favorite now. (Although, I've never tried it with the chicken feet!)

                                          Here's what I was able to google:


                                          I loved her book: The Seventh Daughter .. Memoir plus recipes. The Tipsy Baker's blog mentions cooking recipes from the book.

                                          1. Hi, everybody. I'm totally fresh in here, but glad to be here.
                                            First of all, I'd just like to say that I think I disagree with all of you. (Sorry if I write a bit weirdly btw. I'm from Norway and I'm clueless about english punctuation. Also, if I write something offensive, I didn't mean to.)
                                            Anyway. In my experience, slow-cooked stock loses much of it's aromas and takes on a somewhat bitter caracter and tast a bit stale, so to speak.
                                            I think you should cook it for 2-3 hours tops. Remember that many of the tasty oils from the herbs and vegetables starts slowly evaporating the minute you start cooking.
                                            Are you using a raw carcass or the leftovers from a newyears dinner? If the latter, don't be surprised if the stock is bland. Much of the taste in the meat will have leaked out with the juices that left during carving (and overcooking maybe), and your stock will only benefit from what's left. Use as little water as possible, and you can also reinforce the taste by reducing it. Unfortunately, then comes along the same problem as with slow-cooking: loss of taste complexity.
                                            If you use a raw carcass make sure to use the skin and everything. Chop it in 2 inch size pieces and brown on medium heat in butter. Do the same thing wit onions and the rest of your stuff, but not the herbs. Add water just so high it covers the meat. If you really, really want to slow-cook it, hold back a the herbs and some of the vegetables and add those for the last houre of cooking.

                                            Or even better: Buy a pressure cooker (can be found at flea markets), preferably a big one. It's absolutely lovely. We made one slow-cooked batch of beef stock and one made in my brand new 8,5 litre pressure cooker. It was the same Heston Blumenthal recipe. The diference in taste was marginal, and nobody was able to say which tasted better.
                                            I actually suspect pressure cooked stock is the better of the two because nothing is able to evaporate from in there.

                                            Wow, that was too long. Hope it made sense.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: Grunde

                                              You can disagree, your stock sounds lovely, but mine in the slow cooker tastes great, with complex flavor.

                                              1. re: Grunde

                                                It made sense and it was well written..

                                              2. I'd suggest warming a cup of the stock, and salt that to taste. If can make that taste good, then the problem isn't lack of chicken, spices or aromatics. The fact that the cold stock jells is proof that you have good extraction.

                                                I don't think there's a problem with your stock, but rather a problem with making low sodium food taste good. The usual advise helps - heavier hand with herbs, a bit of acidity, salt substitutes. And perhaps more important, letting your own taste expectations evolve.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: paulj

                                                  It was literally my first lesson in cooking school.

                                                  The instructor set out maybe 7 or 8 containers of chicken stock. They were seasoned with varying amounts of salt ranging from zero to WAY to much.

                                                  Our lesson was twofold: that salt enhances flavor of food and can ruin it. The difference in "tastiness" between the unsalted/undersalted stock and their properly seasoned brethren was pretty stark. Same with the overly salted product .

                                                  I do understand that sodium is an issue for you. But I suspect that's what's causing a dreary product.

                                                  1. re: C. Hamster

                                                    i think most of us agree to make the stock and reduce it. it's not until we're actually using it that salt gets added. how much would wind up in an individual portion -- truly? instead of flavorless stock, i'd work on cutting out the sodium from processed and pre-packaged foods.

                                                2. For stock-I save all veggie peels, stubs and bits; Chicken bones (or duck, lamb,shrimp etc--each creature gets its own bag); herb stems, etc. in zip-loc bags in the freezer. When I have so many stuffed bags that I can no longer store in the freezer (5or 6 bags), I fill up my 12 QT stock pot with those, add a few dried herbs/spices-bay, allspice, the ever-healthful turmeric, etc.--cover to near top with filtered water and bring to a boil. Simmer for several hours. Let cool overnight. Strain. Then boil and simmer again for a few hours--this reduces the stock so that I don't have o store so many quarts in the freezer--I can always add water when cooking.

                                                  Good luck.

                                                  5 Replies
                                                  1. re: SeaSide Tomato

                                                    I have a funny story for you CH's. Last tear - I was making some chicken stock. When it was all finished cooking - I put a large strainer over the sink - and dumped in the contents of the pot to strain. Oh! Oh!....I forgot to put a bowl under the strainer......GUESS WHAT! BTW - I have smartened up since then. LOL...

                                                    1. re: eaglelake

                                                      (I've done that, too!)

                                                      1. re: wyogal

                                                        I am gald I am not the only one - wgogal.....I just hope I never do that again.

                                                        1. re: wyogal

                                                          LOL. I have never done that but I'm always afraid that one day I will! I think I'd cry. :-P

                                                          1. re: Lady_Tenar

                                                            I've come close to that mistake, catching myself at the last second. But I hit upon a better method: if you have a pasta pot with a strainer insert, make your stock in that. Then just lift out the insert and set it on a tilt at the top rim of the pot, so the last drops drain out. Easier, and safer, than the possible splashing of hot stock when dumping the spent parts into a colander. Also, no second pot/bowl to clean.

                                                    2. I use nothing but chicken, onion, celery, salt, and water because what I want is an intense chicken flavor without the intrusion of herbs & spices etc. If I use the slow cooker it's 4 leg-thigh pieces, 2 onions, 4 ribs celery, full to the top of water, cook overnight, strain. If I use my big stock pot to get a larger quantity I use more of everything and reduce the stock by boiling it down.

                                                      If your Dad is post-heart attack you might want to de-fat the stock by refrigerating it in large Mason jars. You can then just lift the fat off the top in a hard layer.

                                                      1. You'll never really get much flavor from any 'carcass'. A great stock requires fresh whole bones. IMO there is the ultimate chicken stock making scene in 'Tampopo'. Into a large pot of simmering water she puts some fresh large pork bones, a large hand full a scallions and a whole chicken, head, feet and all. She covers the pot and simmers the stock. That's all. Later she has a nightmare: She dreams she has fallen asleep and allowed the stock to come to a boil and so the stock is ruined. There's a good reason cooks the world over NEVER boil stock. Doing so ruins the stock and turns it nasty tasting. I never allow anything which contains any protein strands to get above 200 F.......unless I want to serve people rubber bands. Lastly consider this: Throughout Asia, I'm sure you'd agree an area wherein lots of people have been making chicken stock for quite a while now, they never "boil" the stock. Maybe they know something others don't about how to bring out the best in a chicken stock.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: Puffin3

                                                          Au contraire! The turkey stock my dad makes every year from our family Thanksgiving turkey carcass is DYNAMITE! But, of course, it's a big, big carcass with plenty of good stuff left on it. I think what's important is the ratio of poultry parts to water.

                                                        2. You dont boil stock because that emulisifies the fat, making for a greasy product.

                                                          Its not about the protein.

                                                          4 Replies
                                                          1. re: C. Hamster

                                                            I've never noticed that. But then I usually let my stock sit in the fridge overnight or longer, by which time nearly all of the fat congeals on the top.

                                                            1. re: paulj

                                                              If the fat emulsifies through the mechanics of boiling it won't rise to the top. It'll be mixed in with the liquid.

                                                              1. re: C. Hamster

                                                                Then how come my stock always has a good cap of fat after a night in the fridge, and does not taste greasy? While I don't normally let the stock boil hard, I don't put much effort into preventing any boiling (especially when cooked with the lid on).

                                                                Emulsification might account for some of the cloudiness, especially if it occurs late in the cooking when most of the fat has been rendered out of the meat and skin. But I don't think it is everything. I attribute more of it to the breakdown of albumin. Skimming at the start is supposed help remove that.

                                                                I'm tempted to warm up the chicken stock that I have in the fridge, and truly emulsify it with an immersion blender, and then see how that affects taste and appearance. Will that emulsion be as stable as mayo, or will it separate like an oil and vinegar dressing? Will the gelatin in the stock act like eggs and stabilize the emulsion?

                                                            2. re: C. Hamster

                                                              Point taken about the fat emulsifying. I just through in the part about the protein strands as an addendum. LOL Knowing that there won't likely be much 'meat' left on the carcass anyway but what is will be 'rubber bands' if eaten.

                                                            3. Is that a fact? Where have you learned that? I'm not denying that this is an effect of boiling the stock, but the two other effetcs I know of is a) Portein solids gets dispersed througout the stock making it cloudy, and b) boiling will evaporate many of the volatile aromas from spices and vegetables.
                                                              Those are the reasons why I don't boil it, but this emulsion effect is interesting. Sometimes I have certainly noticed strange patterns in the beef stock jars, especially when making concentrated gel.

                                                              1. Add lemon zest or a tablespoon of fresh lime juice to your finished dish or soup (not the broth you store), close to the end of cooking time.

                                                                The no-salt seasoning Mrs. Dash is quite peppery but adds some zip. I add it at the start of cooking.

                                                                1. Most of the time chicken stock tastes like chicken fat to me. I do use plenty of bones and meat. I usually refer to my stock as chicken jello.

                                                                  When the flavor is very important, I augment my stock with "Better than Bouillon' low sodium chicken base to get a good strong chicken flavor.

                                                                  Other tips for a better stock would be:
                                                                  use a crockpot for 10-12 hours.
                                                                  Use plenty of meat and bones.
                                                                  Use dark meat and large bones (legs & thighs)
                                                                  Pre-roast the bones and meat
                                                                  add onions

                                                                  1. I've found that if I add too much water to my pot while simmering will weaken my stock. I try to condense it as much as possible. I also use a salt substitute which gives the needed flavor without the sodium.

                                                                    1. I use onion, garlic, celery, carrots and parsnip. Sometimes parsley. I put in dill, but only at the very end, and I put in the whole weed, leave it in for about 5 minutes, and then fish it out. I read somewhere that if you leave it in too long, it makes the broth bitter. I add a tablespoon or so of vinegar to get the calcium out of the bones.
                                                                      Also, if I were trying to make a great broth, i would start with a small raw chicken. You can't get a rich broth with just the bones and scraps from a chicken you've already cooked. The Empire Kosher frozen chickens are great. Make sure there's nothing in the belly (no plastic bags/giblets). Chop your veggies, don't need to be very small, put them in the pot with the chicken (if it's frozen, it will thaw) cover the chicken with water, and cook, cook cook it, for hours. I don't bother with skimming, but when the whole chicken becomes really tender you can sort of poke it into smaller pieces with a fork, to be sure all the goodness comes out. After maybe 4 - 5 hours of simmering, pour the whole thing into a colander with a big pot underneath to catch the broth. After the meat cools, take it off the bones and plop it back into the broth. Or keep them separate, use the broth by itself and use the chicken meat separately to make curried chicken salad or something. (The meat won't have much flavor at this point -- the flavor is now in the soup -- so whatever you do with it will have to add a lot of spices/onions/flavor.) Cool your broth, skim the fat if any, put in plastic tubs in your freezer, and enjoy!

                                                                      1. You can also add flavor in several steps. Extracting the collagen from the connective tissue and bones (actually 'melting' it into gelatin) takes longest. Extracting flavor from vegetables and herbs is much faster. In fact flavors extracted early on in the cooking might be lost during a long simmer.

                                                                        So there is no harm in cooking the carcass and bony parts (backs, wings etc) for several hours, straining and storing that stock, and then rewarming it with the addition of vegetables and herbs at a later date.

                                                                        Many Latin American soups involve cooking some meat or offal in a lightly flavored broth till tender. Then making a sofrito by frying onions, peppers and other vegetables, and then adding to cooking broth and meat to complete the soup or stew.