My husband went to France and all I got was this lousy head cold. OK, there may have been a few regional cheeses – a real Roquefort, a Pyrenees sheep’s milk cheese, and a wee wedge of an aged raw cow’s milk tomme – that made their way back to Brunswick from his speaking gig in Toulouse.

The cheese was delicious. But this head cold is KILLER.

He bears the blame for bringing the first head cold in 20 months into our home because he had it first. His symptoms appeared within a day of his Toulouse-Amsterdam-JFK-PWM fight sequence landing him back in Maine. We knew it was only a head cold because he tested negative for COVID before he left France and a couple of days after he landed stateside. He was at the tail end of his travail – the lingering cough and bouts of sneezing stage – when I’d just started to feel under the weather.

It began with a scratchy throat. I treated that minor annoyance with a New England Distillery Gunpowder Rye hot toddy sweetened with honey from my own bees. That was both tasty and helped me nod off that night. But in the following days, the sore throat blossomed into laryngitis and the virus stuffed my sinuses so full I wished my face would pop.

At the height of it all, I emailed my editor to ask about taking the week off from writing my column. She was willing, but then I decided I was made of heartier stuff. Besides, I work almost entirely remotely, so there was no chance of me giving this cold to anyone else. Plus, I had a couple of containers of “The Good Stuff” in the deep freeze in the basement. Clear, deeply golden, chicken broth.

If you’ve read this column for a while, you know I am always giving advice about using a stockpot to suck every drop of flavor out of any animal, vegetable or mineral that makes its way into your kitchen. I’ve told you to make stock from vegetable scraps, lobster bodies and corn cobs, pea pods, parmesan rinds, fish bones, stewing hens, chicken feet, seaweed and duck carcasses.

These broths and stocks are mostly made from leftovers.

They are delicious. But “The Good Stuff” is KILLER.

That’s due to the care with which I select the raw ingredients: 3 raw, pasture-raised chicken backs, 2 chopped and washed local leeks, 2 peeled and finely chopped yellow carrots, 1 trimmed and finely chopped fennel bulb, and a bunch of fresh thyme tied with a piece of kitchen twine. The clarity of the broth comes by very, very gently coaxing the flavors out of these ingredients, so they combine in a liquid worthy of my sickbed sippy cup. Yes, I make this broth for the sole purpose of drinking it while I (or my kids, or my friends) are well under the weather.

Stock-making in progress: The pot contains the sweated vegetables and the browned chicken backs, which add sweetness, and color and clarity, respectively. Photo by Christine Burns Rudalevige

To get it just right from the start, rinse and dry the backs and sauté them in a bit of schmaltz or vegetable oil. Don’t skip this step because browning the bones both adds color (those golden-brown bits tinge the finished product a deep yellow) and clarity (cooking meat proteins at this point helps keep them from coagulating into a cloudy broth). Remove the bones and slowly sweat the vegetables next. This step contributes sweetness to the broth. Return the browned backs to the pot, add enough cold water to just cover them, and toss in the bundled thyme.

At no point in this entire process should the heat under the pot be any higher than low. Making “The Good Stuff” takes time: at least four (six is better, eight is best) hours on the stove. Never should the mixture boil, or even simmer, for that matter. In her book “Olives and Oranges, Recipes & Flavor Secrets from Italy, Spain, Cyprus & Beyond,” Rockport chef Sarah Jenkins writes that when making a rich stock “a few bubbles should just barely rise slowly from the bottom of the liquid” every few minutes. Take her advice.

When the “bubbling every few minutes” time is up, remove the pan from the stove and strain the broth. Cool  it, then refrigerate overnight. Strain the broth again, this time through four layers of cheese cloth. Now you have “The Good Stuff.” Freeze it in eight-ounce containers until you need it. It will keep in the freezer for up to six months.

I make no claims that “The Good Stuff” is a miracle cure for the common cold. But I can attest to it taking the edge off along the road to recovery from any cold you might catch this winter and beyond.

Christine Burns Rudalevige is a food writer, recipe developer, tester and cooking teacher in Brunswick, and the author of “Green Plate Special,” a cookbook from Islandport Press based on these columns. She can be contacted at: [email protected]

The prepped ingredients to make “killer” chicken stock. Good broth is essential to Ginger, Lemon, Thyme Sipping Broth. Photo by Christine Burns Rudalevige

Ginger, Lemon, Thyme Sipping Broth

I was once on a crowded train traveling from London to Edinburgh. Laryngitis lingered from a passing head cold. As I tried to lubricate my larynx with cough drops, the gentleman seated across from me suggested a slice of raw ginger instead, explaining that if I held it there, between my tongue and the roof of my mouth, I would “be roaring like a proud lioness in no time.” It is in his honor that I add a slice of ginger to this cold symptom remedy.

Makes 1 cup

8 ounces of your best, clearest chicken broth
1  1/8-inch slice fresh gingerroot
2 small sprigs of thyme
1 slice of lemon
Pinch of salt

Combine all the ingredients in a small pot. Over low heat, gently warm the liquid for 5 minutes. Pour the entire contents of the pan into a warm mug. Sip slowly while enveloped in a cozy blanket, sitting in front of a wood fire. It won’t cure you, but it will make you feel better.


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