The Brilliance of Bone Broth

DIY bone brothLet’s talk about a nutritional powerhouse that costs mere pennies per serving, that tastes great and that is so versatile you can use it daily. Did I mention it is nearly fool-proof to make, takes little effort, and stores well?  Interested?  Meet Bone Broth, a pantry staple at my house.

The definitive link to learn about bone broth comes from one of my favorite sites, Nourished Kitchen.  I am just giving a general overview here. But trust me…all the good stuff, none of the bad, and minimal effort…you will want to jump on this train!

cup of bone brothBenefits of Broth

It is hard to overstate the benefits of bone broth.  It is an incredible source of minerals and amino acids that absorb easily into the body.

Sally Fallon of the Weston Price Foundation says: Science validates what our grandmothers knew. Rich homemade chicken broths help cure colds. Stock contains minerals in a form the body can absorb easily—not just calcium but also magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and trace minerals. It contains the broken down material from cartilage and tendons–stuff like chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine, now sold as expensive supplements for arthritis and joint pain.

Bone broth (also called stock) is nutritive, boosts the immune system, lubricates joints, reduces inflammation, and contains gelatin, which has healing and soothing properties.

Cooking BrothMy Method

I am not much of a recipe person so much as a “throw it together” person.  You can google broth recipe and come up with hundreds of variations if you prefer specifics.  I will just list some of the basic components.

Ingredients

  • Filtered Water
  • Bones: Grass fed and free range!  They can have meat or no meat on them. Roast them briefly in the oven for maximum flavor, but I often skip this step.  I like to mix different varieties.  This last week, I had chicken, rabbit, goat, and duck all brewing in the same pot. Though I am usually not so exotic, I like the flavor complexity of different varieties. Plus, it is more cost efficient to save up bones and bits and throw them in a big pot all at once.
  • apple cider vinegarAdd a little vinegar. I like Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar.  Vinegar helps break down the bones more completely, making minerals such as calcium more available. I add roughly a Tablespoon for every gallon or so of water.
  • Veggies/Herbs: Whatever you have.  I always add onion. You can even throw the skin in! If I have celery I will throw a couple of stalks in.  Carrots* are good, I often rotate through my food storage and add dehydrated carrots.  Garlic, minced or whole heads work.  Add any of your favorite herbs, dried or fresh.
  • Salt.  This is totally optional. I like to leave it relatively bland knowing I will salt the finished product in whatever dish I use the broth in.

*Tips: If you are going for a clear broth, you need to be pickier about the veggies you add.  Carrots, for example, will cause the color to darken significantly.

Big Batches of Broth

For big batches, I use my roaster oven like a crock pot and set it on low, about 250.

Guidelines:

Again, this is not an exact science. I am just sharing the easy way to get tasty broth.

  1. Put water, bones, and vinegar in a crock pot.  I like to use my 22 qt roaster oven once every month or so.  I am all about making giant batches. Use whatever size you want, the method is the same. Cover the bones/meat in cold water. Put your cooker on a low setting and then walk away. It’s that easy.
  2. Add veggies/herbs. You can add them at the beginning, but I find the flavor is a little cleaner if I add the veggies a couple of hours before I unplug the crock pot.
  3. Monitor your water. Make sure your water level never goes so low you can dry out.  Add a pitcher of water when you notice it getting low. Check on it when you happen to pass through the kitchen, right before bed, and right when you wake up.  You do NOT want to run out of water!
  4. Be Patient. This can also be read as “low maintenance.” You want to give your broth at least overnight to cook.  Broth is so forgiving though, I have left it on for as long as 3 days, until I had time to deal with it.
  5. Test doneness.  Easiest way is to taste it! When you like the flavor, drain the broth through a fine sieve. (Picky chefs will use a coffee filter for a clear broth, but I don’t mind a rougher product.)  DO NOT THROW AWAY the bones and stuff!  There is

    Test for doneness with a bone

    If you can crush bone with your fingers, the broth is done.

    a test you can do to see if the bones are done “giving.”  Pick up a piece of bone and apply pressure. If it easily crumbles inbetween your thumb and forefingers, you have leached all the minerals out and they are done. If the bones are still strong, fill your crock up with water and start all over again!  You may want to add fresh veggies.

  6. Skim and Store.  Some people like a low-fat broth. If this is you, simply chill your strained broth for a couple of hours and you will see the fat all float to the surface and harden.  If your broth cooked long enough, it will probably gel over in the fridge (if it was over diluted, you may get less of a gel, but it will at least thicken.)  With a simple spoon, skim the fat off the top and discard or use in other ways.  I like the fat and don’t bother with this step.  Store as desired (see below.)

In my experience there are only a couple of things you can do to ruin broth.

  1. Let the water cook out. Sounds like a no brainer but I have left the broth on too long and been welcomed by the smell of scorch.  You have to virtually leave town or completely forget you are brewing broth for this to happen. Luckily, the smell permeating through your kitchen is usually enough to keep you from forgetting about it.  If your broth has boiled down considerably and you are heading to bed, top it off with fresh water!
  2. Undercooking your bones.  You want to extract as much of the nutrition and flavor as possible.  Cook your pot overnight at least. A simple broth cooks for 2-3 hours with lots of meaty pieces, but we are going for an economical, nutritive bone broth. That takes time.  If it tastes weak, keep it simmering!

Culinary uses

Oh the fun of always having broth on hand! Most often, I use it for the liquid when cooking grains. Check out any of these uses for broth…

  • Rice, Quinoa, Couscous
  • Sauces, Gravies
  • Soup base
  • Braising veggies
  • Basting meat
  • Mashed potatoes/root vegetables
  • Sip straight on a cold day

Savings: Buying it vs Making it

 

spend money

$ Buy IT $ For organic broth, you can pay anywhere from $1.99 to $4.99 for 32 oz.  Sometimes it includes the taste of tin can for free.  They are often over processed, and even organic brands can contain additives or undesirable ingredients.

For example, here are the ingredients right off the label of Swanson’s certified organic chicken broth.  Which of these would not appear in your home cooked version?

INGREDIENTS

ORGANIC CHICKEN BROTH (WATER, ORGANIC FREE RANGE CHICKEN), CONTAINS LESS THAN 2 % OF THE FOLLOWING: SEA SALT, ORGANIC CHICKEN FLAVOR (NATURAL FLAVOR*, SEA SALT, XANTHAN GUM), CHICKEN FAT*, COOKED ORGANIC VEGETABLES (CARROT*, ONION*, CELERY*), VEGETABLE FLAVOR (SPINACH PUREE, CARROT PUREE, CELERY PUREE, SALT, ONION PUREE, CITRIC ACID), ORGANIC YEAST EXTRACT (ORGANIC YEAST EXTRACT, SALT, WHEAT*), ONION POWDER*, SUGAR*, CANE JUICE*, MOLASSES*, YEAST EXTRACT*, CANOLA OIL*, FLAVORING, CARROT POWDER*, POTATO FLOUR*, SPICE EXTRACT*, TURMERIC*, BLACK PEPPER*. *CERTIFIED ORGANIC

You can make it yourself!* Make It * You make gallons of broth using scraps you would have thrown away! (incidentally, I also believe you honor the animal by making the most use of it as possible, rather than being wasteful with it.) Theoretically, you could save on supplements, like the ever expensive glucosamine and chondroitin, by making bone broth a daily addition to your diet.

Here are a few tips for pinching more pennies:

Be Resourceful

I claim the carcasses of turkeys and chickens I eat at family parties.  I may be weird, but even my dad knows to bag those bones rather than throw them away.

Ask.

Ask your local butcher if he will sell you bones at a low price.  Most people are paying to have bones removed from their cuts. He may thank you for taking them off his hands! I love my local meat source, Utah Natural Meat.  They sell bundles of beef, goat, pork, and chicken bones.

Chicken feet

Chicken feet are the best for broth and can be purchased cheaply.

Happy feet

I used to be repulsed by the thought of chicken feet, but now I love them.  They are the highest source you can find for collagen, which any woman with a drop of vanity knows is the secret to youthful skin!  I suppose you could rub collagen on your face, but I prefer to drink the benefits in broth.  Try it before you dis, it adds a great flavor and quality to your bone broth.  Here is a link on how to clean chicken feet yourself.  Or you can buy them cheap at oriental markets, or local meat markets.

On a related note, necks are also great for brothing.

Save your scraps
  • When you eat meat, save the bones in a bag in the freezer until you are ready to broth.  After a significant meal, like roast chicken or turkey, I just plan on brothing that night. It is so easy, why not?
  • The same goes for veggie scraps. Onion skins? Celery bulbs? Carrot peels? Throw them all in a scrap bag!

Storing Broth

Chill: Keep sealed in the fridge for about a week.

Freeze: Pour into an airtight container or a ziplock bag and store in your freezer indefinitely. Freeze in ice-cube trays for small portions you can use for liquid in sauteing or to add a little flavor to dishes.

can can dancersCan Can: You can also pressure can and store for about a year.  I’ve included a link on how to can broth.

I like to keep some of all methods on hand.  I rotate through pretty quickly.

There is something supremely satisfying about starting a recipe with homemade broth.  The flavor is better, the nutritional value higher, you know what’s in it and you did it yourself!

Go ahead, Turn your house into a Brothel.

Hmmm…you know what I mean.  You can’t beat the cost, taste, versatility, and nutrition of homemade broth.

 

10 comments on “The Brilliance of Bone Broth

  1. Rebecca C on said:

    I am always looking for ways to polish my bone broth so thanks for sharing! Also, once I left a pitcher of bone broth (beef) in the fridge for 2 months before I got around to using it. It was still fine tasting and ok to use. I don’t normally leave it in the fridge that long, but if you do chances are it’s still good.

    • Kristin on said:

      I love that you said that about leaving broth in the fridge for 2 months. I have left it for quite awhile in the fridge too and found it to be fine. I wondered if the perfect layer of fat on top sealed it like a rubber stopper. :) Thanks for the comment!

  2. Haylie on said:

    Ha! A brothel! You’re hilarious :-)

    I store the broth in the form of ice cube trays all the time. Easy as pie! Thanks for this great article! In off to go get some chicken feet!

    • Kristin on said:

      ice cube trays…awesome. With my luck I would mix them with a drink and serve lemonade with broth rocks! I love that you just walk down the road to get chicken feet. Why did the chicken feet cross the road? okay it’s late. Later!

  3. Michael on said:

    Sounds really yummy! I can’t wait to buy the ingredients to create/make our own!

  4. Michael on said:

    Sounds really yummy! I can’t wait to buy the ingredients to create/make our own!

  5. Marcy Axness on said:

    I’m so glad I found this post, Kristin!! Even after having read many other blogs re: making broth, I was frustrated after my first attempt. Not that it didn’t turn out good — it turned out GREAT, gorgeously gelatinous and delish. My issue was, after all that roasting, skimming, tending and waiting (on an electric range, not an inconsequential expense)… not to mention the cloying smell all over the house… the yield was little more than 5 pints. We’ve already gone through most of it (drinking a modest mug each morning) in 3 days.

    I found your post as I was trying to decide whether to order a 20-quart stainless stew pot, to at least get a bigger yield w/ each batch. Now I’m going to get a Hamilton Beach roaster oven instead — like a giant crock pot! I have to believe it draws less power than keeping the stove on for 3 days. Thanks for coming along just when I needed you! (Isn’t the timeless nature of the blog-o-sphere wonderful??)

    You sounds like a fun gal with a great family and a fun life!

    Marcy Axness
    author, “Parenting for Peace: Raising the Next Generation of Peacemakers”

    • Kristin on said:

      THanks for your comment! So glad it was helpful. I miss blogging but am so busy with other things. Made my day to hear you found my post. You will adore your roaster oven. I couldn’t live without mine…my family eats too much! Cheers!

      • Marcy Axness on said:

        Thanks, Kristin. My roaster arrived in the mail today, yay! So I do have a question for you, re: getting the broth going. Most recipes/guidelines say to bring to a boil first, then reduce heat and simmer (which I did w/ my first batch, cooking in dutch oven on stove). You just start at low (250) heat w/ your roaster and that’s fine?

        • Kristin on said:

          I have a bad habit of starting things and walking away and forgetting about them (which is why my house currently smells like scorched beans.) So I just put it on low and let it go. I have never had problems. But I can see how it would be a better food practice to bring to a boil first so you don’t have meat at a low temperature.

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