There is nothing like a stock pot simmering on the back burner of the stove during cold weather, it warms the house while cooking and when ready for consumption, it warms the body while providing a powerhouse of nutrition to help deal with everything the cold has to throw at us. The base of good soups, sauces and gravies is a flavorful broth and any cook-chef whose intention is to create that umami flavor in the foods they prepare, understands the value of producing and having good broth and stock on hand at all times. Bone broth, traditionally prepared using loving methods that have stood the test of time are delicious as well as highly nutritious. One way to know you have created a good broth is by how firm the stock is after it’s been prepared and refrigerated, the more gelled the stock the higher the gelatin content and that is what we are looking for, for health benefits. Even good quality commercial broth purchased in tetra packs or cans doesn’t always have this quality to the stock.
With our speedy lifestyle, bone broth has seen a decline of use in the last generation or two and since gut health has declined as well in recent years, our North American population, is re-discovering bone broth. Although it takes little preparation, it does take time to coax the full flavor and nutrition from bones. Dense bones from beef and large animals will take anywhere from a half day to three days, where chicken and poultry ranges from 6 to 24 hours. When we do take the time to create such food luxuries and store it away in small amounts, it becomes an essential ingredient to our everyday meals adding a gourmet flavor dimension to the dish; it simply produces a final product with extra flavor and nutrition.
When food is flavorful it is consumed and bone broth is an ingredient with many healthy benefits. When someone comes down with cold or flu or even recovering from surgery or chemotherapy, plain true chicken broth or beef bone broth is often the only nourishment a body feels up to eating. Other foods can be difficult for an ailing body to break down and digest but real bone broth provides high nutrition in a form that’s easy to swallow, soothing to the digestive system and more easily assimilated into the body.
My grandmother was known to say, “You have to eat bone broth to have good teeth”. I don’t know where she got that idea from all those years ago but science is demonstrating there is some truth to what she spewed along with many other healthy side effects. A properly prepared broth is high in minerals such as magnesium, calcium, phosphorous and potassium to name a few, all of which help to build and rebuild our own bone density, support heart and digestive health, circulation and nervous systems. Nutrients like hyaluronic acid, glycosamine, collagen and gelatin, are also present in quantities that help support and regenerate joints adding strength to the cushion between our own bones. They have also been shown to form and rebuild other connective tissues that give rise to easier body movement, cell rejuvenation and maintaining skin elasticity along with helping to restore gut health. This may be the reason why a diet that includes real bone broth on a regular basis helps in the healing of leaky gut syndrome, colitis and Crohn’s disease. When our intestines are overly permeable from a diet that does more damage than good, all kinds of substances get into the blood stream that shouldn’t be there. It only makes sense to me that this could cause reactions of many sorts—allergies and other health issues. Restoring gut health aids in rebuilding and supporting immune function and anti-inflammatory response in the human body. Heal the real problem and many other things will take care of themselves. It may not be the whole solution but it certainly wouldn’t hurt.
Making Bone Broth
Marrow and knucklebones make the best broth but any type of bone can be used including raw or previously cooked bones. Knucklebones add generous amounts of gelatin and collagen, marrowbones add flavor and nutrients, and rib bones add flavor and meat if still attached. Start with a basic bone broth from raw bones and as you start to understand the process, expand from there. Bone broth can be made without herbs and mirepoix but in most cases we are after flavor, the simple addition of onion, carrots, celery and herbs adds another dimension of flavor.
Beef Broth in an 8-liter stockpot
Use the same procedure for lamb or venison.
3 to 5 pounds of various beef bones
4 to 6 liters water—enough to cover the bones well
½ cup apple cider or wine vinegar (sometimes I use herbal infused apple cider vinegar)
2-3 onions peeled and quartered
2-3 carrots peeled and cut into large chunks
3-4 celery stalks or half a celery root cut into large pieces
A few sprigs of fresh thyme and rosemary or a teaspoon each of dried
Bring to a boil over high heat and with a slotted spoon skim the scum that comes to the surface. When there is less scum, add the vegetables and herbs, bring back to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for a minimum of 12 hours. If the heat is too high and the volume of liquid becomes reduced too much before 12 to 24 hours is up, add more water to the pot bring to a rolling boil and reduce the heat to a lower temperature. It is best for dense bones to cook longer, if you don’t feel confident about leaving the pot to simmer on low heat over night, turn the heat off just before slipping into bed, leave it right there on the burner, the nutrients will continue to leach into the liquid despite no fire. Upon rising, turn it back on first thing, bring to a rolling boil then reduce the heat to medium low to continue simmering. (I’ve strained some of this broth into a mug and drunk it up as my first nourishment of the day—especially when feeling a little under the weather)
When the broth is complete, remove the bones from the pot with tongs or a slotted spoon. Strain the remaining liquid through a fine mesh strainer into another pot or container with a lid; after it has cooled to room temperature, refrigerate. When completely cold, remove the congealed fat from the top of the broth (reserve for stir-fries or sautéing vegetables for soups) and what is left is an amazing stock that will add oomph to any dish or make a fabulous soup. To keep for longer periods of time, portion out into smaller containers or preserving jars and freeze to use within 3 months or up to a week in the fridge if not using immediately.
1 whole chicken
4-6 liters water
¼ cup vinegar
3-5 celery stalks or half a celery root
Put all ingredients into an 8-liter stockpot and bring to a boil over high heat. If scum rises to the top skim it off and discard. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for a minimum of 6-12 hours. Remove the chicken from the pot. Strain the stock through a fine mesh strainer into a second pot or large bowl and refrigerate. When cold, skim the solidified fat off if desired, portion and store the stock in covered containers in the fridge or freezer. The meat off the carcass is great to add back into a chicken soup, chicken fried rice, enchiladas, vegetable stir-fry or chicken sandwiches.
Uncooked turkey parts will make a similar stock
Other suggestions for making stock:
After a meal of roast chicken, turkey or other poultry, reserve the bones and discards of cartilage, etc., place all in a pot, add water to cover about an inch over the volume of bones, add a couple tablespoons of vinegar, some herbs if desired and simmer 6-12 hours. Strain and refrigerate until ready to use. This doesn’t produce the clear high quality stock of raw bones or chicken but it does have a full range of flavor as well as the benefit of nutrients. When bones from chicken have barely anything left to them, they get so soft they will crush down into a paste and make a very good dog food.
A similar stock can be made from a rack of ribs after a barbecue, either pork or beef. Bones that have been cooked for a short period of time, have plenty of food value and flavor left that we can still take advantage of. Bone broth from pork ribs is a wonderful addition to dried beans.
Once you have the idea, there isn’t much left for the dog…