Bone Broth: Body Builder

Homemade broth has become a lost tradition of good cooking, and good health. Bullion cubes, with their dubious list of ingredients (hydrolized fat, lots of salt, chicken “flavor”?), and watered-down boxed broth, are in common use for instant flavor in soups and other recipes, but they boast none of the amazing health benefits of their predecessor, true bone broth.

Centuries of chefs have prized a good stock (their term for broth) as the basis for soups, sauces, and glazes, and centuries of mothers and grandmothers have prized it as the best immune-boosting food for the sick and invalid. Chicken soup used to be known as the “Jewish penicillin” as it was standard treatment for the ill in the Jewish community.

But bone broth is not just for the sick; it’s for building healthy bodies and strong bones. By slow cooking bones over several days, the mineral elements of the bones are leached into the broth and broken down for easy absorption by the human body. If the bones being cooked have cartilage attached to them, this is also broken down into easily absorbed gelatin, which directly nourishes the intestines, and then the joints of the body. Marrow inside the bones dissolves into the broth, providing nourishment for the immune system and building blood.

And the good news is, bone broth is easy to make in a crock pot, and is made from ingredients which you are likely already just throwing away!

Bone broth can be made from any bones: red meat, poultry, or fish. I have not made a fish version, but I plan to with the next “whole” fish I have (and then I’ll delve into oriental soup). Chicken and Beef broths are my staples, as these meats are the most common in my home (turkey broth only gets made once or twice a winter, when we have a holiday feast).

Obviously, the more nutrient-dense the animal that you are cooking, the more nutrient-dense the food will be. So bones from organic free-range poulty, and organic grass fed beef/lamb or wild shot game will yield a better broth.

Poultry Broth
Read my recipe for Poultry Broth, which is the basis for innumerable soups, or can be thickened with potato starch or wheat flour to substitute as “cream of chicken soup” in casseroles.

Beef Broth
Read my recipe for Beef/Game Broth, which is the basis for beef flavored soups, including my favorite, French Onion Soup, and can be used for sauces, glazes, and gravies.

Poultry Broth

Plan to make chicken (or other poulty) broth immediately after roasting a whole bird. I like to roast a chicken for dinner, and as each person cuts the meat off their respective bones, they put the bones back into the roasting pan (casual family dinner). After dinner, remove the roasting pan to the kitchen, and remove all the remaining meat from the carcass. If it was properly roasted, the meat should be sliding off the bones. Refrigerate or freeze the meat separately as an addition to a future soup or casserole.

Place the rest of the carcass and the drippings from the pan into a large crock pot. (Wait, aren’t those drippings just a bunch of fat? No, there’s a lot of good gelatin in there too, and don’t worry, you’ll have a chance to skim the fat off later.) Add enough purified water (3-5 qts) to cover the carcass by 1 inch (you may break up the rib cage to fit in better; a turkey carcass may need to have one half frozen for a second batch). Add 2 tsp. of apple cider vinegar; this acidifies the water and causes more leaching of minerals from the bones.

Turn the crock pot on high. After an hour or two, when you notice that the water has heated thoroughly, turn down the crock pot to low, and let slow cook for 24-48 hours. If you see skum form on the top of the broth during cooking, carefully skim away and discard. If you wish, you can add spare ends of vegetables during cooking. . . a carrot end here, extra chopped onions there. This will add richer flavor, but is unnecessary.

When the broth is finished, you should be able to easily crush a chicken drumstick bone with a spoon. Remove chicken carcass with a slotted spoon, and discard. Place a sieve over a funnel fitted into a quart size glass canning jar. Ladle broth through sieve into jar, leaving about 1.5 inches at the top. Continue to fill additional jars until all broth is stored; cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, you will notice a hardened white layer at the top in each jar; this is fat, and may be removed with a spoon and discarded. As you remove it, you’ll notice that the broth under it is actually Jello-like in consistency. This is caused by the minerals and gelatin which are suspended in water.

Freeze all the jars of broth which you will not use within the next 2 days. Defrost in the refrigerator 1 day prior to use.

Poultry broth is the basis for innumerable soups, or can be thickened with potato starch or wheat flour to substitute as “cream of chicken soup” in casseroles.

Update January 2013: For the last year I have been using a single lemon, halved as a substitute for the apple cider vinegar, with a more pleasing end flavor.