Certain foods, like ghee and green smoothies, become trendy in wellness circles. Now bone broth is getting buzz as a beverage people are drinking like a cup of coffee. Broth is a nutritious source of collagen, amino acids and minerals, and making your own is easy and inexpensive to do at home.
Back in the old days, everyone made soup with “soup bones.” It was the secret ingredient to my grandmother’s famous vegetable soup. By definition broth is a thin, lightly flavored liquid made from meat or poultry simmered in water. Very few bones, if any are used. Stock is made with bones and a small amount of meat. When we say bone broth we really mean stock.
The best flavored stock comes from bones that have been roasted. This could be a roasted poultry carcass, like a Thanksgiving turkey, or it could be be beef bones that are dry roasted in the oven first with the intent of using them for stock. The flavor deepens after roasting. The bones are then cooked at a low temperature for a very long time to allow as many nutrients as possible to leach into the stock.
Why You Should Drink Bone Broth
As we age, our skin starts to sag a little here and there, our joints start to ache, our bones become more brittle, and even our skin and nails may become thinner. Back in those good old days on the farm, every part of the animal was used and the diets were rich in nutrients found in bone broth – calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and collagen. If you’ve ever made bone broth before, you’ve probably noticed that when it’s cold, it sets up firm like Jell-o. That’s due to the collagen. It’s a natural gelatin. (That’s where commercially cold gelatin comes from!)
Most of us need that extra collagen to keep our connective tissues healthy. That’s everything from our tendons and ligaments to our blood vessels, digestive tract, even our corneas are composed of collagen!
Essential amino acids arginine, glycine, and proline, and other nutrients leach out of the bones as the broth/stock cooks. We need those amino acids as they help with the synthesis of hemoglobin, support digestion, and as I mentioned above, promote skin and connective tissue health.
How to Make Bone Broth
Start with a whole roasted chicken (chicken parts can also be used, this is just how I usually do it). Add aromatics like onion, celery, carrots and herbs.
Place everything in a slow cooker or stock pot and cook on high for a few hours, then lower the heat and cook for 8-12 hours. Starting with high heat at the beginning will extract the most flavor from the chicken and veggies. I’ve tested this out over the last few years and whenever I cooked the broth on low for the entire time , the flavor was thin and watery. I start the broth in the evening and cook in my slow cooker on high for about 2 hours, then turn it to low and let it cook while I’m sleeping. In the morning it’s ready for me to strain and separate into containers.
The long, slow cooking time means everything will be very soft and falling apart. It’s necessary to strain out the solid bits from the broth. I remove the larger pieces with a slotted spoon and strain the rest through a fine mesh sieve. For a really clear broth, it can be strained a second time through cheesecloth, but I don’t bother with that because I usually use this for soup or braising where it doesn’t matter quite so much.
One the broth cools a bit, I transfer it to jars or plastic containers depending on how long I’m going to be storing it. Jars are for that week’s use, plastic containers are for longer term storage. Once the broth has chilled, I remove any of the fat or other “stuff” that’s risen to the surface. It definitely won’t hurt you to consume it, but it can be a little unsightly.
One last tip – because I often make so much broth at one time, I will also reduce it further in a pan on the stove so it doesn’t take up so much space in the freezer. It’s a bit like making my own bouillon. Let it simmer until it reduces by half. To reconstitute it, I use equal parts broth to water.
Most people who consume bone broth for health purposes, will drink or eat 1 quart of broth per day. This can be in the form of soup, warm in a mug, or in other recipes. We use broth wherever we would use water – to make rice, gravies and sauces, etc. When I’m feeling under the weather, one of my favorite hot drinks is 8-10 ounces of broth mixed with a little lemon juice, fresh ginger and turmeric. It instantly makes me feel better.
Basic Chicken Bone Broth
The easiest way to make bone broth for good health and culinary use.
- 1 roasted chicken, preferably organic and free range
- 1large onion, halved
- A few celery stalks
- 2 carrots, scrubbed well
- Handful of parsley
- Optional: bay leaves, garlic, rosemary, thyme
- Remove the meat from the chicken and save for another use.
- Place the chicken carcass into the slow cooker along with the veggies and herbs. Cover with enough water so everything is submerged, and cook on HIGH for 2-3 hours, then turn to LOW for another 8-12 hours. If using the stove, place everything in a big stock pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and cook at a simmer, adding more water if needed, for 8-10 hours.
- After the long cooking period, remove the large pieces of bone and veggies with a slotted spoon. Strain the broth through a fine mesh sieve into a large bowl. Let the broth cool a bit before transferring to airtight containers or jars. Alternatively, the entire bowl can be chilled and transferred later to containers. To remove the layer of fat, chill and scrape off with a slotted spoon.
- Broth will keep for about one week in the fridge or several months in the freezer.
Space saving technique: After the broth has been strained, pour back into a pan on the stove and bring to a boil. Lower heat a little and continue cooking at a low boil until the liquid is reduced by half. Pour into containers or let cool and transfer to ice cube trays. Reconstitute with an equal amount of water to stock.