As winter approaches, we’re entering soup and stew season in the northern hemisphere, and bone broth is a great way to add nutrition and superb flavor to a warm hearty meal.
What is Bone Broth?
Let’s face it, when you hear the phrase “bone broth” it doesn’t evoke great images. It’s not like you’re saying “let’s make cookies” or “who wants ice cream”. Typically speaking, when you talk about bone broth, your kids aren’t in the kitchen lining up with cups.
But why is that? I mean, beyond the fact that the sugary items I mention above are like music to kids ears… why does the term “bone broth” seem foreign to us? Would it help if I called it something else? What about beef broth? How about chicken stock? Those seem far more audibly palatable as we can find them easily in cans, or even little “cubes” in the grocery soup aisle.
The reality is that bone broth…. wait for it…. is stock. Yes, that’s right, bone broth is basically the same as stock, whether it be chicken, beef, or something else. It’s the term that’s a bit newer, as Paleo diets have really pushed the envelope in making it sound like something really new and cutting edge.
Is bone broth good for you?
In short… absolutely. You can’t beat the richness of flavor that you get in your soups when using bone broth and its been proven to contain tons of vitamins and minerals that may help with everything from strengthening your immune system, helping joint pain, improve weight loss, to even lowering inflammation in your body.
One of the key components of bone broth that makes it so good for you is the collagen rich connective tissues in the joints and ligaments that break down. That’s also the reason it takes so long to make bone broth, is because it’s that slow cooking that releases that collagen into a gelatin substance that has an almost jello-like consistency when it cools.
How long should you cook it?
There’s a wide range of answers for this, but the consensus is that the longer the better. Some people cook their broth only for an hour or two, and while that may make a flavorful enough broth… you lose the benefits of the collagen as it doesn’t have time to break down much. Additionally, the vitamins and minerals that you want to get from the bones just don’t have the time to leech out into the broth.
There’s no exact answer, but we typically cook ours for 24-48 hours. Yes, you read that right. We readily acknowledge that you can make a great bone broth with less time than that, but our experience has been that we get a much thicker (and more flavorful) bone broth in that 16-48 hour range. We aren’t fans of leaving a big pot cooking on the stove that long, so we choose to use a large slow cooker that basically simmers it constantly. If you have one that has an hour timer on it, it makes things even simpler.
How Do You Make Bone Broth?
There are tons of recipes out there but most have the same basic ingredients… water, bones (of course), apple cider vinegar (helps leech the nutrients out of the bones) and salt and pepper. In our case we add fresh rosemary and thyme from our garden and often a few cloves of garlic and a small onion quartered. You can even freeze bones and leftover veggies (like carrot tops or celery tops) and then when you have enough, make one big batch of broth. This is especially helpful for smaller families that might not go through as many meat products.
You may be wondering, why do you need apple cider vinegar (ACV) in your recipe, doesn’t that give it a weird flavor? First things first, you’ll never taste the ACV in the amounts we use. Secondly, the ACV is really essential in our opinion because the acid in it helps leech the vitamins and minerals from the bones and tissues. It also helps raise the acidity levels in the broth to help as an added precaution if you decide to can your broth (more on that below).
Here’s our recipe:
- Leftover chicken bones. Typically this is one or two whole chickens for us. (beef, lamb, pork, or even rabbit bones can be used as well or you can mix and match)
- 1 Cup Carrots – typically left whole or cut in to joints to prevent them from turning to mush
- 2 Whole Onions – Quartered with skin left on (assuming it’s clean)
- 2 Bay Leaves
- Fresh Thyme
- Fresh Rosemary
- 4 Cloves of garlic (whole not minced)
- 3 Tbsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
- Salt/Pepper (to taste)
Cover the ingredients with enough water to submerge. Cook in a slow cooker on low for 2 days (~48 hours give or take). Remove the ingredients by using a strainer, and you’ll have beautiful bone broth. We leave our onion skins on because it adds to the golden color of the broth (shh… don’t tell anyone) but make sure the skins are clean.
How can I store my bone broth?
There is a simple approach and a more time consuming approach.
- Freeze the broth – This is by far the easiest approach. You can either use a freezer safe plastic container or you can also use a zip lock type freezer bag to store it in as well. Either way, just make sure you leave enough room for the liquid to expand when it’s frozen. You can keep it like this for 6 months or more, but it does have a shelf life there, so use it before it picks up any freezer flavors (yuck). One of the other downsides of this approach is that many people worry that the plastic can release chemicals into the broth over time. Do what you feel comfortable with.
- Can the broth – Definitely more complicated, but has a longer shelf life. CAUTION… you need to get a good canning book and follow the instructions. I you want to check out the book we use, you can find it here or you can often find one included when you purchase a new pressure canner (affiliate disclosure here). Because things like broth, meat, and veggies are less acidic, they need to be pressure canned. By pressure canning, you can get the temperature up high enough to kill off botulism spores, and you really… really want to do that. We believe that canned bone broth tastes way better than frozen. It can also be stored at room temperature while not taking up room in your freezer where a power outage can cause all your hard work to go to waste.
There are lots of great health benefits to bone broth and with the cold and flu season coming up, instead of throwing out your chicken or beef bones… think about making bone broth!
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