Bone Broth: Everything You Need to Know

Bone broth in crockpot

Bone broth, yay! Bone broth is not only a super nutritious and healing food, but it also adds beautiful flavour to other dishes you add it to, or use it to cook with (soups, stews, curries, crockpot meats; the list goes on…:)).

The cool thing is that you can actually find good quality bone broth, pre-made, in many health conscious grocery stores these days, but it’s expensive. If you already cook a lot for yourself and have bones from whole chickens, or access to beef bones, etc., why not save a bunch of money and make your own?

Read on to find out why bone broth is something you should consider adding to your daily diet and health regime and to find out everything you need to know to do it yourself:

 

First: Why is bone broth good for you?

Whew, where to start? Bone broth is an abundant source of minerals, like calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and potassium in forms that your body can easily absorb (YES! We want this).
It’s rich in glycine and proline, amino acids not found in significant amounts in muscle meat (the vast majority of the meat we consume). It also contains chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine, the compounds sold as supplements to reduce inflammation, arthritis, and joint pain.
Finally, “soup bones” contain collagen, a protein found in the connective tissue of vertebrate animals, which is abundant in bone, marrow, cartilage, tendons, and ligaments.  (Did you know? The breakdown of collagen in bone broths is what produces that jiggly gelatine.)
Collagen is growing in popularity these days as a superfood protein supplement that is both non-allergenic, easily digestible, easily assimilated by the body and all around awesome for gut health, plus the health and resilience of our bones, tendons, ligaments, cartilages, and skin. We want this.

What are the benefits of consuming a properly prepared bone broth?

I mentioned this a bit above, but it comes back to proline and glycine (amino acids). They are important for a healthy gut and digestion, muscle repair and growth, a balanced nervous system, and strong immune system.
The gelatin in bone broth can help to heal leaky gut, which can be of specific benefit to those with inflammatory or autoimmune disorders. (Side note, so many of us have leaky gut these days).
To re-iterate, these compounds also reduce joint pain, reduce inflammation, prevent bone loss, and build healthy skin, hair, and nails.

Can I just buy broth from the grocery store?

At some health conscious stores, they’ll sell real bone broth, yes, but it must be labeled “Bone Broth” and is often found in the organic frozen section. Do not confuse bone broth for conventional “broth” or “stock that comes in tetra packs or cans. Conventional broth or stock from the grocery store relies on high temperature and fast-cooking techniques, which result in a watered down, non-gelling liquid. This processing means you’re missing out on some of the benefits of a slow-cooked, gelatin-rich bone broth. In addition, sugars, unnatural additives, preservatives and flavours are often added. Ick. If you’re interested in the healing properties of bone broth, you should make it yourself.

So where can I get bones?

You can save the bones and cartilage if you roast a whole chicken, turkey, duck, or goose, buy beef with bones etc.–I collect bones in a bag in my freezer and then make bone broth when I have enough. You can also check your local butcher, a local farm (ask around at the farmers market), a health-conscious grocery store, a friendly hunter or your local health food store, if they have a meat department.

What kind of bones should I use?

You can use bones from just about any animal—beef, veal,  lamb, bison or buffalo, venison, chicken, duck, goose, turkey, or pork. Get a variety of bones—ask for marrow bones, oxtail, and “soup bones.” You can include some larger bones like knuckles, or feet (like chicken feet), which will contain more cartilage, and therefore more collagen. You can even mix and match bones in the same batch of broth—some beef, some lamb, some chicken—but know that will change the flavor. (Most peeps prefer to stick to one animal source at once.)

Do I have to get grass-fed or pastured bones, or organic bones?

You should. The animals should be healthy to impart the maximum health benefit to you, and factory-farmed animals are sadly the furthest thing from healthy.  Do your best to seek out pastured chicken or 100% grass-fed beef bones from a local source.

Do I have to skim the fat?

Up to you– though I am pro-fat, I actually prefer the broth without all the fat, just because it can become a little greasy otherwise. It also depends on what kind of bones you use. For chicken broth I don’t usually skim the fat, whereas for beef I do. Feel free to drink your broth as-is, but if you prefer a broth with less fat, then do this: after you’re done cooking, remove your broth from the heat, and run it through a strainer as usual. Then let your broth sit in the fridge for several hours, until the fat rises to the top and hardens. Scrape off the fat with a spoon, and your broth is ready to go. This doesn’t have to be done perfectly, and you can leave some if you wish.

What else could I add to my broth to increase flavor?

Here is a list of extras you could add. Feel free to mix and match, or invent your own recipe.

  • Onion
  • Green onion
  • Leek
  • Carrot
  • Garlic
  • Celery
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Whole peppercorns
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Parsley
  • Bay leaf
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Sage
  • Ginger

Avoid using broccoli, turnip peels, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, green peppers, collard greens, or mustard greens, as they will make your broth bitter.

Why do you add vinegar to the broth?

Adding an acid (like vitamin C powder, lemon juice or vinegar) will help to pull minerals from the bones into the broth, making the broth more nutritious. Use a mild-flavored vinegar, like apple cider or rice wine, as white vinegar may taste too harsh in a mellow broth.

Why does my broth look kinda solid and jiggly when cooled?

This is good– that’s the healthy gelatin! When cool, it makes your broth look a little like meat Jell-O (side note, Jell-O is gelatin based). Just heat it gently on the stovetop and it will return to a liquid state.

My broth doesn’t look jiggly! What the gel??

This article lists five reasons your broth didn’t gel, but in my experience, it’s generally one of two reasons. First, you might not be using enough bones (or enough of the right type), or you simply might have added too much water. Bones with more visible cartilage will yield more gelatin. Another common reason is that the broth was not cooked for long enough. Set your crockpot or burner to the lowest heat setting and just let it go for at least 8 hours (poultry) or 12 hours (beef), but ideally longer. Less than that will likely not draw enough gelatin into the stock from the bones. A good rule of thumb: the larger the bones, the longer you’ll want to cook it.

Can you reuse bones for another broth?

Though I typically don’t, I’ve read that you can reuse bones to make multiple batches of broth until the bones go soft.

What’s the longest you can leave bone broth to cook?

Chicken bones can cook for 24 hours, beef bones can cook for up to 72 hours.

What can I do with my broth?

You can drink it out of a mug, just like you would coffee or tea. A warm cup of broth is a great way to start your morning—try drinking 8 ounces a day, every day. Of course, you can use it in recipes wherever it calls for broth or stock, or turn it into a base for your favourite soup, stew, or curry (with coconut milk). I love to slow cook my meats in a little bone broth too.

How long will broth keep in the refrigerator and freezer?

Keep broth in the fridge for no longer than 4 days. It should keep in the freezer for up to a year.

How should I store frozen bone broth?

For an easy addition of small amounts of broth to recipes you can store some in an ice cube tray in the freezer. One cube is about an ounce, so recipes that call for 1/4 cup of broth would take 2 cubes, 1/2 a cup is 4 cubes, etc. You can store larger amounts in glass mason jars, but be sure to let the broth cool down before transferring to glass. ALSO, make sure you leave enough space in the glass container for the frozen broth to expand—otherwise, the glass could break. I fill 500mL jars (save your almond butter jars!) about 3/4 full and freeze them. To defrost you can just place in the fridge overnight.

Recipe please?

My recipe for simple chicken bone broth, which is where I recommend you start, can be found here, or you can peruse through a vast array of bone broth recipes online until you find one that looks good to you.
Many contain veggies/veggie scraps, but I love to keep it simple and just do bones and water, + maybe some onion if I feel like it!

Chicken bone broth beef bone broth

Have you made your own bone broth? Let me know in the comments below, and be sure to follow along on Instagram @laurafranklin! xx

 

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