Bone broth is a precious resource in our household. I first started making it about six years ago when I discovered Nourishing Traditions and the work of the Weston A. Price Foundation. Bone broth is like any other broth in that it adds flavor. But through the magic of a long, slow simmer and the addition of a bit of vinegar, it becomes a mineral-rich nutritional powerhouse with bio-available calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and trace minerals. The cartilage and tendons break down and provide gut-soothing and joint-healing nutrients like collagen, glucosamine, and chondroitin sulphates. Not only is it super healthy for your whole body, but it supports a sustainable diet by using parts of the animals we eat that most people discard.
Because it requires some planning, I have to admit that I don’t always use it as much as I’d like to. It is so worth the effort!
- Get yourself some bones! I use chicken, lamb, beef, venison, elk- whatever I have on hand. I prefer bones that have joints, as the collagen makes the broth silky, gelatinous, and that much more nutritious. How much? However much you have, at the minimum enough to fill your stockpot half way full. One chicken carcass or a couple of pounds of other bones should be a nice start. If you get really into bone broth, you can get a really big stock pot and make large batches for freezing or canning later.
- Roast the bones for flavor. This is an optional step, but browning the meaty bones in the oven adds a richer, deeper flavor. Line a baking sheet or two with your beautiful bones, turn your oven to 400 degrees, and bakes until roasty (30-45 minutes should do it, every oven is different, and so are different kinds of bones). Bonus: If you roasted a whole chicken, and then use the bones from that to make your broth, you will already have done this step plus gotten to eat a beautiful meal!
- Put the bones in the pot.
- Cover them with water. Make sure there is a few inches of water above the bones so that the broth can reduce without uncovering the bones.
- Add some sea salt or kosher salt– how much varies depending on your taste and how much water/bones you use. I usually pour some in my hand and toss it in, I’m guessing 1 Tbsp. for a 4 quart pot with a chicken carcass in it.
- Add some vinegar. Not much. 1-2 tsp. for a 4 quart pot, 1-2 Tbsp. for a big pot. The vinegar helps extract the minerals in the bones. You can actually tell the difference at the end of simmering if you forgot to add the vinegar, because instead of soft, crumbly, lacy-textured bones, you end up with hard bones that don’t seem much different than what you started with.
- Bring the whole thing to a slow simmer. Do not boil your broth! It breaks down the collagen and makes it taste less clear later. It may take some fine tuning to find the right heat level for your stove/pot combo, but it is worth your effort.
- Simmer covered, for 6-24 hours. Check it periodically to make sure the bones are covered. If they aren’t you can add some boiling water from your kettle, just enough to submerge them. You can reduce the broth near the end of cooking time to make a more concentrated broth that will gel up when cold by uncovering it and letting the steam evaporate. Simmer chicken for less time (12 hours should do it), other bones for longer.
- Cool down, then strain. I like to let the broth cool enough so it won’t burn me if it splatters when I pour. You can use a fine-mesh strainer or a colander lined with cheesecloth to strain it into a large bowl or pot. Make sure you don’t overflow the container you are pouring into and lose your broth!
- Store it. Use a ladle and a wide mouth funnel to pour into canning jars for storing in the fridge, freezing, or canning. If freezing, be sure to cool completely in the fridge before freezing and leave at least 1″ of headspace to allow the liquid to expand once frozen. It will keep 4-6 days in the fridge. If you can it, follow directions from a trusted resource like Stocking Up, and use a pressure canner.
- Use it! Add it to soups, sauces, use it to deglaze a pan, put a few spoonfuls into sautes. Drink a warm cup of it, seasoned lightly with sliced scallions, julienned carrots, some slivered kale, and a bit of salt to taste. Substitute it in savory baking for other liquids. If you eat grains or beans, cook in broth instead of water (but omit salt in your broth if you want to use it for beans, and soak grains and beans first in water to neutralize phytates!).
Note: I don’t add veggies or herbs because I think the long simmer muddies up the flavor you would be trying to add. If I want to add that kind of flavor, I add veggies and aromatics in the last hour or two of cooking, or saute the veggies I want to eat and then deglaze the pan with bone broth to create a layered flavor.