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    On Bone Broth

    October 26, 2010 by Brandy Vencel

    In honor of the fact that the first pot of bone broth for the season is simmering away happily on my stove top, I thought we could discuss it a bit. My house smells like food, so that’s pretty much all I can think about.

    I began making my own bone broths during the allergy-period of our family’s life together. Average, canned chicken broth, for instance, contained a number of additives to which my children reacted. For a time, I bought organic broth, but anytime I wanted to make a soup, the cost of that quickly added up–at almost $2 per quart, I might use a gallon, which often more than doubled the cost of the soup. I quickly learned that I could boil the carcass of a chicken we had already eaten at nominal additional cost, and the result was a soup that tasted superior than the equivalent made with purchased broth.

    I knew there was a recipe for bone stock in my new-to-me-then Nourishing Traditions cookbook. This was a big step for me, as I formerly purchased only meats that didn’t actually resemble an animal–boneless, skinless, you get the picture. But you can’t have bone broth without…bones.

    It took me awhile to adjust.


    Now I gross Si out whenever I play with the internal organs of a chicken.


    Moving ever onward.

    A stock is a set recipe that is used as a base for other things–soups and sauces, mostly, though when we have a flu or cold, I serve it as a drink. A broth is simply when you boil something until the flavor and nutrients are leached into the water. No recipe required.

    Over the years, I have moved from making stock to making broth because I felt silly buying extra vegetables only to boil and discard them, or, on the other hand, not using what was in my refrigerator because it wasn’t “on the recipe.” So now, I use what I have in the kitchen, and if it is only bones, that’s what I use.

    Here are some common and not-so-common ingredients in bone broth:

    • Bones. In the winters when I am making broth weekly, I buy whole chickens and roast them. I use the carcasses for bone broth. More than once I have entertained the idea of buying soup bones from my co-op–they sell lamb bones for a good price. My understanding is that lamb and beef bones ought to be roasted first if you want a dark, rich broth.
    • Vegetables. Whatever you have on hand. Last night, I only had carrots, so that is what I used. I happen to love the taste of boiled cabbage in the broth, but I’m trying to stay away from cruciferous vegetables to protect my malfunctioning thyroid, so I don’t do that as often as I’d like. Onions, potatoes, and celery are very traditional for broth.
    • Leaves and seeds. Bay leaves are good. Whole allspice is a wonderful addition. Juniper berries (just a couple as they can be hard on young children’s bodies). I never never do spices because I want to be able to individually flavor my soups as I go (I freeze the broth in gallon containers), but I find that these things, in small amounts, are very subtle and add a layer of depth without overpowering the broth.
    • Sea vegetables. This is my latest addition. Sea vegetables are a wonderful source of nourishment, and a single strip of kombu, for instance, goes a long ways. The key with sea vegetables in a bone broth is to use a small amount. If you get too much of the flavor, the broth will only fit with Asian- or Indian-style soups. My single strip of kombu was for a 16-quart stock pot, full to the top.
    • Vinegar. I really should have put this at the top, but adding vinegar (I tend to use apple cider vinegar) to the stock helps leach the nutrients out of the bones. Don’t worry, in small amount there is no residual acid flavor.

    Right now I’m using a huge stock pot because I need a large amount of broth this week. But when I only need a gallon or so, I prefer to use my large crockpot. This keeps my stovetop free for cooking meals. Simmer at least 24 hours, but I have found closer to 48 to provide the best flavor. Strain before using it for cooking or storing it. An optional step is to then put it in the refrigerator overnight and then skim the fat off the top. This makes for a prettier broth, but is unnecessary if you are in a hurry. If you are making the broth to drink, though, I’d highly suggest skimming. Greasy broth may enhance the flavor of a soup (as well as encourage uptake and assimilation of any fat-soluble vitamins in the broth), but it’s hard to swallow down when you have the stomach flu.

    Additional Resources:
    The Benefits of Bone Broth
    Marine Plants and Fresh Water Algae to Enhance Health, Boost Immunity, Detoxify (scroll down to read the article–there are ads and links at the top)

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  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts October 28, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    MrsD, Oh my goodness! I hope that is not true! I’ve never heard anything like that but you’ve probably driven me to research…If you find anything out, please email me if you think of it! Thank you. 🙂

  • Reply Anonymous October 28, 2010 at 10:23 am

    I’ve been making bone broth for about three years on the stove top (chicken 6-24 hours, beef 24-72 hours) and was told about using the crock pot this summer, so I’ve been using the crock pot for the broth ever since. Well, I’ve recently been told that crock pots leach lead!!! Some worse than others, but I’m still researching. I think the lead issue would be particularly pertinent for liquids that are in the crockpot for a long (i.e. 12-72 hours) period of time. Do you know anything about lead in crockpots Brandy?

    In Christ,

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts October 26, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    SO smart to do it right away like that Mystie! I am trying to get better about that.

    I have yet to make a good vegetable broth. My husband made one recently for a class he was taking (meaning this will never, ever happen again! :), and it was decent, but I think I’m just used to the richness of bone broths. However, I will say that his broth was a 2-hour affair, rather than 2 days. Perhaps it is to avoid that bitterness you mentioned?

    My broths tend to gel about half the time, and I see no rhyme or reason to it, though it does seem to me that having enough vinegar and/or simmering long enough would help.

  • Reply Mystie October 26, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    I started making stock/broth regularly last year. Now whenever we have a roast chicken (home cooked or Costco’s $5 rotisserie), after dinner I just toss the carcass into a crockpot with water and start it simmering right off the bat. I found that one carcass flavored 6 quarts of water adequately, so I could skip the collecting step. 🙂

    We received some free vegetables, including leeks, this summer, and I knew I wouldn’t use them all before they went bad, so I tried my hand at vegetable broth — just dumping them in a crockpot. However, I felt like when I cooked them on low more than 8-10 hours they took on that overcooked-vegetable bitterness.

    I know at one point I came across the suggestion to strain the broth after the first 10 hours or so and then put the broth and only the bones back into the crockpot for another round of simmering. I think this was to get all the gelatin or something into the broth. But now I don’t remember exactly and I can’t remember which cookbook suggested it. It did seem like the broths I made with that method actually “set up” when they cooled, whereas my latest batches haven’t.

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