The most nourishing of comfort foods: bone broth! It’s a concept that has become trendy, and with good reason. It just feels so good when you eat it - soothing to the heart and to the belly. The difference between bone broth and soup stock is simply that bone broth is boiled for wayyyy longer, to really get all the nutrients, collagen, and other good stuff out of it. Here’s my basic recipe, written for you to learn HOW and then riff off of it from there. It’s a super versatile concept, so use what’s in your fridge, have fun, enjoy!! Mmmm.
6 quarts water (or just enough to cover everything else)
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2lbs animal bones (beef, pork, chicken, fish…)
5-6 celery stalks
1 Tbsp salt
Optional: fresh or dried herbs
Add water, vinegar, and bones to a large pot. Let sit while you prepare your veggies.
Chop vegetables and add to pot. Add salt. Add herbs (if you are using). Place on stovetop over high heat until comes to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low to simmer.
24-48 hours for beef bones
12-24 hours for poultry
4-8 hours for fish
Remove from heat and allow to cool. Strain out the vegetables and bones by pouring through a metal strainer into another pot.
Place in the fridge until cool and fat congeals on the top. Use a spoon to gently scrape most, but not all, of the fat off. If you have used good ingredients this is good quality fat, so don’t get rid of all of it!
Either drink by the cupful, or use as a base to make soup. Store in the fridge for up to a week, or transfer to containers and freeze. Avoid using glass containers for storage as these often crack when defrosting.
A few notes and optional suggestions:
Try roasting the bones for approx. 30 min at 450°F for a deeper, richer flavoured broth.
You can use a crock pot to make bone broth - this makes it super easy. You can leave it on safely while you go out for the day.
I suggest making your broth immediately after you eat your chicken/turkey/etc. Right after dinner. If you just DO it, it takes only 5 minutes to start the boiling process, and makes sure the chicken carcass goes to good use. I find if I don’t do it right away I forget entirely.
You can use any kind of herbs, nearly. I like making a bundle of 2-3 sprigs of each oregano, rosemary and thyme. Parsley is good too. You can also use dried herbs (ex. 1 Tbsp. of thyme + 1 Tbsp of rosemary + 1 tsp. oregano).
The veggie amounts listed above are loose estimates - you can use whatever you have in your fridge (mushrooms, cabbage, leeks, etc). Just make sure there is plenty so you get a rich flavourful broth.
A note on quality:
Best to use good quality ingredients since you will be boiling the heck out of them. I always choose organic, pastured/grass fed meats, and organic vegetables when making stock. Stock bones are very inexpensive, so this won’t break the bank. And the vegetable options are very flexible – these quantities and types are a rough guideline. If you have onion skins throw ‘em in, or bits and bobs of (clean) vegetables that you would otherwise discard when cooking other meals. If I am using good quality organic veggies, I just wash them well and throw them in whole (or in large pieces). I don’t even bother to peel them or get rid of the tops.
Boiling for long periods of time is a method of extracting nutrients, which is what we are trying to do here. In herbal medicine this method is a decoction, a super witchy sounding word for boiling roots and other herbs for ages to extract the active constituents. The liquid then becomes the medicine. In making bone broth the long boiling time allows extraction of nutrients, minerals, and collagen from the starting materials. I came across this very interesting article about an informal study done by Salt Spring Islander Lawrence Dubois (owner of the local health food store, Salt Spring Natureworks). He sent in a variety of samples of bone broth (different types of bones, different cooking times) to a lab. He found that while the nutrients did notably increase relative to the water sample he used as a control, it was disappointing relative to what he had expected and hoped for. Another superfood not all it is cracked up to be, perhaps.
He did find, however, that his broth contained 50g of protein per litre, which is much higher than I would have imagined. I’ve seen other estimates that approximately 1c of bone broth contains 6g protein, which is still a lot. Bone broth contains protein in the form of gelatin (the cooked form of collagen). Proponents claim this is good for joint health, skin health, as well as gut health. Studies have shown that collagen can be absorbed without being broken down into it’s constituent amino acids (like any other protein would be), which is an essential pre-condition to specifically adding this into your diet. This review study from July 2017 summarizes some of the research. Bottom line being, looks promising but we don’t really know, can’t really say for sure. Yet.
In my opinion, this is an appropriate opportunity to balancing scientific information with both traditional knowledge and listening to one’s body and own inherent wisdom. Bone broth and soups are traditionally considered a nourishing and regenerating food for those who are ill. There is wisdom in that. And personally, when I drink bone broth my belly is just SO happy. This, for me, says a lot. It doesn’t have to be a “super food” with an extreme nutrient density for me to love it as a healthy, nourishing, comforting, no fail way for me to feel better. But you don’t have to trust my word for it. Try it yourself. Your belly will thank you!
Disclaimer: Information can be empowering, but we all have unique health profiles and needs. Health-related information contained in this post is intended to be general in nature and should not be used as a substitute for a visit with a Naturopathic or other doctor.