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Nutrient Dense Nourishing Bone Broth

broth in mason jarsWhile it doesn't have a particularly engaging name, Bone Broth is one of the most nourishing, mineral rich things you can add to your diet, and is a key part of healing diet protocols such as GAPS, SCD and a candida cleanse. It’s both cheapish to make and an amazing protein sparer, as it allows you to use less protein at each meal that it is served with, saving you money on expensive grass-fed meat and organic poultry. Bone broth is a fabulous way to nourish your whole body, without costly supplements, and with lots of extra Yummy.

The go-to for colds and flus, broth also helps heal the lining of the digestive system, improving digestion, reducing allergies, supporting immune health, brain function, remineralizing teeth. It makes sense that an infusion of bones and ligaments would provide what we need to build bones and ligaments! The calcium in bone broth is a beautiful and bioavailable supplement for kiddos and their growing bones, women seeking to shore up their bones for menopause and everyone in between and beyond. I also think bone broth is a Perfect first food for a baby transitioning from breast milk to other foods.

Broth is chock-full of proline and glycine, two amino acids needed for DNA and RNA synthesis and proper digestive health, as well as wound healing, detoxification in the liver (through glutathione) and also helps regulate blood sugar by managing gluconeogenesis, which is when the liver makes new glucose, or sugar, from proteins. Glycine also regulates creatine and Human Growth Hormone secretion (from the pituitary gland), and thus pumps up the volume on muscle growth and repair. Finally, glycine plays a vital role in central nervous system function, which provide feelings of calm, systemically. In the brain, glycine is converted into serine, a neurotransmitter which reduces stress, improves mood and memory, and gives an overall sense of increased mental alertness. Bone broth also contains proline, which can help the body reverse the build up of cholesterol from your veins, which can reduce the chance of a nasty little clot blocking your heart or the blood vessels around it.

Wait, can’t I just buy a box of that?

stock fixins

The difference between homemade bone broth and a box or can or cube (gasp!) of store-bought stuff is like night and day. Homemade broth is full of the good stuff listed above, plus gorgeous gelatin, a serious health-booster. Store bought broth is likely full of MSG, chemicals and whatever BPA or other junk is in the packaging itself.

Gelatin is released into the homemade broth solution from cooking down bones and cartilage in a moist environment over low heat, for a long while. Gelatin is a hydrophilic protein, attracting water and digestive juices to it. Thus, having stock with a meal helps with digestion by bringing more digestive enzymes and fluids into the alimentary tract. Finally, three powerhouses in arthritis treatment are glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate and hyaluronic acid  - all found in homemade bone broth. You’re unlikely to get gelatin or any of these healing nutrients from a box of factory-made broth, and are certainly not going to get it from a cube of MSG-laden broth-flavored yuck.


So How Do I Make It?

It’s actually simpler than it may seem. Your broth will only be as good for you as what you put in it, so always start with the best quality bones you can find: bones from grass-fed cows  or bison, well-loved lamb, chickens that were pastured, or fish that was wild-caught (never farmed). I’m all about making quality food without spending a billion bucks, so I save all of my leftover bones from roasting chickens, ducks, turkeys. I also save every little scrap of veggies that I would otherwise throw in the compost - the tops of carrots, broccoli butts, onion skins, etc and I throw them in the freezer. Once I have a critical mass, I throw those bad boys right in the stock pot. Bam. Money saved.

I am also often short on TIME. My favorite broth work-around: organic rotisserie chicken. For under $10 I have meat for several meals, and a nice little bundle of bones to make soup from. It's become my Friday night ritual on the way home from work, to pick up a chickadee, which I clean the meat from. I throw the bones right in some water with apple cider vinegar and I'm on my way. Easy. Peasy.

I also buy bones from my local butcher, right from the farm or farmer’s market. There are also some online companies like US Wellness Meats or Tropical Traditions that have great stuff.

 How to Make Bone Broth:

What you need:

  • 2-4 lbs of healthy bones: cow, chicken, deer, goat, T-Rex

    • If your goal is Super gelatinous  stock, throw a few chicken feet in there

    • Bits like chicken backs and necks can also be cheaper and are a great part to use in addition to the bones you’ve been saving up

    • My math is to use about 2 lbs of bones per gallon of water I’m using, but usually just make sure that the bones are covered by 3-4 inches of water at the start.

    • Most importantly: Don't get nervous about doing it Perfectly. It's soup. It'll be okay. There is no Perfect. Just get it done.

  • 2-3 Tablespoons raw, unpasteurized Apple Cider Vinegar or other mild vinegar

  • Medium organic onions, including the nutrient rich skin

  • photo-2Good-sized carrots, with the skin
  • Stalks of celery -or- 1 stalk plus all the little flowery bits from the top plus the heart bit that’s all bitter and you likely wouldn’t eat anyway

  • 4 or more quarts of filtered water or spring water, again, enough to cover those gorgeous bones by a few inches

  • 1 bunch of parsley and thyme (technically optional, but wow do they add nutrients and a rich herby taste)

  • A cookie sheet and some parchment paper that fits it

  • A good-quality stainless steel stock pot. You can get one from 6-10 quarts in size. It should have a lid, which you will use for the chicken stock, but not for the beef stock.

  • A really nice knife makes life more pleasant. I asked for this amazing little set for holiday time - it's fabulous.

The Doing:

1. Roast those yummy meaty bones for about 20-30 minutes (or until brown) at 350 degrees, on a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet. This will add a beautiful color and a meaty yumminess to the stock. It’s not a medicinal step - it’s an aesthetic one that I find well worth it. If adding a step like this means you won't actually make the broth, then skip it. Again: in my world, done is way better than "perfect" if perfect means Not Done... right?!

2. Put all those browned bones in your stock pot, fill with water to a few inches above it. Add apple cider vinegar and set a timer for an hour (or, seriously: whatever. If you're in a rush and this is a make it or not moment, forget the waiting, throw it all in off you go!). The vinegar will start to draw the minerals out of the bones and into the water. Snap the chicken bones to get all delicious marrow and minerals out of them. Do not attempt to snap TRex bones with your hands! You will hurt yourself. I may or may not be speaking from personal experience here.

For beef stock:½ cup vinegar

For chicken stock: 2 tablespoons vinegar

3. While the bones are soaking, chop up your veggies. A coarse chop will do, and remember to leave the skin on if you’re using organic vegetables. Make sure to wash them first!

For beef stock: 3 each of carrots, onions, celery

For chicken or other: 3 stalks celery, 2 carrots, 1 onion

4. After the hour has passed, add those vegetables and the bunch of thyme (only needed for beef broth) to the water and bones that are in the stock pot.

5. Put the pot on the stove at the highest heat, and bring it to a big ole rolling boil, allowing it to boil vigorously for 5 minutes.

6. If any white frothy scum floats to the top, skim it off and throw it out. It's impurities from the bones.

7. Lower the heat to a low simmer, just hot enough that there is a little bit of movement in the liquid. Movement is key for drawing the minerals and gelatin out of the bones. The goal here is to condense down the liquid, allowing some liquid to boil off. Cook covered.

** I mostly use a crockpot! The broth is rarely as magically gelatinous as when it cooks on fire, but again: it gets done. And it get done while I'm at work. And that is Complete Magic, because it means I'll actually Do It. **

8. Cook broth for 24-72 hours, total time. I keep a little notebook by the stove, and every time I turn the stove off and on, I note the cooking time. I make sure to bring it to a rolling boil every time I turn it back on, and I skim the scum and simmer again. Add this time up until it adds up to 24-72 hours. The longer you cook it, the more medicinal it will be. Some folks chose to leave the stock boiling while they go to work or sleep, some find that too scary. You get to decide what feels right for you. You can also do the rolling boil on the stove for a solid 5-10 minutes, and then carefully pour it in to a crock pot and leave that bad boy on when you go to sleep or to work or whatever you're comfortable with. The crock pot can help make life a lot easier for folks...

If you find that your lousy apartment range doesn't have a flame low enough for broth making, and your broth just won't stop boiling on the lowest setting (my life!), get one of those flame reducing thingies. Here's a link to buy a cheap and decent one - it's what I use and is well worth the few bucks: Simmer Thingie.

9. About 10 minutes before you’re done cooking the broth, throw that parsley in there - it adds some really valuable minerals and is great for the liver.

Finished broth

What now?

1. Pour the stock through a strainer in to a glass or ceramic bowl or pot, and leave it on the counter to cool down. And there's no reason not to eat all those yummy carrots and bits of meat that are left over. Eat them yourself or feed them to pups, but remember to take the onions out for dogs and to be Very careful to take all the tiny bits of chicken bone out before serving. I love eating the gorgeous bone marrow you find in those big old beef bones - heaven.

You can also save the bones and reboil them with new vinegar and new veggies - a great tip when cash is tight!


2. Once the liquid is coolish, put it in the fridge to cool down all the way. Hopefully the liquid will be gelatinous with a nice layer of fat on the top. Pop that good fat off and save it for cooking veggies in, which is not only delicious but nutrient rich. Or leave it in the broth for a richer taste.

3. I freeze mine in glass mason jars, the kind with straight sides. Please make sure to get Freezer Jars! I get so sad when I get that call "Umm... Vic... All my broth jars exploded in the freezer..." Buy them here: Freezer Jars

I leave a little inch or so of head room at the top and freeze it with the lid off. Once it’s frozen, I put the lid on.

4. You’ve got about 6 months to eat your yummy frozen stock. It stays good in the fridge for about 5-7 days. After that time you can reboil it to buy you a few more days of goodness.

Awesome. Now what do I do with it?

Any time I’m cooking up beans or grains, which I always soak overnight, I cook them up in bone broth for added nutrition and to allow me to use less protein in dinner when using broth to boost overall nutrients. I use broth as the base for all kinds of yummy soups, stews and when roasting, steaming or sauteing vegetables. A favorite trick of mine is to freeze it in tiny jars or an ice cube tray, and then I can just pop out a cube or two to throw into a pan to deglaze it or for making a sauce or gravy.

I make a habit of drinking 1-2 cups of broth a day, as a way to get minerals and all the nutrients above. If there’s a cold or flu going around I’ll drink a little extra, and I’ll squeeze some fresh garlic in as I warm the broth up, along with a little good quality sea salt. Growing up, by dad Jorge would scramble an egg in to some bone broth - heaven! With this regimen, I don’t get sick very often. If the bugs get me, there is nothing like homemade chicken soup to set right what’s wrong, especially in the case of a stomach bug, barfing or a yucky flu.

I hope you have as much fun making homemade broth, and find as much good health from as I have found in this affordable, easy nutrient boost.

Recipes inspired by and based on Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions.

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