If you are trying to eat a more ancestral diet or just add some healthy options, bone broth is an easy and inexpensive way to do so. I drink a hot mug for a mid-day pick me up and an evening wind-down. Drinking bone broth makes me feel full and discourages any unnecessary binging on treats that I think I may be craving. Making it yourself is easy and ensures that there are no additives, preservatives or harsh cooking methods that will affect the natural goodness. A good stock is excellent to have on hand in the freezer for stir-fry or soups and it is very healing to the tummy! You can read more about the goodness of traditional foods in Nourishing Traditions, a must-read book for simple and healthy recipes.
What are the best bones and where do I find them?
The best bones are from grass-fed, humanely treated animals. You can use whichever bones you like. Typically bones left over from a whole roasted chicken (don’t forget the feet!) make a wonderful healing broth when you are feeling under the weather. Various marrow bones from pastured cattle (knuckle bones, long marrow bones and meaty chunks like the neck are great) work the best for a good beef stock. The more bones you add, the more flavorful your stock will be. Fish and lamb stock is wonderful as well if you have access to free pastured lamb and wild caught fish.
You can find bones at the local butcher as well as online. Bones from the grocer unless it’s your local co-op are likely going to be from conventionally farmed animals fed a gmo grain diet; you can read more about the dangers of gm foods here. I have had the best luck at my local farmers market. The cost is far less than ordering online and you have the benefit of talking with the farmer and asking questions. I picked up 12 pounds of wonderful mixed bones for $20 at my local farmers market a few weeks ago. I was able to speak with the owner of the farm, ask questions and was even invited to see the farm for myself.
How much do I need?
Well, that really depends on how many people are drinking broth and how much you want to make to freeze. For me and my son, 3 pounds of bones yields approximately 6 pint-sized canning jars. I drink about 6 ounces per day, more when I am feeling under the weather. My son eats it cold in ketchup and other dips. If you want to freeze stock, then by all means make it in bigger batches. I have a smaller basic crock pot that suits just fine for a small family. FYI – you can use your bones again! Just freeze them for next time. The second go-round will not yield as strong of a flavor but you can certainly get a great stock just my adding extra vegetables and spices. So, each batch of bones has a double yield. 3 pounds = 12 pints! This is far less expensive than any organic “broth” that you will get at Whole Foods or even your local co-op.
Do I need to cook the bones first?
Although it is not necessary to roast the bones first, I have found that it gives the broth a much deeper and appealing flavor. If you are a fan of soup, then roasting is going to be the best for you. If you are just going to chug it every day to get the benefits without too much concern for taste then by all means just toss the bones in the crockpot with some water and a dash of apple cider vinegar, simmer for 8 to 12 hours and you are good to go.
How long should I cook my broth?
Really it’s all about personal preference. If you have a pressure cooker your broth is obviously going to cook much faster. Nom Nom Paleo has a great post about quick bone broth. I generally cook mine for 10 hours. I have read that that some folks keep their pot going all week and just add water as they remove broth. You will ultimately find something that works for your personal needs.
Unbleached organic cotton cloth (for straining)
Canning jars & Lids (sterilized in boiling water)
Canning funnel (just makes for less messy broth transfer)
Assorted grass-fed beef bones
Other vegetables or herbs of your choice
2 tbsp. melted ghee
Salt & Pepper
1 tbsp. organic raw apple cider vinegar or a squeeze or two of lemon
Place your bones, herbs and vegetables on a shallow jelly roll pan and drizzled with melted ghee. Roast in a 400 degree oven for approximately 30 to 40 minutes making sure not to burn. When the fats are dripping and sizzling, and the browns are browned then they are done.
At this point, it would be tempting to scoop out some marrow and take a little taste, please do! Marrow is a lovely treat and is so fantastic spread on crackers. Once your bones are done roasting, transfer them to your crockpot and cover them with filtered water. Add vinegar or lemon juice to draw out the minerals. Cook on low heat for 10 hours.
Once the broth is finished, allow it to cool a bit. Strain any scum off of the top, scoop out the bones and set them to the side to put in the freezer. Line your strainer with the cotton towel and place it over a clean bowl or large pot. Slowly pour your broth into the cloth filtering out any chunks and making your broth nice and clear.
Now you are ready to strain the broth into your canning jars, you may want to put a metal spoon into the jar to draw some of the heat so that your glass doesn’t break. Don’t forget to save a cup for yourself as a reward for all of your “hard” work. You can freeze the broth in stainless steel ice cube trays for cooking as well. The broth will be fine in your fridge for 2 weeks. Once cool, you will notice that the broth has turned to a jelly-like substance. This is a sign that your broth was a success! You can now mix it into dips, add it to rice dishes and stir fry or just reheat in a pan on the stove to enjoy a quick pick-me up any time of the day.
I hope this post has helped take some of the mystery out of bone broth and that you will give this healthy and frugal staple a try! ~Carmen