Today is the 17th of January, and I’m glad to say we are coming out of that phase of darkness which lasts for about 6 weeks. While we still have lots of winter left, the days are indeed getting longer and our natural ‘hunker down and hibernate” instincts are letting up a bit. That mentioned, nothing seems to be more satisfying during all these sub-zero evenings than a hot mug of bone broth, or a soup, stew, or other dish made with the stuff. In this post, I’ll give my personal spin on the recipe, with some photos, as well as a few nutritional points.
While definitions vary, a stock is supposed to be made primarily from bones, while a broth enjoys the additional flavors of vegetables and spices. So I guess my “recipe” or method is true to form. Obviously, a product called bone broth should start with bones, and of course, you need quality ones. I make broths from the carcasses of chickens, turkeys, and ducks often, but this post is all about using the marrow-containing leg bones of cows, elk, deer, and antelope. When our focus is optimizing health and making our bodies last a lifetime, we need to have a quality source of bones. I use locally sourced grass-fed beef bones as well as those that I process myself from game animals during hunting season. Properly sealed and frozen, bones can last over a year, so that you can make a batch every week or two.
Bone broths are getting a lot of press these days, and it’s a good thing to see. But this food component is not new, in fact it’s ancient. Cultures around the world have been making broths with bones and connective tissues (not yuck but YUM) for eons. My grandmother did it all the time. I bet yours did as well. It’s nice to see our movement back toward our true culinary roots, and to know that we are reaping the amazing health benefits of bone broth.
Whether you do a slow simmer on the stove, in the crock pot, or even a faster prep in the pressure cooker (all can work), when you cook down these valuable parts of the animal, you get some unique nutritional benefits. Minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous are yielded. Protein and collagen, as well as some healthy fats, are delivered. And most importantly, key molecules known as glycosaminoglycans and proteoglycans are provided, and we have no other bioavailable source of these metabolic miracle workers.
There are camps out there that suggest that bone broth either is or is absolutely not a miracle food. There may be room for argument, but I certainly believe that the rich, hearty, earthy goodness of the broth makes many dishes more substantial anyway. It’s a form of umami, and you know I am in support of that. Ancient cultures around the world believed that “like benefits like”. In other words, that to have healthy bones, joints, and connective tissues, we should eat same. Science is now finding ways to prove that this ancestral wisdom was not superstition, and may indeed be a key to healthy dining. Don’t take my word for it. There are many great resources out there, and much literature is cited in Cate Shanahan’s Deep Nutrition, Kellyann Petrucci’s The Bone Broth Diet, and Able James’s The Wild Diet.
I also have some other justifications to offer in support of bone broth consumption. Not too many weeks ago, Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers put up 62 points in a single game. When interviewed after the game, the commentator noted that Kobe looked like a much younger version of himself, running and jumping with abandon, and this was supposed to be a guy recovering from an achilles tendon injury. Kobe attributed his performance to his regular consumption of bone broth, which is a staple in the Lakers’ dietary regimen. Hmmm, good enough for Kobe, good enough for John-Boy. Additionally, I have an “n of 1” report as well. Last year when I was training to break 60 seconds in the 400 meters, my achilles tendons took great offense to the sprinting in spikes, and plyometric drills and jumps that were a major part of my training. There was a period in late spring when I was hobbling a bit, taking a while to get mobile in the morning, using moist heat before workouts, and icing afterwards. Looking for any potential solution, I began consuming bone broth 3-4 times per week, and the symptoms completely disappeared in just a few weeks. Of course I could have avoided the problem with a more gradual training progression, and yes, there may have been other factors in the recovery process, but I’m a believer. ‘Nuff said.
Start with good bones, cut into cross-shaft pieces of 1-3 inches. Lay them out on a baking sheet and massage a little oil onto them. I use avocado oil because it is a healthy oil with a high smoking point safe for cooking. Add a little sea salt and pepper and then place in a 400 degree oven for 60-75 minutes depending on thickness. You want to slightly brown the bones, giving them a hearty goodness, but be careful not to burn them. Some cooks like to rub tomato paste onto the bones before roasting as well but I prefer not to do this step.
While the bones are roasting, prepare your ingredients for the simmer. To 6 quarts of water, I added a chopped onion, some chopped celery, two chopped carrots, two bay leaves, a teaspoon of sea salt, two smashed garlic cloves, and a teaspoon of black peppercorns. I also added two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (some people prefer an ample splash of wine) to increase acidity and nutrient extraction, as well as flavor.
When the bones are roasted, carefully place them in the water and flavor mixture. Bring to a low boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer for 24-48 hours, again depending upon size. You may have to add a little water, and keep an eye on the stove for safety. In the crockpot, start out on high and then after 4 hours reduce to low heat and give it another 8-12 hours. In the pressure cooker, use a high setting for 2-4 hours. Your house will smell wonderful during this time, as those aromas will permeate the space. There is a primal goodness in this entire experience that is hard to describe.
When the simmering is finished, remove the bones and strain the liquid through a kitchen strainer of any sort. Then cool this liquid overnight.
After cooling, carefully remove the solids that have collected at the top of the container. This is “bone-broth butter” and is “solid gold” for using as a sautee base or cooking additive.
Pour the reduced bone broth into glass jars and refrigerate. It should be slightly gelatinous which is a good sign that you did the process correctly and rendered the key ingredients. This will last for 1-2 weeks in the fridge, but if you want to freeze, just use plastic containers, although never reheat the broth in them due to BPA concerns. Broth doesn’t last too long around our house so we rarely freeze.
Take the bone broth butter solids and reduce them in a pan until liquid, then place in a container to refrigerate.
This product will keep for several months in the refrigerator and can be used as a flavor-rich alternative to butter, ghee, or coconut oil in many of your dishes.
The broth concentrate can be diluted 50/50 with water, simmered, and perhaps with a pinch of salt, enjoyed as a warming and nutritious mug of health. Any soup or stew can be made more beneficial by the addition of the elixir. And a small amount can be used to finish lightly steamed or sauteed veggies for additional benefits. There are many ways to make and use bone broths beyond my simple and easy method. I hope you experiment and enjoy. As always, thank you for reading and I wish you all the best.