Bone broth doesn’t offer superhero powers, but its amazing health benefits are incredible as the meals you will prepare with it!
As I sidle up to my laptop to write, a massive covered pot of duck bone broth quietly simmers on my stove top. As it has for the previous two days. Slow and steady wins the race, they say. I employed the water bath canning vessel for this sizable task and the air in my home is heavy with the scents of the bone broth – celery, carrots, onion and the deep meaty notes of the duck.
Our fall “harvest” of our Muscovy duck meat flock was a screaming success. With the help of an inventive friend’s super charged plucking machine and a few extra sets of hands, we processed roughly 50 free roaming, organically raised birds inside of a chilly November morning. After butchering down about 25 birds for individual breast steaks and leg/thigh quarters, I bagged up the leftover carcasses (and feet!) and set them in the freezer. Right next to the garbage bag full of beef bones.
Yeah, I got the bone broth ” fixin’s”. Pounds and pounds of organic, pasture raised raw material from my own farm. That and the resulting freezer full of home grown meat leaves me happy indeed!
Bone broth has become something of a fad. Not as unfortunate as, say, hipsters in flannel shirts and beards that look like the Brawny man yet can’t split a log for firewood, but something of an eye roller when it is touted as the newest cure-all to hit the overpriced grocery shelves and trendy food carts. Bone broth is old news folks… Seriously old news. The last few decades of fast, convenient food has wiped bone broth from our collective memory. And while I didn’t do any proper anthropological research to verify prior to writing this post – I am pretty sure that people have been boiling bones for eons.
Why bone broth? Because a.) it is incredibly tasty and b.) it is incredibly nutritious.
Bone broth, be it chicken, duck, beef or some other source of raw bone, is a hearty, rich stock that lends a wonderful textural viscosity and remarkable shine every dish it graces. I am not one likely to just sip a cup of broth unless I am sick or otherwise undone, but homemade bone broth is a mainstay of my cooking and has been for years. Every soup, stew, risotto, etc benefits from subdued meaty flavor and the gelatin bone broth imparts. And the mention of gelatin leads me to the real, not over blown, not over hyped, benefits of incorporating bone broth into your diet.
You may have heard that bone broth will give you shiny hair, strong nails, a trim waist, pain free joints and super powers. While there is some truth to those claims, except perhaps those super powers, it is important to understand how we truly benefit from the nutrition in bone broth. The key healthful constituent of bone broth is that beautiful wobbly gelatin. A well extracted bone broth can result anywhere on the spectrum of rich stock to virtual Jell-O. It is this very gelatin that offers the healing benefits that are so desired.
Gelatin by way of bone broth is not a cure-all. It is how this gelatin acts in the body and how it breaks down and becomes assimilable that it benefits the digestive system and therefore the rest of the body. Gelatin has the unique ability to regulate hydrochloric acid production while stimulating the flow of gastric juices vital to proper digestion. Gelatin also soothes and supports the mucosal lining of the digestive system. In doing so gelatin facilitates the transport of wastes for timely evacuation (how’s that for delicately dancing around the subject). These features of gelatin action may offer relief from various gastrointestinal complaints such as indigestion, heartburn/GERD, irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulosis. This same effect of soothing and supporting the mucosal lining also allows the gut walls to restore and repair themselves more readily. The concept of abnormal bowel permeability or “leaky gut” describes the poor gut condition in which small bit of undigested substances that are not sufficiently broken down breech the bowel wall causing the immune system basically become confused and “misfire”. Leaky gut is linked to autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. The profound benefits of bone broth gelatin on gut health, and thereby total health, are clear.
Beyond the direct benefit to gut health, bone broth offers additional benefits as the gelatin breaks down to the amino acids glycine and proline. Proline is necessary for maintaining proper plasma levels, and cannot be synthesized sufficiently in those with low protein diets. Proline in concert with vitamin C and lysine (another awesome amino acid) are precursors to procollagen (yep, here’s were those ascertains of shiny hair, strong nails and happy joints come into play) and are indicated to help keep lipoproteins at healthy levels. Glycine serves as a vital nitrogen source for the building of other amino acids in the body. Glycine, as a precursor to glutathione, is associated with the Phase II liver detoxification process , helping to rid the body of wastes and toxins. Glycine, in particular, encourages gastric secretions necessary for proper digestions and assimilation of minerals and vitamins, namely the B complex vitamins which greatly increase our ability to withstand stress. Moreover, glycine is paramount for proper wound healing, inside and out. Without sufficient levels of glycine, bodily synthesis of the amino acid is exhausted and healing slows. Like proline, glycine too can be synthesized by the body, but those on low protein diets, pregnant women and children, as well as those suffering from either short term or extensive undernourishment can benefit from additional glycine rich foods in their diet.
For a more information on the health benefits of bone broth, please see Kaayla Daniel’s well researched, extensively documented article on the subject here.
Now that you understand why you should be making bone broth, you might be wondering how to make bone broth. The process really couldn’t be more simple. Bones, vegetables, water, a splash of vinegar and lots of time, essentially. It is more or less a proportional thing rather than a veritable recipe.
I like using approximately one part animal bone (beef soup and marrow bones, poultry and fowl carcasses, peeled feet and/or wing tips, etc) to ½ to ¾ part vegetable matter (onions, celery, carrots, sometimes garlic) by volume. In the case of beef bone broth I prefer to roast the bones and meat in a sizzling oven (about 450 degrees F) until they are at least partially darkened and fragrant. This additional roasting lends the characteristic depth and carmelization that enhance the beefy flavor. In the case of chicken, duck or other associated poultry or fowl, I prefer to go “raw” to the cauldron. The small addition of vinegar helps to facilitate the breakdown and release of nutrients locked in the bones.
Bone broth experts seem to recommend simmer for a minimum of 18 hours and I have found myself being particularly pleased with a gentle simmer of 48-72 hours. This is definitely a job for a big slow cooker, a dutch oven in a low heated oven, or a very reliable, trusty cook top (just be smart, don’t set your house on fire – if using a cook top use the lowest setting that maintains a gentle simmer and monitor regularly). I do the initial bone broth simmered extraction in a covered pot, before straining and chilling to skim residual fat from the surface. After skimming, I assess flavor and texture and reduce accordingly. Upon a semi-completed bone broth, I season with the slightest bit of sea salt – preferring to salt my dishes at the time of meal preparation. I find that I usually end up with about half the volume of water that I added to the original pot. At this point the bone broth can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, or frozen or canned for future use.
Armed now with the why’s and the how’s, find your biggest stock pot out and get bone broth-in! Your health and digestive system will be thankful, your meals unimaginably good, and you will be the idol of every hipster that just paid $7 for a pint of the stuff at the trendy food cart in the city… If that’s your thing ;).
Bone Broth Recipe
- 1 Part Bones of Beef, Chicken, or Duck, etc...
- ½-¾ part Mixed Vegetables
- Water Enough to Cover
- Splash Apple Cider Vinegar
- Cut vegetables into large chunks.
- Place vegetable and bones in a large stock pot.
- Cover with water and add a liberal splash of apple cider vinegar.
- Simmer covered, over just enough heat to maintain a gentle simmer for 18-72 hours.
- After the simmering extraction is complete, allow to cool. Remove all large chunks of vegetable and bone with tongs, then strain the broth through a strainer lined with muslin into a large bowl.
- Cover with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator until fat congeals on the surface of broth.
- Remove broth from refrigerator and skim of fat. Return to stockpot and bring to a rapid boil; reduce to desired consistency. Lightly season to taste. Remove from heat.
- Cooled stock will keep in the fridge for 3-5 days. You can also freeze the stock in ice cube trays or open jar for future use.
- If you choose to can your broth, this MUST be done in a PRESSURE CANNER as it is a low acid food. Process 10lbs of pressure for 25 minutes for quarts and 20 minutes for pints (this for altitudes below 1000 feet; adjust accordingly) and store for up to a year.