Bone Broth: A-Z
Bone broth-it’s a glorious thing. The possible benefits seem to be endless, varying from improvements in bone and joint health to healing your digestive system; as well as improved sleep, skin and hair. In many cases, our diet is lacking in many of the vitamins, minerals and amino acids naturally found in bone broth. The long cooking process releases the nutrients into the water, allowing for them to be more easily absorbed during digestion.
So, how exactly do you make the most nutrient dense bone broth? Adding vinegar to the water is often recommended in order to extract the maximum amount of minerals. This sounds like it makes sense; however, lab testing has shown that adding vinegar does not make much of a difference. One thing, though, that DOES make a significant difference is how long you cook the broth. It should always be cooked for a minimum of 12 hours, and anything less will yield you with a broth not meeting its full potential. 12-24 hours is ultimately recommended. The addition of spices, herbs and vegetables also further increases nutrients; keeping in mind that the starch content will also increase to some degree.
The most flavorful bone broth? This is my favorite part! Spices and herbs can instantly transform the flavor-profile. Classics like thyme and bay are a safe bet for a versatile chicken or beef broth. Or you can get really creative with more bold additions like lemongrass and ginger. I like to roast the vegetables, as well the bones, for a more intense flavor. The total cooking time and amount of water will both greatly affect how richly the flavor develops. For the best tasting stock, cook for a full 24 hours.
Allowing the broth to further reduce into a concentrated form is something I like to do. The whole pot can be reduced, or just a portion of it. I like to majorly reduce a reserved amount of all broths for punching up the flavor level of vegetables and sauces.
The prettiest bone broth? This may not be important to some, though I do love to admire my jars full of liquid gold. Cold water! When adding roasted bones to the pot, cover with cold water before bringing to a simmer, and never to a rolling boil which will also yield a cloudy final product. Skimming foam from the top, especially during the first 30 minutes will also greatly increase the translucency. The addition of turmeric to chicken broths yields a rich, golden appearance.
The quickest bone broth? That is a topic I am not too eager to explore as I am after quality over speed, no doubt. There are many recipes you can find using a pressure cooker and while I’m sure they are fine, I just prefer being able to make larger batches than mine can hold. With the goal of bone broth being to break down the bones in order to extract the marrow, connective tissue and cartilage, just make sure that your recipe is processed long enough.
The most-safe bone broth? Aside from the always-important raw meat handling rules, there are a few things to keep in mind. In order to prevent bacteria from forming, it is important to chill bone broth as quickly as possible to 40-degrees. My favorite method for this is a sink ice bath. Planning ahead, I like to stick a large, clean stock pot in the freezer along with silicone cupcake pans filled with water (XL ice cubes!). When it is time to strain your finished broth, strain it into the ice-cold stock pot sitting in ice water in the sink. Stirring often, it cools off extremely fast. Broth can then be poured through cheese cloth into jars for cold storage. It keeps well for up to a week in the fridge and 6 months in the freezer. Bone broth can also be processed in a pressure canner for shelf storage for up to one year.
Bone broth with less waste? This is one of my favorite tips, and I learned it from my Mom. Whenever cutting vegetables for a recipe, save the parts you would normally compost in a bag in the freezer. Same goes for bones left over from other meals, and it doesn't stop with a whole roasted chicken carcass. Beef back rib and short rib bones are awesome! If using bones that had already been cooked, there is no need to roast them prior to adding water. When I make wings, I save the wing tips. All of the little “scraps” really add up!
Another one of my favorite tips can be used when making chicken bone broth. When using backs, there is quite a bit of meat that I choose to not pick through. Partially because it’s a task of its own, but also because the meat is beyond over-cooked. I like to remove the onions from the bones and veggies strained from the stock. I then place it on parchment and dehydrate it fully, then process into a powder and freeze. My dogs absolutely love a scoop of it on their food in the morning!
The bones you use are totally up to you. The most affordable option for chicken is to use the backs. For beef, the options are more varied but it is recommended that you use assorted bones in order to receive the most benefits. Which leads me to a trick a customer gave me while picking up some gorgeous beef bones at the market. She said to try a chicken-beef bone broth combo, and I am so excited to give it a whirl. I’m drooling already thinking about the depth of flavor that must have!
You will know you have top-notch broth when it congeals in the refrigerator. You may skim the fat layer off of the chilled broth, if you choose. Personally, I enjoy the silky texture and added nutrients of grass-fed fat and do not skim unless using it for a recipe in which I worry about excess fat. In that case, save it in the refrigerator and use within the next day or two to fry up some vegetables or eggs, yum!
That sediment you may have? While it’s perfectly fine to consume, you may strain the broth one or two more times through cheese cloth to remove it, if you choose. I personally don’t think it’s worth my time and my dogs agree. They will come running from a mile away when they hear me say “chicken jellyyyyy” for a scoop of less-than beautiful, bottom-of-the-jar goodness.
My personal favorite version of Chicken Back Bone Broth follows the basic recipe with just a few minor changes. Omit celery and parsley; instead use about 30 stems of the herb parcel added with the other herbs. Roast carrots and onions before adding. Increase garlic to 6 cloves. Add 2 bay leaves, about 6-8 stems of thyme, 2 large sage leaves and one sprig of rosemary. Cook for 18-24 hours, no less. Add 1 tsp. turmeric and ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper. Reduce by ¼ volume and transfer to pint and/or quart jars, reserving 2-3 cups. Further reduce reserved broth by another half. Transfer to 4 oz. jars and use for adding flavor to a large variety of dishes.
Bone broth can be consumed re-heated as is, because it’s oh-so good! A simple garnish of finely sliced chives, green onions or parsley gives it a nice little “extra something”. Uses in other recipes are seemingly endless. Casseroles, soups, pot pies, gravies and pan sauces…using it as the liquid for rice or other grains to absorb. Adding it to virtually any dish will increase the depth of flavor and nutritional content.
We have a limited supply of live herb plants for sale online now to go with your homemade broth. I am stressing limited, as we had both swallowtail and praying mantis make the herb collection their home. And, well, I love them, so I’m letting them be and look forward to being able to offer fresh-cut herbs once my insect friends have moved on! All herbs raised by our highest standards, and varieties selected for their culinary excellence and growth vigor in our region.
I hope I’ve helped to demystify bone broth a bit. It really is so simple, just remember to not rush it; patience is key. Have fun and get creative. And PLEASE, roast those bones first!