Bone Broth Basics


Bone Broth Basics

…from a cook who still needs a little help herself

Bone broth is to the kitchen what a nice cashmere sweater is to your wardrobe: simple and unassuming, but a necessary asset.

It is an element used frequently in traditional cuisine; kept on hand for making soup, sauces, and for cooking grains such as rice. If prepared with special attention and care it becomes a delicious concoction providing backbone to those simple dishes and an extra nourishing boost to those who enjoy them.

What sets bone broth apart from the concentrate in a jar or the liquid in a carton is its nourishing qualities.  It contains all  the minerals from the  bones, cartilage, and marrow as electrolytes; a form  much easier for our bodies to assimilate. Used on a frequent basis it provides nourishment and helps to fortify your immune system ~ a perfect food for the winter.

Preparation is simple.  The only major challenge I have experienced thus far is remembering to  plan  ahead far enough in advance to allow for the time to properly prepare it.

While I like to use a variety of broths in my kitchen, my standard “go-to” is chicken.  I try to plan at least two nights per month where we’ll have a roast chicken dinner and the following day I will use the bones to prepare bone broth.

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I use my crockpot, add the bones, and fill with water.  I don’t measure, I just add to cover the bones and start the crockpot on high.

If you have done any of  your own research on the subject you’ll know that sometimes at this point a surprise ingredient is added such as chicken feet; or (if you are making fish broth): fish heads.  The reason for the heads: additional iodine through the thyroid.  The reason for the feet: gelatin! Desirable, because it allows the body to more fully utilize the proteins in our food as well as aid in digestion.

Chicken feet and fish heads as you can well imagine, are not popular items readily found at your local market.  I have found both at my Asian market in town, but I was reluctant to buy either of them.  I wasn’t sure where the chicken had come from, and the fish didn’t look too fresh.

I recently discovered that Azure Standard carries chicken feet and delightedly bought them up.  Upon delivery however I discovered that the 40# offered came frozen in a solid block, placed in a plastic bag and sealed in a cardboard box.  These are not the individually-frozen-grab-a-few-and-go product I had envisioned.  If I want to use them I have to head out to the freezer with a meat mallet in order to break up what I need.  Not convenient.  And in case you were wondering: 40 pounds is a lot of chicken feet.  As in: a lifetime supply.

chicken feetOne good thing I can say about the chicken feet  is that they have already been skinned and, with the exception of trimming off the nails, they are ready to add to the pot.  Removing the nails is easier than it sounds.  Don’t use kitchen shears, just lop them off with a very heavy and very sharp chef’s knife.

Once the feet have been prepared, add those to the pot with your bones and water.  I usually toss in a handful which amounts to 4-5.

Additional ingredients can include a bay leaf, onion, celery, and celery leaves.  One essential ingredient however is acid of some sort.  This will help draw the calcium, magnesium, and potassium from the bones into the broth resulting in the gelatin  you are wanting.  I use a splash of apple cider vinegar which amounts to about four tablespoons.  Don’t be concerned about a funny taste.  I’ve never noticed an unpleasant flavor resulting from the vinegar.

When all the ingredients have been added, I cover my pot and let it cook on high for about an hour or so, then turn it down to low and allow it to continue for about another eight hours.

To test for gelatin, a small amount can be refrigerated.  A wonderful gelatinous broth will truly look like jello.  I will confess that many, many times after following all the above steps, even going so far as to add the chicken feet, I will end up with a watery broth.  While this is disappointing it does not mean that your effort has been wasted.  The resulting product is still very nourishing and can be used.

I use what I need right away and strain the rest in quart sized bags to go in the freezer. I like to use a variety of sizes anywhere from 1 cup to a quart.  While it is easier to just fill quart sized bags I don’t like having to thaw the entire amount if I just need one cup.

If you want to can the broth, it is possible using a pressure canner.  I have done this, and it was convenient.  The high heat and pressure from the canning will however minimize the nutrients you’ve worked so hard to preserve.

For us, a single crock pot batch will make up about four quarts of broth which lasts us approximately one month.

Do you make bone broth?  What are some tips and tricks that you have discovered? How do you use it in your kitchen?

Find this post and others like it linked to: The Homestead Barn Hop, Homemade Mondays, Frugal Days Sustainable Ways, The HomeAcre Hop




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Bone Broth Basics — 16 Comments

  1. When we butchered 50 chickens last summer, my daughter Bethany made a separate stock just with the feet. It turns out so thick and rich it is like the firm gelatin cubes we used to make in the 80s. Nutritionally a cube is like a power surge! Bethany froze the cubes to use medicinally and to add to other stock we make with carcasses. If the 40# block of feet is hard to separate maybe this would help deal with a big chunk of them.

    • Oh! Oh!!! What a great idea!!! If that works my problem is solved!!! I would sooooo like to get these feet out of my freezer so we can fill it up again with grass fed beef! Thanks so much for that tip Marie!

    • Hello Nihal! How are they eaten there? I’ve heard that people like to eat them but whenever I look at the foot I can’t figure out how. There isn’t any meat on them that I can see. They do give a wonderful flavor to the broth.

  2. I do this with our roasted chicken and turkey carcasses. Since the bones become soft enough to crush between my fingers, I crush them, divide them up into a few small lunch-sized freezer bags and feed one of these weekly to my 9 hens. They love it, and I love that I don’t have to throw anything away.

  3. I’ve been making and freezing heaps of bone broth. It’s one more tool in my arsenal to heal my poor innards. :-)

  4. Bone broth helped me get through a 12 day liquid diet before surgery this month. The goodness in bone broth gave me a much needed boost when I started feeling shaky and wimpy. I swear by it!

  5. We make a super rich bone broth with all the various bone in chicken we get from the food banks. We thaw the frozen chicken enough to separate it from the packaging. It is then put into a large stock pot filled to the top with water. I leave it cooking all day. After dinner I use tongs to remove parts. I remove the meat from the skin and bones and freeze in meal sized amounts in reusable containers. I then add bones and skin back to broth as well as any interesting parts such as neck and gizards. I leave at a low boil for 1-2 days (a simmer at nights with water added to top of pot when going to bed and again middle of the night. I then toss the interesting parts and skin. I crush the then brittle bones in an enamel bowl from my grandmothers old stand mixer. I then add back to the broth and add more water, leaving to boil for a full day. I then freeze in ice cube trays (yes with any remaining bone particles). Then put ice cubes of broth in a container for future use.

    We started doing this after learning that boiling the bones until brittle then eating them was the primary source of nutrition and health for children in Haiti. Though they are frequently underfed, the children living with access to chicken bones were healthy while their bone free counterparts were malnourished. We frequently go without a “balanced diet” due to our economic poverty, but my children have always been well nourished by using many of these “old” methods. We may never escape economic poverty due to my health, but we will never be poor.

    • I was not aware of that. What a great idea! I love that nothing is wasted. We’ll have to give that a try. Thanks so much for sharing that valuable tip!

  6. Pingback: How to make broth without a recipe | Good Not Perfect