…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.
One 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?