Bone broth has become as trendy as quinoa, kale and chia seeds. Suburbanites can drive-through a broth stand for their daily dose, and New Yorkers can pick up a mug right alongside their wheat grass shots.
Here in the wild woods, we make it the good old-fashioned way: with Lake of the Woods fish carcasses or Minnesota whitetail antler and bones or from young roosters and old hens past their egg-laying prime. We have pork knuckles in the freezer from pigs we co-raised with my parents and stew bones saved from the grass-fed beef we split with one of the neighbors.
I’ve even saved bones from T-bone steaks, BBQ ribs, pork chops and roasted turkey. Pre-cooked bones add an extra layer of flavor to the broth. I’ll also throw in organ meat if I have any for an extra nutritional punch.
It goes without saying that the healthier (and happier) the animal, the more nutritious the resulting broth will be. CAFO-raised meat (confined animal feeding operation) is the least beneficial and can actually introduce new toxins your body then has to contend with. That said, buying organic or farm-raised is too spendy for many of us, or we simply may not have the freezer space to buy half an animal at a time.
Just do your best. Start making broth with whatever comes your way and doors will open up, as they do in all of life when you make the best of what you have with gratitude.
I learned most of what I know from Sally Fallon Morel, author of Nourishing Traditions, Nourishing Broth, and The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Child Care. One of those three books is open on my counter top at almost all times.
Bone broth can help address bone and joint health, skin growths and diseases, wound healing, infectious diseases, digestive disorders, mental health and even cancer recovery. Ms. Fallon Morel carefully lays out the science in her books, as well as provides hundreds of recipes and testimonies. I highly recommend them.
Here’s how I make my broth:
Save bones, fat and skin. Cartilage-heavy knuckle and neck bones are a great choice, as well as fish carcasses and pig or chicken feet, but save whatever you can get your hands on. Save the fat and skin you would normally remove from your meat cuts; it will help add extra collagen to your broth.
Save vegetable leavings. I keep a large reclosable bag in the freezer at all times, throwing in my onion skins and roots, garlic skins, carrot tops and peelings, celery ends, ginger skins, unused greens and herbs, basically any vegetable scrap that would taste good in soup.
Fill a large stock pot or crock pot with bones, 4-7 pounds depending on the size of your pot. I personally like the flavor of apple cider vinegar but any kind will do. Pour the vinegar over the bones, layer in your vegetable leavings and then cover with cold water. You can also add cracked peppercorns, bay leaves and other herbs at this point for additional flavor. (Don’t add salt; save that for the soup or sauce you make.) Cook on low heat for 6-12 hours. I usually let it cook for as much as 24-36 hours, adding more water as needed to keep the bones covered. In the first few hours, the impurities will rise to the surface, so be sure to skim off any foam or scum.
If you’re not using the broth right away, let it cool to room temp, remove the bones and strain out all the remaining solids. Then transfer to your storage containers. (Don’t be alarmed if the broth turns to a thick gelatin; this is ideal. Mine is usually thinner because I keep adding water.) I like to use wide-mouth pint and quart size jars. Fill the jars three-quarters full and then freeze. (I have also canned mine because it’s handy to have unfrozen broth whenever I need it, but Ms. Fallon Morel recommends freezing it to preserve as much nutrition as possible.) Transfer a jar from the freezer to the fridge every other evening, and then start your day with a warm mug of broth. (I like to add sea salt, a squeeze of lemon, a tsp of red chili paste, a sprig of cilantro and a dab of coconut oil. It’s both filling and nutritious, as well as quite tasty.) When I drink broth consistently, I feel great, have tons of energy and sleep better. Use the broth in soups, to cook grains and rice, and to make gravies and sauces. Substitute broth for water in everything that you can and watch your health change for the better.
[Published as part of the Tastes of the Angle series – column 51 in the February 21 Warroad Pioneer]