I love bone broth.
Bone broth is the flavorful liquid produced when bones from poultry, fish, beef, lamb, etc. are simmered for hours to days with vegetables, herbs, and spices.
It tastes great. Seriously. Bone broth has a rich flavor that reawakens the sense of what food is supposed to taste like. It also can contain a lot of gelatin which is a natural thickening agent useful in soups, stews, sauces, and curries. I use it in many meals that I cook as one of my “secret ingredients” because it imparts a difficult to describe depth or layered flavor. I think this may have to do with how nutritious it is.
It is healthy. There are numerous medical research studies showing that chicken soup really is healthy for you, but bone broth goes even one step further. The long, slow cooking releases many minerals making them bioavailable (meaning we can easily absorb them). It also provides a great source of gelatin, as mentioned above, which contains arthritis-relieving glucosamine and chondroitin.
It is easy to make… not quick to make, but it is pretty easy. This is slow food not fast food!
Let’s get to the specifics. On our farm, we freeze our poultry whole after we process them, but we rarely want to cook or roast the whole bird, so after we defrost them I break them down to breasts, thighs, drumsticks, wings, etc. This leaves us with the ribs, backbone, and other bones that are difficult to utilize unless we make stock. We freeze these leftover parts until we have enough for a large batch of stock… or until we start running out of room in the freezer! I also save the chicken feet when we process our birds. Chicken feet have a lot of gelatin it in, so these are a great addition to the stock. I throw in a few big handfuls of roughly chopped onions and carrots, a head or two worth of peeled and crushed garlic cloves, a few stalks of celery, a fennel bulb, peppercorns, and some fresh or dried herbs like thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, etc. Any other spare vegetables can be thrown in; I’ve used parsnips, turnips, rutabaga, etc. I also add a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar for every gallon of water. The vinegar helps extract the minerals from the bones.
I toss all the ingredients into my 62-quart stockpot (that’s 15.5 gallons or 58 liters), fill it up with cold water (I prefer the water from my Berkey filter), bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and let it go for the next day or three. It fills the house with a wonderful aroma. Cooking time is variable, but I keep the stock simmering until the bones crumble when I squeeze them between my fingers. This may take 24 hours or 72 hours; it depends on the bones. I then strain the stock. I sometimes pick through and save the meat for fajitas or other meals, but everything else goes to our pigs. I put the strained stock into the refrigerator and allow it to cool. All the fat rises to the top, and I scoop this off for rendering (see my next article). The remaining stock is put back into a stockpot and simmered down or “reduced”… basically, some of the water is boiled off, and the stock gets thicker and thicker. This results in something like a demi-glace. I spoon this into ice cube trays and freeze them. I then dump the cubes into a freezer bag, and I have readily available, serving size, concentrated bone broth ready to go whenever I need it!
It uses things most people throw away. Specifically, and unashamedly, I am talking about all the bones, wingtips, necks, and feet of poultry, and the bones and joints of sheep and beef. These are parts of the animal that most people throw away, but our ancestors wisely saved. I have learned that when I raise an animal from hatch or birth, fed and watered it, checked on it once and sometimes twice or thrice a day, and then ended its life with my own hands, I have a strong desire not to waste anything. We often use the word “process” to distance ourselves a bit, but the reality is that we are eating an animal that was alive. We treat every animal on our farm with the utmost respect. We give every animal the best and most natural life we can offer it. Our promise to our animals is that they only ever have one bad day. That respect continues after life, and we try not to “waste” any part of the animal. This was common sense a century ago. It’s how we make bone broth today.
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