What is Bone Broth and Why You Should Make It
Somewhere back near the beginning of time, our ancestors started boiling bones and other animal parts in water, releasing the nutritious and healthy vitamins, proteins, and minerals from otherwise inedible parts. Those early humans had no way to know that the broth they were making provided long-lasting nutritional benefit, or that bone broth would become a major diet trend.
Over the centuries, chefs learned to use bones to make stock or broth, often as a base ingredient for numerous dishes. Asian chefs commonly make and use bone broth for different recipes, and in many traditional households, bone broth is consumed daily both raw and in other dishes.
In recent years, bone broth has reemerged as the newest healthy dieting trend. There are even cafes all around the world that specialize in providing bone broth, selling it just like morning coffee.
The benefits of bone broth are numerous. Beyond making your soups and other recipes delicious, adding bone broth to your diet will provide vital nutrition many diets lack. Paleo diets that remove common food and beverage items from a person's meals are often supplemented with bone broth for the health benefit, but also because it’s delicious.
Bone broth is easy to make and can be stored for months in the freezer. You can drink it in its natural form, use it to make an amazing slow-cooked soup, or quickly throw together a pot of ramen that will make you wonder why anyone would buy those dried packages when making the real thing is so easy.
Differences Between Broth and Stock
The terms broth and stock are usually used interchangeably, and the novice chef may not readily see a difference, particularly when the bone broth is used as a base for a sauce. There are important differences between broth and stock that you should be aware of before experimenting with bone broth in your kitchen.
The primary difference between broth and stock is the time it takes to make. Stock can usually be made in as little as three hours, and even less if using a pressure cooker. Broth requires a long simmer, often 24 hours or more to release the nutritional benefits from the bones.
Stock is most commonly used as a flavoring ingredient rather than as a nutritional supplement. While broth and stock may smell and taste similar, the only way to get the full benefit of those leftover bones is to make a broth.
Nutritional Benefits of Bone Broth
Our ancient hunter-gatherer ancestors knew that bone broth was good tasting and good for them, but couldn’t have known why. Today, we know that bone broth is just loaded with beneficial vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Bone broth is more than just excellent flavor; the benefits of regularly including bone broth in your diet will show in your daily life.
Bones contribute calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus when simmered down to a broth. Bone marrow is a great source of iron, selenium, zinc, and manganese. These minerals are essential to your overall health. The minerals found in bone broth help your body regulate blood pressure, maintain proper cell health, and keep your bones and joints strong. Numerous trace minerals are also found in bone broth, many of which are often lacking in our daily diets.
Bones, connective tissue, and marrow all contribute to the health benefits of bone broth. A group of fat-soluble vitamins that include Vitamin K are released from bones when you make bone broth. Vitamin K has been proven to help your blood, and may even help with symptoms of morning sickness and spider veins.
Bone broth is recognized for contributing to healthy joints, and may even reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis. Many of the nutrients found in bone broth are beneficial for digestive health. Bone broth can alleviate bowel inflammation and leaky gut, and even helps you digest your meal better. Amino acids found in bone both have even been shown to aid in sleep. These same vital acids also can help your muscles recover after a strenuous workout.
While science has yet to disprove whether bone broth aids in improving your skin, collagen and gelatin are both found in broth. These two nutrients are essential for cell health, including the cells of your skin, hair, nails, bones, and brain.
Ways to Use Bone Broth
There are several ways that people use bone broth. Most commonly, bone broth is used as a base for soups, stews, and other dishes. Bone broth is a cornerstone of a Paleo diet and is the basis for many Asian dishes also. You want to know what makes French soups and stews so amazing? Yep, it’s bone broth those fancy French chefs are using to turn ordinary ingredients into an extraordinary meal.
You can also just drink bone broth all on its own, and this is the most common trend you will see in the dieting craze. In fact, one small glass every day can provide you with the vital nutrients, amino acids, and vitamins that you need, but normally wouldn’t get without eating tons of fresh meat and vegetables.
Making Bone Broth at Home
Bone broth can be made with any type of bones. You can use beef, pork, chicken, or venison bones. Wild game bones work wonderfully for bone broth, but you want to avoid using the spine, neck, and skull. Some wild game can carry diseases that can be transmitted to people.
Gather Your Bones
What we like to do in our kitchen is to save bones in the freezer until it’s time to start making broth. The bones do not have to be clean and free of meat, fat, or connective tissues. These parts will all boil down and contribute to the final broth.
What Kinds of Bones Can Be Used?
The most common bones used for broth are cattle bones. This is because beef bones are readily available, often at your local grocer or butcher, and they are often inexpensive. But, you are not stuck using already-trimmed bones. Wild game broth is fantastic and gives your dishes a unique flavor that is not common. You can use bones from deer, antelope, elk, moose, just about any big game.
Don’t forget about our feathered friends, either. Broth made from chicken carcasses is the basis for the best chicken noodle soup you have ever tasted. One of my personal favorite recipes starts out with whole fried chicken. Once we feast on some Southern Style cooking, the carcass goes in the stock pot – skin, joints, bones, and all. You can even throw in the feet. And when we have leftover fried chicken (which doesn’t always happen) we throw that in too. The fried flavors still come through, and a hot bowl of slow-simmered fried chicken and dumplings soup is a sensory treat.
Make a Stock
You will start your stock by bringing a large pot of water to boil. Add in the bones, making sure they are fully submerged. Lower the temperature until you have a nice, slow simmer. You can add a tablespoon or two of vinegar which helps release the nutrients from the bones and tissues and helps break down the bone marrow. After about three hours, you have stock. To make broth, all you have to do is keep the simmering going.
On To Broth
If you want a blank canvas broth to use in numerous ways, you simply simmer the bones, periodically checking that the water level is high enough. You can keep the simmer going for 24 hours or so, but there is no firm time when the broth is ready. You will need to keep an eye on when the bones are starting to look dry and crumbly. You can use a fork to skim the foamy parts off the top while the bones are cooking.
After the broth has simmered for a long time, you will need to strain the solids out. Usually, we will use barbeque tongs to remove the bones and larger parts, then pass the broth through a large strainer to remove smaller pieces. We usually will also pass the broth through a fine strainer or a cheesecloth to remove even the smallest parts.
Allow the broth to fully cool so that the fats come to the top and harden. The best way to do this is in the refrigerator. Once the fat is solid on top, you can lift it off and discard it, or use it for other cooking adventures.
Now, you will have a pot of light golden brown broth. The enticing aromas will be up front, and you will know that your broth is both delicious and healthy.
Taking Your Bone Broth to the Next Level
When you make a broth from bones, you can simply use the bones and your final broth will be excellent. But, if you add some vegetables and fragrant herbs, your broth will be even more amazing. Because a good broth is a very savory flavor, herbs like rosemary, thyme, and sage make excellent complimentary flavors in bone broth. You can add celery, onion, and other vegetables to pump up the flavor.
Tomatoes and Roasting Bones
For even more flavor, you can open a can of tomato paste, brush it onto the bones, then put them in a roasting pan in the oven. The acid in the tomatoes will act like the vinegar to loosen and release the nutrients, and the roasted flavor the bones pick up will translate into smoky, delicious subtly different bone broth. At the Bearded Butchers, we like to use our spice blends and roast bones before making broth for a truly signature dish. It’s really delicious.
Our Final Thoughts on Bone Broth
Bone broth is easy to make at home. One of the best benefits is that you are using parts of animals that are often thrown in the trash. Making a broth from these parts is the responsible thing to do, and the health benefits are more than worth the time it takes to simmer a beautiful, delicious bone broth, just like our caveman ancestors did thousands and thousands of years ago.
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