My first culinary school experience I can recall was cutting mirepoix for soups and stocks. Myself and a small group of students stood around the prep tables, nervously cutting carrots, celery, and onions while our chef instructor took notes on our knife skills. From day one, we learned the importance of stocks, not so much because of their nutritional profile, but for the rich, flavorful base they provided for soups, sauces, and various other recipes.
Bone broths have long been revered for their health benefits. Chicken soup was a regular dish served up by my grandmother and as a child, broth was always served when I feeling ill. Thankfully, this nutritious liquid is still regarded for promoting good health and current dietary trends have blown up broths! Loaded with amino acids and minerals, bone broths are a valuable attribute to a healthy and fully functioning immune system. By simmering bones for long periods of time, gelatin is extracted which promotes better digestion and tonifies the skin.
What is a Bone Broth?
Similar to stocks, bone broths can be made with just bones, or a soup bone which has a bit of meat attached. Bone broths are typically simmered for longer periods of time then stocks, sometimes upwards of 48 hours. The result is a deep rich broth with gelatinous properties. The long, slow simmer pulls as many minerals and nutrients possible from the bones. In some cases, especially with chicken, the bones will be crumbly once the simmer is complete.
5 Reasons to Consume Bone Broth!
In case you weren't convinced, here are 5 more reasons you should be making your own bone broth and consuming it often:
- Supports proper adrenal function
- Strengthens the immune system
- Builds Collagen
- Stocks are alkalizing
- Stocks mineralize the body, strengthening your bones!
Bonus Broth Love
The average American, with regard to consuming animals foods, largely utilizes lean muscle meats over organ meats, skin, and connective tissue. This is due to the modern convenience of prepackaged-portioned cuts of meats that fill grocery stores. Most families are no longer eating a farm-to-table or nose-to-tail diet which was previously the norm for cultures all over the globe.
Eating lean muscle meats to the complete or near complete exclusion of organs, skin, cartilage, marrow, etc., supplies the diet with an unhealthy balance of amino acids. One in particular, methionine, when received in large amounts (relative to other amino acids, like glycine), can promote IGF-1, which in turn can support the growth of cancerous cells in unhealthy individuals. Supplementation with glycine (or simply eating snout to tail) balances these amino acids out and does not promote this process. Omnivory that eats solely (or mainly) lean muscle meats is purported to promote cancer over a strict vegetarian diet, however, omnivory that fully utilizes the animal (as in hunter-gatherer diets) is known to produce almost no cancer, even in old age.
It all starts with the Bones.
For today's post, I am referring to grass fed beef bones, although wild game, lamb, or poultry carcasses can be used with great success. For a rich/deeper flavor, roast the bones in a 375°F oven until nice and brown. This will yield a much more pleasant taste in the end.
Grass fed bones are more nutritious than those sourced from factory farms or grain fed animals. While choice cuts of grass fed beef can be expensive, grass fed bones are very inexpensive ($5.00/lb) and at times, may be given away from your local butcher or farmer.
5 Ingredients You Should Be Adding to Your Bone Broth!
Apple Cider Vinegar
Although I never learned this in culinary school, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar should be considered an essential ingredient in bone broths. With a low ph, the vinegar acts as a solvent, helping to pull calcium and other minerals from the bones as it slowly simmers on the stove top.
We are fortunate enough to have a high quality, locally produced apple cider vinegar. Sewell Orchard is located just south of us in a small town along the mid coast of Maine. His organic vinegar is unpastuerized and is aged for a minimum of 2 years. I have been using this vinegar for several years now and use it in a variety of ways.
I hardly ever purchase vegetables to put into my stocks and broths, but I do save my vegetables scraps in the freezer until I have gathered enough to put into a stock. Onion peels, chunks of tomato, leek tops, and bits of celery add great flavor and aroma to the stock. Keep a produce bag on hand and collect bits and pieces of vegetables and freeze them up until you gather 4-6 cups worth. Be mindful to avoid brassicas, as they will impart an unwanted bitter flavor.
Since moving to Maine, sea vegetables have become an integral addition to my stocks, broths, and diet in general. An abundant and sustainable resource, sea vegetables are loaded with vitamins and minerals and help build on an already nutritious broth. With the added bonus of being a wild food, sea veggies like kelp, wakame, and kombu impart a deep earthy flavor that I strive for when making broths. Kelp is a vigorous plant, can grow several feet in a day, and is my go-to sea vegetable to add to bone broths. This brown algae is high in iodine, making it a good resource for assisting a properly functioning thyroid.
Medicinal Mushrooms can save the world! A TED talk by mycologist Paul Stamets suggests mushrooms can help to restore our ecosystem and fight against illness and disease. Polypore mushrooms like chaga, reishi, and turkey tail make for excellent additions and can be foraged in many parts of the world. I also look to store bought varieties like shiitake and crimini for their earthy flavor they impart in the broth.
An excerpt from an article by botanist Arthur Haines reveals more benefits of mushrooms and why cooking is the most optimal way to liberate their nutrients "Mushrooms improve the functioning of our immune system in a manner that protects us from bacteria, viruses, and cancer. It is important to note that to get the full effects of the glucans in fungi, they must be cooked to liberate these compounds from indigestible cell wall material. Without cooking, these polysaccharides are not bioavailable and a major reason for the consumption of fungi is not realized in the diet."
While every day culinary herbs like thyme, and parsley go into just about every pot of bone broth I make, medicinal herbs like ashwagandha, astragalus, fresh turmeric, nettle root, and ginger are just a few of the herbs that regularly go into my stocks and bone broths. From supporting the immune system, to working as an adaptogen in the body, many of the mushrooms and herbs I consume regularly have a host of benefits. But these dense roots and fungi require boiling or long slow simmers to extract their water soluble nutrients. You can find these herbs in your back yard, surrounding local forest or from various online retailers. Bone broth is a great delivery system to use herbs, and to consume them in this savory way.
Time to Make Some Bone Broth
- 2 pounds grass fed beef bones
- A splash of apple cider vinegar
- 4 liters of high quality water
- 4-6 cups vegetable scraps
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 Tbsp black peppercorns
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 tsp dried thyme
- 2 strips of kelp or wakame
- A handful of dried mushrooms (turkey tail, reishi, shiitake, chaga, or other medicinal mushrooms)
- small handful of medicinal herbs (astragalus, ashwagandha, nettle root, etc.)
- Preheat the oven to 375°F
- Place the beef bones onto a sheet pan. Roast in the oven until well browned, drain the fat, then transfer over to a heavy bottom stock pot. Add the remaining ingredients, including the vinegar.
- Pour in 1 gallon of cold water. Let stand for 10-15 minutes before gently raising the heat, and bring the water to just under a boil.
- Lower heat and simmer for 4-24 hours.
- While simmering, skim off any discolored foam that rises to the top.
- Remove pot from the stove and carefully strain through a cheese cloth of fine meshed colander.
- Cool the stock immediately in an ice bath; then store in a glass jar, in the fridge.
- Use within 3-4 days or freeze in appropriate containers.