How to Make the Perfect Bone Broth (And Why It's So Good for You!)
I have a friend who is always trying out strange new health fads. When she showed up at work one day a few years ago with this frozen pouch of bone broth (heavy on the collagen), I just kind of gagged. "Is that good?" I asked her. She just shrugged and said she was taking it for her health. I asked her if she could explain why bone broth is good for you, and she said something about her skin and immune system.
Well, bone broth has become a lot more mainstream since that conversation took place. Research shows that traditional bone broth is excellent for our bodies! And when you make it yourself, well...you know what I'm going to say, right?
You know EXACTLY what's in it! Awesome-sauce, right?
Of course you can buy bone broth these days, of varying qualities. But...why not make your own? It's easy! You'll save a TON of money! And it tastes WAY better...
So, when I got my antelope last week in my first hunt, I asked my husband to save the leg bones for me. I wanted bones with joints, which contain all the good collagen. The bones contain mineral and amino-rich marrow and are filled with goodness as they break down. Smaller bones will actually become paper thin and brittle through the cooking process.
You don't need to go hunting or harvest your own animal to obtain bones. You can buy them at quality butcher shops, and stores like Whole Foods actually have beef bones frozen and ready to use just for you!
Note: This article contains affiliate links. If you click through and make any purchase, I'll receive a very small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for helping support Healing Harvest Homestead---Heidi
Why Use Bone Broth?
Bone Broth is a Traditional Food
Bone broths are a traditional food, and indeed, if you look into any ancient cuisine, you'll find bone broth. In Asia, bone broth was made using fish bones and sometimes beef. In the European countries, bone broths have long been the base of many traditional dishes, and is used for healing as well. Bone broth has been used across all continents for centuries--I think that speaks volumes.
Sally Fallon, author of Nourishing Broth and Nourishing Traditions, explains in both books why bone broth is so helpful for the human body. I recommend both of these books for more information about using bone broth.
A CAUTION about the bones you choose: Sally Fallon also wrote a recent update on her blog where she cautions people NOT to use the bones of conventionally raised animals. (You know, the ones in those inhumane feedlots, where most of your grocery meat comes from?)
This is because these animals are fed GMO soy and corn (among other monstrous things), which contain glyphosate, the Monsanto chemical pesticide. This chemical enters the animal and is stored in its collagen, thereby being passed on to us. Please use grass-fed, organic, healthy meat!
Bone Broth is Nourishing
Bone broth is filled with minerals, proteins, and depending on other additives, vitamins. If simmered long enough, bone broth contains collagen, over 19 amino acids, and other important nutrients that support the joints, gut health, immune system, and connective tissue of the body. You can tell you've made a good bone broth by how gelatinous it turns out.
Did your Grandma used to make you drink your chicken soup when you got sick? That's because there are compounds in bone broth that help your body heal. Scientists are not quite sure how it works, but there have been studies showing that broth heals.
I'm about to show you how to make the perfect bone broth every time. But before I do, let me just say that I was not always successful with the bone broth. I mean, it tasted just fine, and I used it in my soups, stews, etc., but it didn't have the thickness that indicates a high level of collagen or that the nutrients were fully obtained. In fact, it was rather watery. Yuck.
Thick broth that may even be somewhat jelly-like is a sign that you have really gotten all the nutrients and healthy compounds (including collagen) from the bones. Depending on the kinds of bones you use, you'll obtain thicker broth more easily. I get the best broth from beef bones, but I love my antelope and chicken broth too!
How to Make Perfect Bone Broth
What You'll Need to Make Bone Broth
You'll need bones. Any bones are fine, but I have found bones from large herbivores (beef, deer, bison, antelope, etc.) are the best. You can use chicken bones, turkey bones, and other kinds of bones, too---they are fine. Again---use "clean" bones, from animals not fed GMO foods. Best: raise or hunt your own.
The more bones you use, the more broth you can make at a time. You can mix up your bones also--You don't have to just stick with one type of bone in your bone broth, although purists might disagree with me.
You can use cooked bones (for instance, I'll use the carcass from a Thanksgiving turkey), but my preference is to use raw bones. You can buy bones made especially for making broth at good grocery stores, such as Whole Foods. Be sure you are buying grass-fed, organic (healthy) bones.
Vegetables and Spices:
I just use all the old veggies from the fridge and toss them in. For more flavorful broth, add garlic, onion, and other spices to taste. Vegetables are actually optional, but I like to add them for extra flavor and nutrition.
I use my tap water. It's from a well. If you don't want to use your tap water, that's ok. You can use filtered water too.
You'll need a large stock pot. The size depends on how much bones and vegetables you're using. Your pot should be large enough so you can completely cover everything with water, leaving at least two to three inches at the top of the pot. I often use my smaller canning granite ware pot for large amounts of bones (see pics). It's about 21 quarts, and I can fit an antelope leg into it, if it's cut just right.
Directions for Making Bone Broth:
Step 1) Put Everything in the Pot
Get your bones in the pot, and if there's meat still on them, that's fine. Cut up your veggies and add them too. Toss in any spices you'd like to use. I like to use rosemary, bay leaves, tomatoes, and like I said--any old vegetables in the fridge go in too.
Step 2) Cover All With Water
You want to have enough room between the surface of the water and the top of the pot to handle simmering liquid. I suggest at least two to three inches of head space. You'll want your bones and contents covered by at least an inch of water.
Step 3) Bring to a Boil
I turn the burner to high, put a lid on the pot, and bring it to a nice rolling boil. This quickly gets the water heated up and going.
Step 4) Simmer
This is where patience comes in. You'll want to keep that pot simmering steadily for about 48 hours. Some people say 24 hours is fine. I'm sure it is, and I've done that too. But if you want the gelatin, and to be sure you've gotten all the nutrition possible from the bones, the longer you simmer, the more powerful your broth will be.
My grown son who lives in town was sick over the weekend, and I ran into town to bring him herbs & oils (and some previously-made bone broth)---so I couldn't finish my bone broth on the second day. This particular batch simmered for 72 hours! No worries.
Keep checking your broth. If you notice the water decreasing too much, just pour a little extra in. If you are able to use a lid (recommended), then you may not even have to add any water. I've noticed when I'm using a smaller stockpot, even on a simmer, it boils too fast, so I have to vent the top. In this case, I may have to add extra water.
With the large Granite Ware stock/canning pot, I don't add very much extra water at all. I only added water twice in this three day period for this batch!
Step 5) Cool Down
When you have determined that your broth is probably ready (and there is a lot of leeway here), turn off the burner and allow the broth to cool down so it's just warm. I allowed my broth to cool for several hours.
Step 6) Strain
Now it's time to strain your broth. If I'm using a large pot, my husband may help me. If not, sometimes, I'll just use a small pitcher, like this heat resistant glass one, and dip, then strain.
I like to strain my broth directly into plastic gallon freezer bags or into glass quart Mason jars. Either can be frozen, but I prefer to freeze the plastic bags because I can get more into my freezer. I dislike using plastic, but this is about all I use it for. Space is at a premium at my place.
Label your bags/Mason jars with the contents and date.
Step 7) Freeze, Can, Use
Now it's time to decide what you're going to do with all that yummy bone broth! Here are three great options:
Use It Up!
Depending on how much you made, you might be able to just drink it or use it in recipes right away. My bone broth friend would drink about a quart a day! It's low calorie too! To drink your bone broth, heat it gently, add a little salt if you want, and enjoy!
You can also use it as a base for stews, soups, and other recipes. It's delicious and adds tons of flavor to your foods! You can cook rice, quinoa, and other grains or beans in it as well! Bone broth is super versatile.
I put two quart jars in the 'fridge to get used in the next couple days.
I like to freeze any extra. It's easy to defrost and use. It will keep pretty indefinitely in the freezer too. I can't even say how long because ours is always used up before freezer burn strikes.
I ended up freezing the other six quarts.
If you have a pressure canner, you can go ahead and can your bone broth. You can't water bath can your broth, unfortunately, because the broth is not acidic enough. You'll have to go with the pressure canner.
It's great to see it on pantry shelves or in long term food storage. Be sure to label it!
I may defrost my jars of bone broth for canning later, but as of right now, they are stored just fine.
Final Thoughts on Making Perfect Bone Broth
Once your bone broth is done and is all cooled down in your 'fridge, you might notice that it gets quite thick and jelly-like. This is a GREAT thing! It's simply a sign that you did everything exactly right.
If you don't get that jelly texture, don't worry. You still have great bone broth! Variations that can affect how your bone broth turns out include the types of bones used, whether they are cooked or raw, and the length of time you simmered your broth. No worries! I've learned from every single batch I've made!
Have you ever made bone broth? How did yours turn out? I had to make about five batches before I figured out how to get it thick and full of gelatin. Practice makes perfect, right?!
And you know my friend who was buying her bone broth? She has started making her own, too! Yay!
Let us know your experiences, questions, and comments in the comments section!
Hugs & Self-Reliance,
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