The Scoop on Bone Broth

As many of y’all know by now, I’m a big fan of making shit in the kitchen. Not just the main course and dessert, but all of the condiments and sauces and little things that we so often reach for on the grocery store shelves, but can so easily (and nutritiously) be making at home instead. Craving hummus? Make it. Want pesto atop those summer tomatoes? Make it. Marinara sauce this Sunday? Make it.

This make-at-home mission dovetails quite nicely with an effort to reduce food waste in your own kitchen, and now has never been a better or more important time to be cognizant of how we can upcycle instead of throwing away. The *quintessential* example of all of the above, is bone broth.

This golden liquid has been oft-discussed these past few years, and gets a lot of time in the spotlight for its nutritional benefits. While it may look like stock and smell like stock, it blows traditional broths and stocks out of the water with its nutrient-dense profile. Here’s a rundown (trying not to get too science-y on y’all) of exactly what bone broth is, some of the ways that it’s a nutritional superstar, and how you can whip it up in your own kitchen, during quarantine and beyond.

 

Bone broth vs. Stock (the showdown)

When I think of chicken broth, I think of those College Inn cans that my mom used to keep stocked (pun intended) in our cabinets growing up. They were the basis of soups, simmered in risottos, and sometimes sipped solo when we were sick. 

Chicken broth can be easily made with water, chicken scraps and carcass leftovers, and aromatics such as your onion, celery, and carrots. But the key difference between basic broth and bone broth is the length of time for which the broth is cooked.

Bone broths are simmered for a long ass time. I’m talking 8 hours plus here (sometimes folks will cook their bone broth upwards of 24 hours). This allows the nutrients and minerals to leach from the bones, and for the bones and connective tissues themselves to begin to break down into your broth. 

 

Health Friends (with benefits)

If you start digging into the research, you’ll find that bone broth’s health benefits are widely touted by doctors and experts in the field of nutrition and functional medicine. That’s because this stuff offers a wide variety of far-reaching wins for your body. Here are a few of them:

  • Having a cup of bone broth each day is like taking a nutritional supplement – there’s that much goodness packed into it. Important vitamins and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, zinc, and iron from the bones and connective tissue of the animal come right for you in a warming, easy-to-digest form. 
  • Buzzword alert: collagen. Bones and tissues contain collagen, which provides your body with key amino acids (the building blocks of proteins). This stuff is top-notch for your joints, your skin, your hair, your nails… the list goes on.
  • Bone broth has been shown to aid in digestion, and considering how widespread digestive issues are in this day and age, this is a big win. One amino acid in particular, glutamine, appears to help heal the intestinal barrier, which can be incredibly beneficial for conditions such as leaky gut. 

 

Make it Yourself 

My favorite starting point for bone broth is roasting up a whole chicken that can be used for my meals throughout the week at home. Here’s my favorite recipe for roast chicken, FYI. You can also use other bones from other animals, but I’ll use chicken here as the example.

Once you’ve carved the chicken, you’ll be left with the carcass and the discarded bones from enjoying the wings, legs, drumsticks, et al. Save every little bit, even that grisel that you had to pull out of your teeth (kidding but not really kidding).

I add them to my Staub Dutch oven, fill it to the top with filtered water, add a bay leaf if I have one, and a generous glug of organic apple cider vinegar (1-2 tablespoons). That’s it. If you have some extra fresh herbs that you want to use up, such as thyme, throw the whole sprigs in. If you want to add some dried herbs, such as herbs de Provence, you’re welcome to do that too. 

Bring it to a boil, then quickly reduce to barely a simmer, and let it go for 10-12 hours, adding more filtered water as needed. Strain out any undissolved bits, and you’re good to go.

 

How to Store and Use It

Not only is bone broth, delicious, nutritious, and easy to make (literally, set it and forget it), but it stores really well too. Just saying.

I’ll keep it for a few days in my fridge in an airtight container, and also freeze it in a few-cup-each increments for future use. Here are a few ways to enjoy it:

  • Drink your bone broth solo in a mug (NAKED!)
  • Use it as the basis of soups and stews for even more depth of flavor
  • Use it as your braising liquid – it’s especially great with heartier greens such as mustard greens and collard greens
  • Use it instead of water when making quinoa or rice (or your grain of choice)
  • Use it as the base for your oatmeal, and make a savory oatmeal situation

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