Everywhere I read about real food, I also read about the benefits of including bone broth in a real food lifestyle. I’ve been saving vegetable scraps to make homemade stock, but thought I’d read more about bone broth and its merits before simmering my first batch. It turns out that bone broth can help the body in many, many ways, from boosting digestive and brain health to strengthening your hair and teeth. Bone broth has a slew of vitamins and minerals as well as antioxidants and two special amino acids (click here to learn more). It’s also great for boosting immunity, especially in the winter months when illness is rampant. It is suggested that you drink a cup of bone broth each day, and it’s great to serve to those battling a cold or flu.
To make bone broth, it’s very important that you use bones from organically-raised animals – whether grass-fed or pastured. They produce a gelatin that is essential in the broth to reap the many health benefits mentioned above. I purchased bones at my local organic meat market, but you could also use the carcass of a whole roasted organic chicken.
- 2-3 lbs chicken bones
- 2 carrots
- 3 celery stalks
- 2 onions
- 2 T apple cider vinegar
- handful of peppercorns
- 1 or 2 bay leaves
Roast the chicken bones at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.
Place the chicken in the bottom of a heavy stock pot (I have a 2-gallon pot) and add 1 gallon of cold filtered water. Add the vinegar to the water and let the chicken sit for about 20 or 30 minutes. Supposedly the acid in the vinegar helps to draw out the nutrients in the chicken bones.
Add the carrots, celery and onion. Just a rough chop is needed, and you can leave the skins and such on. I also added the scraps I’ve been saving in my freezer. My scraps for this batch included yellow and red onions, celery stalks, broccoli and kale stems, carrot peels, and rosemary stems. Add a handful of peppercorns and a bay leaf or two.
Cover and bring to a rapid boil. Once the water boils, reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 12-24 hours (more time if you’re making beef broth; less for fish broth). You may need to skim the broth during the first few hours, checking every 20 or 30 minutes. You’ll see some scum float to the top – just scoop it off and toss it out. You probably won’t have much to skim if you’re using bones from good quality, healthy, organically raised animals (in fact, I didn’t have any at all in my broth).
While the broth is simmering, partly cover (you don’t want to fully place the lid on the pot). Also, when simmering overnight, make sure to have the heat on the lowest temperature possible and be sure to add more filtered water as it will evaporate overnight. You want to make sure to have enough liquid so it doesn’t cook all the way down. I read somewhere that if the vegetables aren’t completely overcooked and mushy and if the chicken bones aren’t stringy and tasteless, you haven’t cooked the broth long enough!
If you want to add fresh garlic and herbs, wait until the last 30-60 minutes and add them then. Be mindful of what you add – think of how you’ll be using the broth and add herbs to flavor accordingly.
Turn the heat off and let the stock cool down a little. Strain the stock of all the scraps and bones. A chinois is probably the easiest way to strain, but if you don’t own one, you can find other ways to strain the broth. I used a bit of a multi-step process to strain my broth. First, I scooped out the vegetables and bones using a small strainer (like this one), discarding the scraps into a bowl.
To get every ounce of broth out of the scraps, I rested the small strainer over the pot of broth, and put scoops of the scraps back in, pressing out any more liquid and then tossing the scraps into the trash.
Finally, I rested my splatter screen over a clean bowl and slowly poured the broth through it, catching any last bits of scraps.
Put the strained stock in the refrigerator for a few hours until the fat floats to the top.
I divided my stock among pint size Ball jars that can go in the refrigerator or freezer to use as needed later. If freezing, be sure to leave room for the broth to expand.
You can refrigerate the stock for 3 or 4 days (and freeze for up to a year). Bone broth is great for just sipping – it’s recommended you drink a glass a day – or use it as the base for soups, stews, gravies and more.
Notes for next time:
Make sure you don’t skimp on the bones or add too much water. Either one will result in good broth, but less than ideal health benefits as you won’t have enough gelatin in the broth. My first batch didn’t turn gelatinous, which is what you’re looking for. I updated the recommended pounds of bones in the recipe above. You want at least 2lbs. of bones per gallon of water.
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