Healing Bone Broth

I’ve been reading a lot lately about improving gut health (specifically, Dr. Josh Axe’s Eat Dirt, which is fascinating), and for years, I’ve been recommending bone broth to friends, family, and clients.  Bone broth is great not just for gut healing, but also boosting immunity, general healing, and even beauty!  After writing the recipe half a dozen times this winter, I realized:  this really belongs on my blog.

I was first introduced to bone broth a decade ago, when I moved back to my home state of South Dakota and into a farm house I rented from my parents.  The house had a giant freezer in the basement, and because my parents run a hunting lodge, the freezer had several shelves filled with frozen pheasants.

I was a vegetarian at the time, and to put it mildly, the sight of a bunch of dead birds in the freezer did not spark joy for me.  Freezing produce from my garden did, however, so in order to make room for the vegetables, I thought maybe I could use some of the pheasant.  But, since I didn’t really eat meat, and I didn’t have any desire to start, I thawed out a few birds, cut out the breasts and gave them to my mother to cook, and I put the carcasses in a big stainless steel pot with water and vegetables and proceeded to cook them.  I’d previously relied on homemade vegetable broth to make soups… but when I tasted the pheasant bone broth, I was a changed woman.

My vegetarianism went out the window, and over that summer, I converted all those birds into delicious, nourishing broth.  One of my go-to recipes has always been Rebecca Katz’s Chicken Magic Mineral Broth, which I first discovered in her (amazing, life-changing) cookbook, The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen.  Despite not having cancer, that cookbook has been my favorite for the last decade, and the recipes in it are ones I return to (and recommend to others) every day.

I digress.  Bone broth.  While I often make Katz’s recipe, which is phenomenal, I’ve discovered that sometimes it’s too much trouble, and I just want to make a simpler broth that requires next to no time.  This is where thriftiness comes in handy.  You see, I never toss a vegetable scrap that I’d like to see end up in a pot of stock.  So in my freezer, you’ll find numerous baggies and containers filled with random bits of organic veggie scraps – onion peels, carrot peels, potato peels, sweet potato peels, tomato peels, celery ends and leaves, a leek that didn’t have a proper home in another recipe, parsley stems, basil stems, ginger peels, etc.)  I don’t save things like broccoli or cauliflower, as they taste a tad sulfurous when cooked into a stock, but I do sometimes save things like hard kale stems.  Use your judgment, and save the things that you think would make a delicious broth.

I can’t tell you how many times someone has found one of these baggies filled with random scraps and tried to throw it away, and I had to run to the kitchen, yelling “Noooooooooooo! That’s for broth!” and rescue my precious scraps before they ended up in the rubbish bin.

Some people!

Another weird thing those friends will find, if they dig a little deeper in my freezer, is a package or two of chicken bones.   When I buy chicken (which I do sometimes now – my vegetarian ways were fully dismissed the day I realized I could kill a vicious rooster instead of allowing it to repeatedly attack me), I buy a whole young organic bird (preferably one raised on pasture), and I cook the bird, and then I save every single bone in the bird, as well as the giblets.  If I’m not ready to make broth right then, I put the bones and giblets in a bag in the freezer.

Then, when I’m ready to make a big pot of stock, all I have to do is dig around in the freezer, put the bones and the vegetable scraps in a big stock pot, and fill the pot with filtered water.  I also generally a few other items:

2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1 teaspoon bouquet garni (optional)
1 3-inch square of kombu (seaweed)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar or 1 tablespoon lemon juice (this is to help draw the calcium out of the bones)
1 teaspoon sea salt

This takes all of 3 minutes to prepare.

If you don’t many scraps stowed in the freezer, add an onion, some celery, and a few cloves of garlic.  No need to peel any of these, just roughly chop and toss in with skins on.

Bring the pot to a boil and then turn the heat to low and cook for 12-24 hours.  If you don’t feel comfortable leaving your stove on overnight, you can make a smaller batch in a crock pot, or you can make broth in an instant pot, as well.  In the instant pot (this is the one I own and like), I add all my ingredients to the pot, fill with water to the fill line, and then cook on the manual setting on high pressure for 2 hours.

Once the broth is cooked, let it cool a bit and strain all the bones and vegetables out of it.  Throw the bones and vegetables away, as all the good stuff will be taken from them and put into the liquid, which should be a rich golden color.  I pour the broth into glass jars and refrigerate overnight, and then I transfer what I’m not using within a few days into freezer-safe containers and freeze.  Broth keeps for 4 days in the fridge or 3 months in the freezer.

I use homemade broth as the base for all my soups, and I also often drink it in place of coffee or tea.  Sometimes I add a teaspoon of miso paste after warming the broth, which adds more rich, savory flavor, and sometimes I drink the broth plain.

The broth has lots of vital minerals including calcium and phosphorous, as well as collagen from the bones, which is soothing to the digestive tract and also promotes healthy skin, hair, and nails.

If you’re sick, there’s nothing more magically healing than homemade bone broth, and if you’re healthy, there’s nothing more soothing.

And if you’re wondering… “Can’t I just buy bone broth?”  The answer is Yes, you can.  Kettle and Fire is a good brand, but when you see the price, you’ll understand why it makes sense to make it!

Plus:  I find that there’s something really lovely about making broth from scratch.  I get to use things that would otherwise be thrown away, and the process transforms them into something that’s precious, healing, and delicious.  That’s magic!

I keep bone broth on hand at all times, and if I feel a bit under the weather, I thaw out a container and drink 1-2 cups a day.  And, it’s toddler approved.  My 2 year old loves drinking broth and will ask for it.

Have you made your own broth before?  Have you experienced any health benefits from it?  If so, let me know in the comments!


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