breast milk soap

Because our skin is so absorbent, what we put ON our bodies matters as much as what we put IN our bodies.

Back when I had serious skin issues, I didn’t realize that most store-bought soaps can really inflame skin and cause pain and irritation.  I didn’t know what good soap was until I bought a bar from a homeschooling, goat-tending family in eastern Washington state at a farmers’ market.  I tried the soap… and I fell in love.  I became one of their best customers, placing big orders regularly and spreading goat milk soap love to all my friends and family.

So that’s why, when the kids closed their goat milk soap business, I was devastated.  I looked at some local makers of goat milk soap and was a little astounded by the price – $6 a bar!  So I decided I needed to learn how to make my own.  The only problem… I don’t have a goat.  (Serious problem!!)  But I *do* have a stash of breast milk in the freezer, so I thought… why not try it?!?

Spoiler alert:  it worked!  Better than I could have imagined!  The soap is luscious!  After making it, I found the most amazing goat lady who sold me some of her girls’ milk, and I’ve been making both goat milk AND breast milk soaps ever since.  I’m getting kind of good at it!  And, since a lot of people are asking for details on how to do this, I thought I’d share here.   This post covers both goat milk and breast milk soap.  You can use either milk – but I wouldn’t suggest substituting other milks.  Goat milk is recommended for skin because the ph of the soap it makes is supposedly closest to human skin ph.  But if goat milk is close, is human breast milk spon on?  I haven’t tested this, but based on my skin’s reaction to the soap, I’m willing to bet it is.

Before embarking on this soap journey, I did some research.  I searched online and found a few blogs wherein people chronicled their experiences with making goat milk soap.  I noted all the safety warnings – first, that lye is caustic and will burn your skin, so you need to wear rubber gloves and safety glasses and protect against any spills or splashes.  Lye also releases harmful fumes when it’s hydrated, so it’s best to mix it with the milk outside.  (If you must mix it inside, open all the windows and turn on a fan so that your work space is well ventilated.  But if you can – go outside.)  Another concern is that liquid added to lye can cause an explosion (didn’t we learn this in Fight Club?), so you always add the lye to the milk, and not the milk to the lye.  And lastly, lye heats up as it hydrates, so in order to keep the lye from overheating and cooking (or scorching) the milk, you should start with frozen milk, and add the lye to the cubes or chunks of frozen milk, and stir continuously until the lye is dissolved and the milk is all thawed.

So yes, I was out on my porch in what looked like a white lab coat, wearing green rubber gloves and red safety glasses, doing a kind of science experiment involving a digital scale, chunks of frozen breast milk, and a white granular substance in a container marked with numerous bright red “WARNING: EXPLOSIVE” labels.

All my neighbors think I’m totally normal.  Especially when I assuage their concerns by yelling out “Don’t worry!  It’s just BREAST MILK!!!”

To make soap, you need to choose a recipe.  You can NOT just willy-nilly dump oils and milk and lye together and hope for the best, because soap is really more science than art.  It’s like the difference between cooking and baking – you can cook without a recipe or measuring things, and it will usually turn out fine, but if you try to bake a cake and don’t measure or use a recipe, you’ll bake something, but it probably won’t resemble a cake.  The same is true for soap.

You can use any recipe you find online for goat milk soap, and just swap out the goat milk for breast milk, or you can fashion your own recipe using the fats and oils you prefer.  It’s a good idea to read a bit about the qualities different oils have, so you can choose ones that will suit your skin and your needs.  (This website was very informative on that subject.)

A note about palm oil:  I’ve been using palm oil in my soaps because the goat milk soaps that I fell in love with were made with palm oil, so that’s just what I bought.  But since reading about how destructive palm oil farming is to the environment, I’ve decided to switch up my soapmaking and will be using very high quality leaf lard (from pastured pigs) for my next batch.  I just purchased some from the awesome farmers at Warren Wilson College, and when I told them about my plans to make breast milk soap with it, they were super excited, and they want to buy some!  (See?  Not everyone thinks I’m nuts.)

If you make up your own recipe or change the amounts of oils at all, you need to use a lye calculator in order to determine the amount of lye to use for the fats and oils you have chosen.  They each behave differently with lye, and you don’t want to end up with too much lye in your soap (it will burn your skin) or too little lye (it won’t make soap).

If this is sounding a little complicated, trust me, I can relate.  But really, it’s not that bad.  I used the lye calculator at Majestic Mountain Sage, which is here.  It’s a very simple, useful tool that allows you to input the number of ounces of each fat you are using, and with one click, the calculator will tell you the amount of milk and lye to use.  I use the amount it recommends for a 9 percent “superfat” soap.  Most guides also recommend using 60 percent “hard” oils and 40 percent “soft” oils.  Here’s an excellent post on how to formulate the “perfect” soap for your needs.

My recipe has varied for each batch I’ve made, depending on what kind of soap I want and what kind of oils I have on hand.  For the last batch, this was my recipe:

10 oz organic coconut oil
4.5 oz palm oil
1.5 oz organic red palm oil
3 oz castor oil
3 oz grapeseed oil
2 oz organic extra virgin olive oil
1 oz plantain-infused extra virgin olive oil
1 oz plantain-infused sweet almond oil

I mix these oils together in a 2 quart glass measuring container, and I heat them in a pan of water on the stove until they are all melted and combined.

Then I remove the measuring bowl from the hot water and let it sit until it is 100-120 degrees.

While the oils cool, I don my science lab outfit and head to the porch to mix up the lye and milk.  For this recipe, I used:

9.2 oz of breast milk (you can use anywhere from 7-10 oz)
3.89 oz lye

goat milk cubes with some lye added to them

If your milk is frozen in little baggies, cut the baggies open with a scissors and pry the frozen milk out of the baggie and into into a glass bowl (don’t thaw and re-freeze).  Then measure the lye (use a digital scale – don’t rely on measuring cups or spoons) on top of the frozen milk chunks.  I used a stainless steel spoon to mix it all up, stirring constantly until the milk was all melted.

goat milk with lye dissolved in it (note how the goat milk is whiter than the breast milk in a lower photo)

The lye heats the milk up in a hurry, so if you don’t stir a lot, you risk burning the milk.  (And any woman who has ever pumped milk for any period of time will give you a dirty look and a stern lecture about how every ounce of that milk is PURE GOLD and NOT TO BE WASTED.)

So be careful.  And avoid the wrath of a pumping mama.

Leave the bowl of lye/milk slurry out on the porch (yucky fumes, remember?) and head inside to check the temp of the melted oils.

When the oils have cooled to that hot-bathtub-water temp, you’re ready to mix the oils with the lye/milk.

breast milk and lye on the left, melted and cooled oils on the right, immersion blender ready to go!

Note that this is when you have the greatest risk of spills/splashes, so cover all your skin.  Put your gloves and safety glasses on.  And then carefully pour the lye/milk solution into the oils and begin to stir the mixture.  You have to mix it until it reaches what’s called “trace,” meaning the oils start to thicken and when you pull your spoon or immersion blender across the surface, the mixture will hold little waves on the surface.  If the mixture is still completely soupy and the top of it stays flat when you pull the mixing implement out, it hasn’t reached trace yet.

Not at trace:

breast milk soap that is still very soupy and liquid, needs more mixing.

At trace:

this is a batch of goat milk soap, at or a little beyond “trace”, meaning I mixed it slightly longer than I should have (but the soap still turned out great)

How long does it take for the soap to reach “trace”?  That depends on myriad factors, including temperature, type of fats used, and most importantly – what you’re using to mix.  If you use a spoon, it’s going to take so long you’ll think your arm is going to fall off.  If you use a whisk, you’ll still feel similarly.  Think 15-20 minutes of constant stirring.  That doesn’t sound that bad until you actually try it.  (I tried it.  My arm is still growing back.)  If you want your soap to “trace” in a much shorter time period, use an immersion blender.  Make sure it’s spotlessly clean (you don’t want any leftover broccoli soup in your soap, do you?)  Using an immersion blender, my soap usually “traces” in a few minutes.  When it does, I immediately stop blending and add essential oils.  For this batch, I used:

40 drops sweet orange essential oil
20 drops organic patchouli essential oil

Note that this isn’t a lot of essential oil – it makes the soap very lightly scented, which is how I prefer it.  If you like a more scented soap, you’ll want to use more essential oil.  You can learn more about safe dilution rates here.

Add the oils and then stir using a silicone spatula, and then pour into your mold.  I used a small cardboard box lined with parchment paper as my mold.

Then I put the box of soap in an insulated cooler to keep it from cooling off too quickly.  (I read that this will help prevent the formation of a thick layer of white powder on the top of the soap – which happened with my first batch.  The powder is known as soda ash, and it’s supposedly harmless but not very aesthetically pleasing.)

Cleanup requires some special safety precautions, too.  Even though the lye is mixed into the fats, it hasn’t yet been neutralized, so the soap mixture can still burn your skin.  (Ask me how I know this!)  Because of this, you need to keep those gloves on while you wash your equipment.  And even though you’re washing off “soap,” your soap’s not truly soap yet, so you need to use some dish soap to break down those fats.

After a few hours, I open the lid of the cooler slightly so that moisture can escape.  Two days later, I take the soap out of the mold and use a chef’s knife to cut the soap into bars.  I put the soap on a baker’s rack so that air can circulate around the bars.  This is to allow it to breathe while the fats and lye interact completely.  This process is called “saponification,” and it’s what neutralizes the lye so that it no longer burns your skin.

The process of saponification takes 24 hours to six weeks (or longer!)  I wait six weeks for all my soaps, and then I check it to see how my skin reacts to it.  Many soap-makers do pH testing, which is discussed in great detail here.  I’ve toyed with it but got widely varying results, and sort of gave up.  My skin is the real test.  First I try it on my hands.  Then my arms.  And finally my face.  I pay close attention to how my skin feels after using the soap.  Does it make my skin feel itchy?  Dry?  Greasy?   (Almost all commercially made soaps cause these issues for me – but none of my homemade ones have.)

A final note about safety:  As I researched and read about making soap, a question crossed my mind: Is it SAFE to rub breast milk all over your skin?  Crunchy mama groups would have you believe that breast milk will solve all that ails the world, but there’s also the real-world consideration that breast milk is formed from blood, and blood can carry disease.  (Hepatitis B and HIV, to name two of the scarier ones.)  So it occurred to me that you probably shouldn’t use breast milk soap unless it was made using milk from someone who has tested negative for these blood-borne diseases.  (I’ve been tested and am negative for both.  Indeed, I think all pregnant women receiving regular maternal care get tested for both prior to giving birth.)  So – buyer beware…?  It’s probably not a bad idea to exercise caution.  But then I also wondered:  do goats carry blood-borne diseases?  And if so, can they harm us?  Would any blood-borne disease still be able to infect a person given the chemical process of soap-making?  Honestly, I don’t know the answers to these questions.  If you do, please weigh in, because I’m curious.

I’m not a generally squeamish person.  In my household, the five second rule is more like the five-hour rule, and even that has pretty lax enforcement.  Also, I know that my own milk is safe, so I’m not worried.  But would I slather breast milk soap from an unknown mama all over my body?  I don’t know.  Probably no.

But… given that a lot of commercially made soaps contain ingredients that we know to be harmful to health (parabens are especially concerning due to their ability to disrupt hormone production), maybe I’m over-thinking the breast milk safety issue.   I’m curious to know others’ thoughts on the issue, though.

Happy soap-making, friends!  Let me know how it turns out!

Anti-itch Plantain Balm

If you could harvest mosquitoes and eat them, I’d…

…never mind.  You probably can eat them.  I don’t want to!

Mosquito season is upon us!  Which means I’m dotted with red welts and can be spotted out in the yard wearing long pants and sleeves, despite it being in the 80s!  Fortunately, nature offers a good remedy for the itch, on those days when I just can’t be troubled to wear pants and sleeves.  Plantain to the rescue!

Plantain, also known as “white man’s foot” because it grows in areas trampled by foot traffic, grows just about everywhere, and you probably have some in your own yard.  Here’s some in mine:

Look for it at the edge of your lawn, or on or next to a walkway.

You can recognize it by its wide leaves and rosette-style growth pattern.

You can pick a clean(ish) leaf of plantain, chew it up, and then use the pulp to cover up a bite.  It will take the itch away in seconds!  Just leave it on until it falls off on its own.

If you don’ want to be covered in green splotches of plantain/saliva goo, there’s another method that works too.  Gather a good bunch of leaves and take them to the house.  Chop them up finely, and stuff them in a jar.  Then pour olive oil (you can substitute other skin-healing oils like fractionated (liquid) coconut oil, sweet almond oil, etc) over the plantain to cover completely, and fill the jar all the way up.  Use a chopstick to push down on the plantain to allow any trapped air bubbles to escape.  Then top it off with oil so that it comes all the way to the top, so that there is essentially no air left in the jar when you screw the lid on.  Label the jar with the herb (plantain), the type of oil you put on it, and the date.  Store in a dark place at room temperature, on a surface that won’t be ruined by seeping oil. (I put my jar in a yogurt container, just to be on the safe side.)

After six weeks, strain the oil off of the plantain and toss the plantain in the compost bin.  The oil is now ready to be applied to bites as is, or you can take it a step further by making a healing balm.  I make a balm and store any excess plantain-infused oil in the refrigerator for future batches.

To make the balm, use:

4 ounces (1/2 cup) of plantain-infused oil
1/2 ounce beeswax (if you don’t have a scale and are using beeswax pastilles, it’s about 2 tablespoons)
20 drops essential oils (optional)

Put the plantain-infused oil and beeswax in a glass jar, and put the jar in a saucepan half-filled with water.  (This works as a double boiler.)  Heat the water on the stove and stir occasionally until the wax is completely melted.  Then remove from the heat and add essential oils, if using.  Oils I have added to this mixture that promote skin healing are lavender and frankincense, and in a recent batch I used basil and rosemary, because they are anti-inflammatory and also help to repel bugs, hopefully keeping me from getting bit even more!

After adding the essential oils, pour into small containers, label, and enjoy!  I use these little 5 gram tubs because they are inexpensive, reusable, small enough to carry with me everywhere, and they’re a great size for gifting.  I put a penny in the photo so you can see how small they are.

I also make an effort to re-use small cosmetic containers – those little tins that beard balm and the like come in are great, as are small glass jars and pots.   I keep a 1.5 oz. honey-jar of this balm in a kitchen drawer, because I use it so often.

This balm is great for bug bites, but it’s also helpful on lots of other skin conditions.  The balm can be used anywhere for skin irritation, itchiness, minor scratches, or even as an all-over moisturizer.  If you omit the essential oils, it makes an excellent balm for healing diaper rash.

homemade toothpaste

Let me preface this post by saying:  if you’re perfectly happy with your teeth and your current toothpaste, then keep doing what you’re doing.  But if you’re looking for something different, read on.

After experiencing some post-pregnancy cavities, I did some research and discovered a book on how to remineralize and heal teeth naturally.   I switched up my diet some (including soaking and sprouting grains), and I added more oily little fishes to my diet, but I’ll confess that I just couldn’t do the whole protocol that is outlined in the book.  (No donuts?  Surely you jest.)

One thing I did do, though, was switch my toothpaste.  I tried (and loved) Uncle Harry’s Toothpaste, which made my mouth go “WOW,” but the cost was a tad steep:  about $11 for a small jar.  But still:  my mouth said WOW, and when I ran out of it and switched back to my old toothpaste, my mouth said:  “This is not wow.  Stop this nonsense and get the good toothpaste.”

So, I read the ingredients and researched homemade toothpaste recipes, which helped me determine the proportions, and I’m pretty pleased with the result.  (So are my teeth and gums!)  If you are a kitchen/beauty alchemist like I am, you may already have most of the ingredients on hand.  If you don’t, I recommend you just get some of Uncle Harry’s.

In a 4 oz. mason jar,* combine:

2 tablespoons bentonite clay
2 teaspoons Celtic sea salt
2 teaspoons xylitol
2 teaspoons calcium carbonate powder
1/2 teaspoon mustard seed powder
5 drops peppermint essential oil
5 drops spearmint essential oil
1 drop oregano essential oil
1 drop myrrh essential oil
1 drop frankincense essential oil
1 drop eucalyptus essential oil
1 drop tea tree essential oil
optional: 1 teaspoon colloidal silver

Add filtered water (very slowly, as it doesn’t take much) and stir until the powders come together to form a paste.  Brush as usual.  You can dip your toothbrush right into the jar to apply the paste to your brush, as the essential oils in the toothpaste are strongly antibacterial.

* Please don’t put the paste in a plastic jar, as the essential oils will degrade the plastic.

Feel free to switch up the ingredients to make it work for you – i.e., if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, note that some of the essential oils aren’t recommended.  And please note that most of the oils aren’t safe for kids under the age of 6.

Since I’m not a dentist, please, do your research and find out if this is right for you.  Some dental providers may balk at the idea of a fluoride-free, dirt-based toothpaste, and others will cheer you on.   Do what works for you and your family.

Have you tried to remineralize your teeth?  Did it work?  Please let me know about your experience in the comments!

Just do one thing

As a health coach, two questions people ask me all the time are, “What should I eat?” and “What diet should I follow?”  This makes sense: everywhere we look, we see new diet fads, new ways to lose weight, new ways to identify ourselves by what we eat.  You can’t host a dinner party anymore without fielding concerns from people about how they’re paleo/keto/vegan/raw/gluten-free/dairy-free/soy-free/high-fat/low-fat/all-carb/no-carb/no-fruit/all-fruit/anti-nightshade/subsisting-on-air-and-sunshine-and-occasionally-vodka.

That last one is made-up.  (Probably.)  I know someone who lived happily for a year on just ice cream.  She may or may not have been me.  (She was me.)

And here’s the thing:  the question of what to eat isn’t easy to answer.  Humans are omnivorous, which means we can eat pretty much anything, and different cultures all over the world eat dramatically different diets and do just fine.  Consider that traditional Inuit people eat lots of blubber and almost no carbs, whereas the traditional Japanese diet features lots of white rice (carbs) and very little fat.  And here’s the rub:  people eating either of these traditional diets tend to be healthy!  My grandmother grew up eating bacon and butter and cream and, at 92, was still living at home and tending her own garden.

So what are we supposed to eat?!?

Most research on nutrition suggests that eating a traditional diet – that is, one that your ancestors ate – will keep you healthier.  Most research also suggests that eating a modern diet – that is, one filled with processed convenience foods – will make you sicker.

As a good starting point in figuring out what to eat, I really like Michael Pollan’s Food Rules, a book that offers out a number of helpful guidelines to use in deciding what to eat (and what not to eat).  Some of my favorites are:

Don’t eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food

Avoid products containing ingredients that no ordinary human would keep in the pantry.

Avoid foods that have some form of sugar (or sweetener) listed among the top three ingredients

Avoid products that contain more than 5 ingredients

Avoid products containing ingredients that a third-grader cannot pronounce

Avoid foods you see advertised on television

Eat mostly plants, especially leaves

Eat animals that have themselves eaten well

Eat well-grown food from healthy soil

Make water your beverage of choice

Eat meals

Don’t become a short order cook

Fill half your plate with vegetables

Limit your snacks to unprocessed plant foods (fruits, nuts, and vegetables)

Plant a vegetable garden if you have the space, a window box if you don’t

Cook

While that may seem like a lot of advice to follow all at once, here’s the deal: you don’t need to.  Just pick one thing that you can change – something that seems both manageable and sustainable – and start there.  Then, after that becomes your new norm, pick one more change.  As you start to shift to healthier eating patterns, your body will shift too, and it will become easier to make healthier choices.

Do I recommend drastic dietary shifts to my clients?  No.  Why?  Because every diet has an equal and opposite binge.   You can deprive yourself of the junky foods you love for so long… until eventually you cave, and then you feel bad, and feeling bad makes you eat more junky food, and suddenly you’ve lost all the progress you’d made.  So I encourage my clients to focus not on drastic, fast change, but rather to take the slow and steady approach.

So, my answer to the “what should I eat?” question is this:  The only diet I advocate is one that’s 90 percent healthy, 10 percent vodka ice cream.  (Kidding!  You get to pick your poison.)  This is the 90-10 diet, and it doesn’t require religious adherence, nor does it require you to eat eat just pineapple for weeks on end.  You don’t even have to give up donuts.

Shout-out, by the way, to Mr. Bob’s Donuts.  I love you, donuts.

See?  All things in moderation.  Even donuts!

Since I recommend a moderate approach to dietary change, does this mean that I think people doing keto or paleo or sunshine-and-vodka diets are wrong or stupid?  No.  (Well, maybe my ice cream diet was unwise.)  If you’re an adult and you think that the keto diet might help jump-start healthier living for you, by all means, do it.  But if you think that a 3-day juice fast will solve all your problems and make you lose (and keep off) 15 pounds, you’re delusional.

Real change is change that lasts.

So pick ONE healthy thing.  And do that thing.  Not for a month, but forever.  Pick a thing you will be content to do forever, and start doing it.  Right now.

And if one day you forget to do that one thing, it’s not the end of the world.  You can just start anew, every day, and do that one thing, until it becomes second-nature to you, and you won’t have to think about it.  Then pick one more thing.

The little choices that we make every single day matter.  They add up to how we live our whole life.  So pick that one thing, and let’s get started.

What will be your thing?  Let me know in the comments!

And, as always, if you think you might benefit from a guide to help you transition to a healthier lifestyle, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me to schedule a free health history consultation.  Email me at upstreamhealth.jill @ gmail.com (minus the spaces) to set up an appointment.

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!