bone broth

done right

I remember hearing about some sort of soup competition that was going on in a city near us awhile back. The finalists were all on the radio outlining the ingredients in their soups and each one of them proclaimed, without a sigh of regret, that they used powdered bouillon as the foundation of their award winning soups.

Bouillon based soup is pretend soup. It’s the soup that fills you up in volume but leaves you empty of nourishment. That type of soup never satisfies and with good reason - our bodies know when they’ve been filled up with nutrients and when they’ve been conned by substitutes and respond appropriately. It’s either gnawing hunger soon after consuming the doppelgänger or great satisfaction from the authentic. Alas, this is not a treatise on the inherent value of including bone broth in your diet. The Weston A. Price Foundation has done that work for us and I put you in their good hands if any of this is new to you.

This is more a post on the troubleshooting of bone broth for those that have been making it for awhile, but haven’t been so happy with the results. So many people, newer to including bone broths in their diets, ask me why their broth is watery or thin or weak tasting. I get asked about storing it and how I make it. I’ve answered these questions many a time on Instagram, but I thought it might be time to do one all-encompassing post here. A what-I-do type essay.

I might mention that our family has been eating bone broths for decades now. It’s a main staple in our diets. I made plenty of watery broths in the beginning, but the thick, flavourful broth making is old hat now. So, without further ado, I share with thee a few tips I’ve picked up along the way.

First, and it’s the granddaddy of mistakes people make when making broth don’t add too much water for the volume of bones. If you keep getting runny, weak broth, that’s where I would start. I use half a pot of bones and fill the rest of the pot with water.

Next on the list is using an array of different types of bones. If you don’t tell your butcher or farmer that you want ALL the bones kept, you will likely find only marrow bones in your bag. I don’t know why so many butchers think that soup bones are just marrow bones, but it’s common enough that I think it must just be a carry-over from the recent few decades when bones were just considered dog treats. When I say all of the bones, I mean rib bones, flat bones like scapula, chunks of pelvis, vertebrae, joints sliced in half, marrow bones, platelet rich knuckles.. all of it! Each of those bones carries different types of cells and other nutrient properties we barely know the half of. Use them all.

Add a few good glugs of vinegar. I use my homemade vinegar. Apple Cider Vinegar is fine. It helps leach out the minerals from de bones.

You can add extra gelatinous bits like turkey/duck/chicken feet. You can also add pork trotters/tails/ears, calf hooves, rooster and other bird heads. I usually add a few feet and heads of some animal in my broths. Also, just vary the actual carcasses you use for your broths. Our favourite bone broth is goose, but my freezer is full of bison/venison/pork/beef/goose/duck/rabbit/turkey/lamb/goat and fish broths. We rotate through the broths with an emphasis on the ruminant ones because that’s just what we like best. Each type of broth offers different health properties and flavours.

After roasting my bones in the oven, and before putting them in the stock pot, I retrieve any marrow from bones. That marrow either gets gobbled up with a few sprinkles of salt or gets added to my “marrow jar”. Once I have enough marrow, I make marrow butter and freeze it in individual, tiny jars or moulds(that link brings you to Instagram. I will soon have all of my posts available here, but in the meantime, you will see my technique for making marrow butter there). We will grab one of those little marrow butters when we are on the go or need some luxurious fatty fats for a lean piece of meat.

The quality of your ingredients matters. Any heavy metals and contaminants are nicely tucked away in the bones and the fat of animals (us, too). I can’t think of a worse thing to do than boil that down for hours, condensing those toxins. Grass fed and finished animals raised on organic feed (in the case of non-ruminants) or wild animals from clean areas (you don’t want to eat wild game that has fattened on glyphosate/gmo corn for most of its life) are what you’re after.

Good water is essential for the same reason healthy animals are. You don’t want fluoride and pharmaceutical residues concentrated in what should be a nourishing food. 

I will include timing in here just because it may be relevant to some. I make all of my bone broth in the fall/winter months while our wood cook stove is in full swing. This allows me to keep my bones a bubblin’ for a couple of days. I then store the broth in glass jars in my broth freezer. I will make a year’s worth of broth throughout these colder months that we continue to use year long without the heat and energy needed to make it during the summer.

And while we’re on the topic of glass jars, I will include here the answer to the most common complaint I hear about freezing bone broth: your glass jars are bursting in your freezer because you are using the wrong type of glass jars. Yes, you will get away with jars that have shoulders on them if you fill them with a good amount of air space so they can expand - sometimes. Only sometimes. For those of us that make a serious amount of broth (and I have a broth freezer so I include myself in that camp), freezing hundreds of jars of broth will inevitably lead to unacceptable loss overtime as the glass fatigues and your luck runs out with those blasted shouldered jars. I use cylinder jars, no shoulders. My favourites are Weck jars. They’re pricey and they’re worth it. I built my jar collection over years. I can’t say enough good things about these jars for freezing liquids (I also use the cylinder style jars for freezing buttermilk and colostrum) and no Weck doesn’t give me a penny, but if they want to, they sure can. I’m not a material girl, but man alive, I will admit that I still get a thrill at opening up my jar cupboard.

Shoulder-free jars for freezing liquids.

Once you get the basic broth down, you can start adding other ingredients if you are so inclined. I now make medicinal, sipping broths and then just regular bone broths that are flavoured and jazzed up with spices only as I’m using them, depending on how I’m using them. My sipping broths are made with various wild foraged/medicinal mushrooms and herbs added to the water with the bones. I also add various cold water harvested wild seaweeds sometimes. I label those jars so I know what’s what when pulling them out of the freezer months later. A nice cup of nourishing bone broth with adaptogenic herbs and mushrooms in it feels so wonderfully reviving. Experiment away and see what kind of flavours and herbs work for you. 

I simmer my bone broth all day, take it off the heat at night, and then start all over again the next day. It’s about a 48 hour simmer. If I just want a 24 hour, then that’s what it is. But, I am partial to a more concentrated flavour. I also roast my bones first for that extra deep flavour doing so delivers. I don’t refrigerate the bone broth when I stop simmering at night, I just leave them where they are and put the heat on again in the morning. I skim the fat and it goes to the fowl or pigs. If you are short on animal fat, use it to cook with if you want.

That said, all of that long simmering means I best be simmering in as inert a vessel as possible. Stainless steel is not inert and you will get some leaching of metals which can vary depending on the alloys used in the stainless steel pot you are using. The quality varies wildly. Still, it’s better than aluminum to be sure. I use enamel lined cast iron or steel. It’s an investment, but I use Le Creuset only for bone broth brewing. When we were younger and pretty poor, I used a huge stainless steel pot and I’m still alive to tell the tale (albeit, on a regular heavy metal detox protocol). Do the best you can and be grateful for the nourishment instead of worrying that it’s not perfect. Your attitude determines your health just as much as your soup pot. 

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