Winter is almost coming to an end, but we’re still brewing up batches of homemade bone broth and reaping the delicious, nutritious benefits every week. Once you start getting into real foods and traditional foods, you’ll hear a lot about bone broth and its many health benefits. You can of course make it in a big stock pot on the stove, but the quicker and easier way is to make it right in your crock pot!
So today highlights our next installment in our Real Food Lifestyle series. If you missed my last post which goes over the basics of real foods, you can check it out here.
Health Benefits of Bone Broth
Bone broth made with bones from organic, pastured animals has so many wonderful health benefits:
- Excellent source of gelatin and collagen which help reduce inflammation and joint pain.
- A great source of easily absorbable minerals like calcium, phosphorous, potassium, and magnesium.
- Rich in amino acids which are important for a healthy gut and digestion.
- It’s fairly inexpensive, especially since you can reuse the bones and make multiple batches of broth!
You can make bone broth either from chicken bones or beef bones, but we usually have chicken bones on hand so that’s the recipe I’ll share with you. We always save all of our leftover bones, skin, cartilage, and anything else and keep them in a large freezer bag until we’re ready to make a batch. You can also ask your local butcher for bones – our butcher usually throws in a few bags for free with our orders.
The recipe is very forgiving and easy to adapt, so once you’ve got enough bones saved up you’re ready to make some delicious homemade bone broth!
Grab your chicken bones and parts – enough from 1 medium chicken, or about 2 pounds of leftover bones. I have a 4-qt. crock pot, and that’s about all the bones it can take. If you have a larger one, go ahead and add enough bones to fill it about 3/4 of the way up. Throw the bones into your crock pot along with your veggies.
Add filtered water just until you’ve covered everything. Add a good splash (about 1-2 tablespoons) of organic apple cider vinegar. Then, cover the crock pot and let sit for about an hour – this lets the vinegar begin leeching all the minerals out of the bones.
Turn the crock pot on low and let it cook all night/day – about 10-12 hours.
Your house should now smell amazing! Go ahead and remove the bones and veggies using a slotted spoon, then strain your broth by pouring it through a fine mesh strainer. You could also use a cheesecloth or even a coffee filter to get a really clarified broth.
My 4-qt crock pot gives me about 1 quart of broth – on the first batch. Yep, that’s right, we’re going to reuse those bones and make another batch of broth! Just throw the bones back in the slow cooker, add new veggies, top off with water, and start the process all over again!
You can do this as many times as it takes before your bones become crumbly – meaning they are easily crushed between your thumb and forefinger. That’s when you know you’ve extracted every last bit of goodness out of those nutritious bones. I find that I usually get no more than 2 batches out of my bones, but I’ve heard of others getting up to 3 batches of broth! Once you’re done, just discard/compost the bones and veggies.
*You could also use leftover vegetable scraps instead of fresh veggies to help save even more money! Just save your scraps in a freezer bag to have on hand when you’re ready to make a batch.
Storing Your Broth
You can store your homemade bone broth either in freezer bags, freezer-safe mason jars, recycled yogurt tubs, or ice cube trays for easy portions needed for sauces or gravies.
I put mine in a glass measuring cup and keep it in the fridge until it’s cooled down and the fat has risen to the top. I then skim off the fat and store it in the freezer to use as a cooking fat for sautéing/flavoring vegetables. (You can keep and use the fat if, and only if, you’re using good quality bones from ethically raised animals, since toxins tend to store in the fat. Otherwise, just skim the fat layer off and toss it out.)
Then, I store the broth in 2-cup portions in the freezer. It will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days, and in the freezer for up to a year.
I’ve also just gone ahead and poured it into ice cube trays and popped it right into the freezer. The fat still rose to the top, and I was able to just chop it off easily with a knife and save it for later use.
*Some folks also choose to discard the fat completely because there are concerns that it may go rancid after such a long cooking time (over 8 hours). I haven’t found conclusive evidence supporting this, so I just keep it and use it.
What Should Your Broth Look Like?
Once your broth is cooled, it should have a gel-like consistency, and will even jiggle when you shake it. This is a sign of a good, gelatinized broth full of healthy, nutritious gelatin. Don’t worry, once you heat it up it goes right back to its liquid state.
If your broth hasn’t gelled, it’s still good to use, but it just means you either didn’t use enough bones, used too much water, didn’t cook it long enough, or your bones weren’t very good quality (conventionally-raised chickens tend to have very little gelatin in their bones and joints because they’re confined to cages).
How To Use Your Broth
You can use your homemade bone broth just like you would use any broth that you buy at the store. Use it to make soups, in place of water when cooking rice, in sauces and gravies, etc.
But my favorite way to enjoy it, especially during the winter months, is to drink it like a tea. Simply warm it up on the stove, add some sea salt and pepper, and sip a cup of warm, delicious bone broth tea. It’s calming, relaxing, and helps boost immunity, coat the GI tract and aids in digestion as well!
What Is Perpetual Broth?
Alternately, you can also make what’s called perpetual broth, and let the broth cook for up to a week, taking out what you need each day and replacing it with the same amount of water. At the end of the week, you strain off what’s left of the broth and discard/compost the bones.
A Note About The Safety of Crock Pots
Recently, it’s been discovered that the safety of most crock pots is questionable because the metal ones are most likely coated with a non-stick coating that contains dangerous chemicals, and the ceramic ones most likely contain lead, which can leach into the food you’re cooking. For a great post looking at these potential health hazards, check out Priscilla’s post over at SalamMama.com! She recommends a great looking crock pot (pictured at right) that uses a clay insert and contains no aluminum, lead, or non-stick coating – I’m saving up to get this one soon!
Wasn’t that easy? Do you make homemade bone broth? What are your tips for a perfect broth?
Homemade Bone Broth
- Chicken bones skin, cartilage, etc. - enough from 1 medium chicken, or about 2 pounds
- 1 onion cut into wedges
- 1-2 carrots peeled and chopped
- 1-2 celery stalks chopped
- 1-2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- Filtered water
Add the bones and vegetables to the crock pot.
Fill the crock pot with filtered water until bones are just covered.
Add apple cider vinegar, cover, and let sit for one hour.
After an hour has passed, turn the crock pot on low and let it cook for 10-12 hours.
Remove bones and vegetables from crock pot, and strain broth using a fine mesh strainer, cheesecloth, or coffee filter.
Transfer the broth to fridge to cool. Once cooled, the fat will have risen to the top - you can either discard or save it to use as a cooking fat. Store broth in fridge up to 3 days, or in the freezer up to one year.
To make a second batch of broth from the same bones, simply return the bones to the crock pot, fill it with more water, and let it cook again. After the second batch, the bones should be brittle enough to crush easily between your thumb and forefinger.
When finished, discard/compost bones and vegetables.