Bone broth is slow-simmered broth, made with bones. Vegetables and/or vegetable scraps are also sometimes used, as is a shot of vinegar to help leach the minerals from the bones. Bone broth is healthful and frugal.
Why make bone broth? For starters, prepping can be expensive! Being frugal makes prepping easier. Bone broth can be “almost” free to make, from items that you don’t even realize that you have, hence the “Stone Soup” title. Also, bone broth is chock-full of minerals and nutrients, which is always a good thing, but especially so if/when the “balloon goes up”, when staying healthy will be of the utmost importance. It is great for stiff joints, and it is supposed to promote gut wellness. In addition, bone broth is easy to make.
There are online resources that can explain in detail the health benefits, scientific facts, history, and miscellaneous other minutiae regarding bone broth. This article isn’t about that. It’s about my personal experience, and tips for a successful and delicious pot (or two, or ten) of broth. Feel free to search for more information; I encourage you to do so.
Any bones can be used for bone broth. I am particularly fond of using “used bones”. Roasting a turkey? Save the carcass. Grilling chicken legs? Save the bones. Rack of ribs? Yep. I freeze as many bones as I can. I also freeze trimmings from carrots (peels, ends, etc.), onions (skins and all), garlic, and most other veggies. I typically don’t save cruciferous vegetable scraps, though. They are too strongly flavored, and can make your broth bitter. They can be used if you really like them, but I typically don’t.
I also save “wild bones”. We butcher our own game, and I save many of the bones. I usually don’t save the spines of deer, but a large quantity of the animal’s other bones end up in my freezer. Venison and wild turkey stock have made the foundation for some truly gourmet meals in my home. Deer bone broth simmered with rosemary and juniper berries is a delight! Wild turkey noodle soup? Delicious!
The easiest way to start making bone broth is to start saving bones and scraps. I have numerous zip top bags in my freezer with various bones, meats, and vegetable scraps. When they fill up, it’s time to make broth. I also save veggies that are starting to “go south” in the vegetable scrap bag. Nothing spoiled, mind you. But it’s the perfect place for slightly limp vegetables that would otherwise be wasted. When I prepare meals, I save the things most people throw away. My biggest dilemma is deciding which scraps go to the freezer, and which scraps go to the chickens! Bone scraps go into bags by type. I do use bones that may have been chewed, as in rib bones or chicken leg bones. They are frozen and then simmered for many hours at temperatures that kill bacteria, so I feel safe in using them. Use your judgment. It’s up to you. There may come a day when you have no choice. We have never become ill by doing this. If I were canning the broth, I may reconsider this practice, but I don’t usually do so. I occasionally buy pig’s feet (“trotters”) for broth, as they contain lots of gelatin and make the broth really rich and silky. They are also great if you are using the broth for stiff joints. I can get two feet for about a dollar. “They” say that often, you can make friends with a butcher and get them free of charge. I haven’t tried that yet.
There really isn’t a set recipe for bone broth; it’s more of a technique. Obviously, you start with bones. Grass-fed beef bones are spectacular, but if you can’t get them, or more likely can’t afford them, regular grocery store beef bones are fine. “They” say that broth made with conventionally-farmed bones won’t have as many vitamins, but it will have some, and the minerals should be the same. If the animal was able to stand, it had minerals in its bones. Organic free-range chicken bones make spectacular broth, but I’ve made a pretty darn good broth with the bones from take-out chicken. In short, use what you have. It will work, and it will be fine.
So, place some bones in a pot, slow cooker, Dutch oven, etc. I typically use my slow cooker, because it uses very little electricity and requires very little attention once set to cook. Right this minute, I have about 3 pounds of beef marrow bones (two large bones that I purchased) in my 7-quart slow cooker, along with one large onion cut into chunks, some garlic scapes (just because I have them…otherwise I would have added 3-6 garlic cloves), and some celery, including the leaves. I only have the purchased soup bones because they were a really good deal at the grocery store; less than a dollar per pound. Normally, I use bones from roasts I’ve cooked, steaks I’ve grilled, or the like. If I had a bag full of vegetable scraps in the freezer (I normally do, but I used them up earlier today to make fish bone broth and pork bone broth), I would use them instead of the chopped vegetables. I added a shot of white vinegar, maybe two tablespoons. I don’t measure the vinegar, and honestly, sometimes I forget to add it. It still works fine. Vinegar is supposed to help draw out minerals from the bones, and it stands to reason that it should, but the broth will still be delicious and healthful if you don’t use it. I have a few backyard chickens, so sometimes I throw in a few eggshells for the minerals they contain. I turned the slow cooker to the Low setting for 10 hours (the maximum). After about an hour, I will leave the lid slightly ajar, because my cooker runs a little hot. The broth should barely bubble. They say boiling damages the nutrients. I don’t know about that, but it tastes better when it doesn’t boil. Since it is evening, I will reset the slow cooker so it runs all night. I am comfortable doing this; if you are not, only cook this during the day. I normally cook beef bone broth all day AND all night.
Simmer your bone broth for as many hours as you want. Guidelines are anywhere from 2 hours to 72 hours, so obviously your mileage may vary. I typically simmer fish broth for 3-6 hours, chicken for 6-12 hours, pork for 10-20 hours, and beef for 10-30 hours. Taste it frequently, and when it’s really delicious, it’s done. Strain through cheesecloth, if you like. I normally use a wire sieve without cheesecloth. You can strain more than once for perfectly clear broth, but that just seems like a lot of extra work to me. Chill the broth, and remove the layer of fat, if you like. If I use grass-fed beef, pastured pork, or organic chicken, I do not remove the fat. I believe that it is healthy and nutritious, and it’s also quite tasty. If I use bones from conventionally farmed meat, I do remove it. Additionally, I remove any venison fat that occurs, only because I don’t care for the taste.
Use your finished broth for soups and stews. Use it as the cooking liquid for rice or quinoa. Many people just heat it and drink it, with a pinch of sea salt. It’s quite satisfying. One of my favorite ways to use bone broth is to chop leftover meat, veggies, pasta, rice and/or whatever else is available in the refrigerator, put it in bowls, and ladle steaming hot broth over all. Add a squeeze of lime and a dash of hot sauce, and it becomes a “faux” version of Vietnamese Pho, a delicious soup. I’ve made this countless times, especially during fall and winter, and it’s been delightful, and completely different, each time. The cost of this meal? Very little. If you are like me and let your leftovers get away from you on occasion, this is an incredibly satisfying feeling! Something from “nothing”! Stone Soup!
If/when the “Schumer” hits the fan, I plan to continue making bone broth, just in a different way. My solar oven will be an excellent substitute for a slow cooker. I haven’t experimented with winter sun cooking, but I plan to this year. Additionally, my woodstove has a flat top that works well for boiling water, so it should work well for broth with a trivet to keep the pot far enough from the heat for simmering broth. If time permits, I plan to purchase a wood cookstove.
As far as storage, the Chinese have a solution of sorts. They keep a pot on the back burner at all times on the lowest heat. Scraps are tossed into this pot as they occur. It’s a “perpetual” broth. They ladle some out, and add more water, meat, bones, vegetables, etc. Occasionally, the contents of the soup pot are composted, and they start over. From what I’ve read, this yields some amazing broth/soup. No refrigeration necessary! I realize this isn’t the perfect solution, but it will work at least part of the time. Some cooks use a similar method now in a slow cooker. I’m sure with trial and error, this method will work. I hope I’m never forced to find out. Try this method today; you won’t be sorry!