Bone broth is the new kale in the world of nutrition. Unless you’ve been under a Big Mac, you’ve no doubt heard of the current trend of drinking broth. Whether from chicken or beef, broth is all the rage these days. Celebrities such as Kobe Bryant and Salma Hayek have jumped on the bandwagon, or perhaps gassed up the bandwagon, by stating they drink broth for endurance, stamina, and healthy fat. Bone broth has been called “the new 1,000 year-old trend,” leading to some large cities opening broth restaurants, and even broth K cups are available.
The health benefits of bone broth are both numerous and exaggerated, depending on the source of your information. Bone broth has been prepared by cultures all over the world for centuries. Properly prepared broth is promoted as being abundant in minerals, protein, collagen, and gelatin, thereby assisting the body in healing inflammation, improving digestion, eliminating joint aches and pains, revitalizing skin, hair, and nails, and supporting the immune system. “Jewish penicillin,” as broth has been called, is purported to be an effective remedy for the flu. According to Harvard Health Publications, however, some hailed benefits of bone broth have no scientific backing. The claims of improving joint pain, skin, and digestion have not been substantiated, but there is evidence supporting the belief that broth may reduce inflammation and clear nasal passages, lending support to the claim that chicken soup really is good for a cold; in addition, it’s agreed that broth is a good source of protein. Now, if you’re in the camp that something has to be supported by science before you believe it, then let’s just say you’re at kung fu camp and I’m at music camp!
Here’s what I know about bone broth: it’s absolutely delicious, soothing, and if you make it at home, it’s economical and far better than anything you’ll buy in the store. I saw an America’s Test Kitchen episode where they rated brands of chicken broth, and the host stated that there was little real chicken flavor in any of the broths he tasted. The co-host, who had examined how each company made the broths, responded by saying, “Well, let’s just say a chicken may have walked BY the pot.” If you read the ingredients on a broth label, look at how many say, “chicken flavor.” What is that exactly? Who knows, and we probably don’t want to know. Many commercial stocks also add sugar, MSG, and artificial colorings or flavorings, and those are not things you want in your broth. Making broth is really easy and will freeze well. You will be well rewarded for your efforts with rich, delicious broth to use in soups, stews, or for just plain drinking.
It’s important to use meat and bones from grass-fed or pasture-raised animals. CAFO (Confined Animal Feeding Operation) animals are given hormones, steroids, antibiotics, and GMO feed, which end up in the animals’ tissue and muscle. Since you are extracting the minerals and gelatin from the bones, you want to start with a healthy animal! If you use CAFO meat and bones, you may end up with toxins you don’t want and less gelatin in your broth. If you’re going to the trouble of making it, you want the most nutritious, best-tasting broth possible!
The broth freezes wonderfully. I freeze it in both mason jars and large silicone cubes. I like having the quart jars frozen because I can pull them out and thaw when I need a large quantity for soup. Freezing them in the cubes is ideal for when you don’t need a large quantity and want just a cup or so to drink or to add to a dish. Each cube holds approximately ½ cup of liquid. These cubes are fantastic for freezing any kind of sauce, broth, soup, or beans, and my freezer is full of frozen cubes of all kind. They thaw really quickly, so if you realize you forgot to thaw your jar of broth ahead of time, you can still thaw your cubes in time for dinner!
A couple ingredients in the recipe may be unfamiliar. Those ingredients are chicken feet and kombu. Yes, chicken feet. Yes, they are freaky looking, and if you have some around, they can double as Halloween props! Chicken feet have high amounts gelatin and will add a richness to your broth. They can be hard to find, though, unless you have a local farmer who has them. My farmer sells them, and they’re already cleaned and ready to go, but available only in 10 pound bags. I put 4 or 5 in a zipper lock freezer bag and pull out a bag of them when I’m making broth. My farmer tells me that the local chefs buy them frequently and use the whole 10 lbs. at a time in their broths. If you can’t find them, no worries; you can still make wonderful, nutritious stock. The kombu is abundant in trace minerals and iodine, which aid in thyroid function and digestion. It can be easily found online or in the Asian section of most grocery stores. Both are optional, but are definitely nutritious add-ins if you can find them.
For the beef broth recipe, click here.
- 2 whole chickens
- 4 chicken feet (optional)
- 1 bunch celery, quartered
- 10 carrots, quartered
- 2 onions, quartered
- ½ tsp. peppercorns
- 10 sprigs fresh thyme
- 8 allspice berries
- 1 head of garlic, unpeeled and cut in half
- 1 bunch fresh parsley
- 1 sheet of kombu (optional)
- 9 quarts water
- 2 Tbsp. kosher salt
- 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar or fresh lemon juice
- Combine all ingredients in a 16 quart or larger stock pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Skim off any foam that may rise to the top. Continue to simmer, uncovered, for 6-8 hours. When cool enough to handle, strain broth through a strainer into a large bowl and then use a ladle to transfer broth into jars or cubes. Place glass jars in the frig to cool overnight before transferring to the freezer. If using silicone cubes, place cubes directly into the freezer. Once frozen, remove cubes and place in zipper bags for storage and return to freezer. (Tip: let frozen silicone cube containers sit on the counter for a minute before trying to remove frozen cubes. It's MUCH easier!)