You may not think of broth as anything more than a flavored source of liquid for cooking, but in fact, when prepared properly, broth adds a whole lot of goodness into your diet, acting as a super-efficient, super-delicious nutrient delivery system. From the vitamin and mineral content to the gelatin and collagen that’s released from the bones, broth is a veritable nutrition powerhouse. It boasts a number of health benefits, including improving hair, skin, and nails, support for the digestive tract, enhanced immune function, hormonal support, bone and joint health, and increased overall vitality. In my Chicken Soup for the Sick post, I share a bit about the benefits of bone broth when you’re not feeling well, but this post is more comprehensive in explaining why bone broth is important for your overall health. (Well-care, not just sick-care.)**
I love to use my own homemade broth as often as possible, so I make a LOT of it at a time. Whether I’m sipping it in a warmed coffee cup first thing in the morning or adding it to a soup, stew, or pan of veggies, I try to get it in every day. Although I’ve been making my own broth for years, drinking it every single day is something relatively new for me, and so far, I can say that I’ve already noticed a difference in my skin. We’ll see what else comes about over the course of the next few months…
By the way, do you know the difference between stock and broth? I used to think that one used bones and one used meat, but it turns out the difference is simply that one is seasoned and one is not. Basically, broth=stock+seasoning, and both are made with bones. Of course, there’s no harm in leaving the bits of meat that are stuck to the bones or using a whole chicken and fishing out the meat for another meal. While I don’t think this distinction is particularly important in general, I mention it so that we can all speak with authority on the matter going forward! If you want a more versatile base, leave the seasonings out until it’s time to add the stock into a particular dish, and season accordingly. The recipe I’m going to share is only seasoned with REAL salt and fresh parsley from the garden, so technically that puts it in the broth category.
Why make your own?
Making your own broth or stock is not complicated. It requires no measuring, no precision, and no peeling — in fact, no peeling is the preference — there are tons of great nutrients right in the skin of the veggies. All you do is throw everything in. Don’t peel the onions, garlic, or carrots. Don’t chop the leaves off the celery. Throw all of it into the pot. You don’t even have to cut them up if you really don’t want to, just break the carrots and celery in half, and throw in whole cloves of garlic. You might want to slice the onions in half, but that’s it!
There are both health reasons and culinary reasons why making your own broth is far superior to buying it in a can:
- control over the ingredients (this should really count as 5 separate reasons — organic veggies, filtered or good-quality water, organic/pastured meats, type and amount of salt used, no preservatives)
- amount of time it spends cooking
- greater level of nutrient extraction (related to #1 and #2)
The only limiting factor in broth-making is the size of your pot. For me, it’s go big or go home — if I’m going to make broth, I’m going to make a nice big batch and freeze it. Generally, I just collect the bones from our meals, and once I have a couple of freezer bags full, I know it’s time to make another pot of broth. (You could also buy a cooked chicken from the market, strip the meat for chicken salad or soup, and throw the carcass in). Making fish broth is also an option, although I prefer to cook with it more than I prefer to sip it. I’ve made it with fish heads and crab shells before with great success!
I am a self-admitted overly aggressive jar collector, so I have the resources to make large batches to store. If you don’t have jars to freeze your broth, you might want to go get some. I like 16 and 32 oz jars, depending on how I plan to use the broth. But please please be careful when freezing your broth — leave a couple of inches of room for the liquid to expand, and maybe even leave the tops off in the freezer over night if you have enough space for that. I’ve had jars break in my freezer because I didn’t pay attention to this crucial detail, and things got messy (and I wasted some home-made broth, which made me very sad).
Bang for your Buck:
If you’ve ever roasted a chicken (or purchased an already roasted chicken from the grocery store) and then let it sit in the refrigerator, you may have noticed the gelatinous pools that collect in the tray. These pools of goodness represent the stuff of life. Gelatin is leached from the bones of the animal during the cooking process and provides us with:
- key amino acids that help with muscle development
- minerals for bone and joint health and proper metabolic function
- collagen, often sold as a beauty product to reduce fine lines and wrinkles and improve cell health
- all those great things I listed at the beginning of this post
The best way to ensure that your broth is going to be full of gelatin is to add a few splashes of raw apple cider vinegar or the juice of a whole lemon into the water. The acid will leach all the good stuff from the bones. When you make your own broth, it will thicken up in the fridge the way Jell-o does. Nothing you buy in the store is going to do that.
Veggies are technically optional in bone broth-making, but it’s my opinion that if you’re going to go to the trouble to do this yourself, it might as well taste fantastic. Onion, garlic, celery, and carrots are a great place to start. They have a host of benefits on their own, and because you have control over the quality and cook time, you can ensure that you’re getting the most of those veggies. Taste-wise, these ingredients (or some slight variation) are the basic building blocks of nearly all cuisine, creating the first layer of flavor for most pot dishes. Nutrition-wise, these ingredients provide:
- Beta carotene
- B vitamins
- vitamin A
- phytonutrients (especially potent if you pick them from your back yard garden)
The type of salt you use is another controllable detail with homemade broth that is not so with what you get in a can. Sea salt and REAL salt contain far more trace minerals that help with hydration and general mineral balance in the blood than regular table salt, which is simply NaCl (Sodium Chloride). In fact, some argue that these types of salts aren’t implicated in hypertension the way regular table salt is, and that a deficiency in these salts contribute to heart disease and various other physiological malfunctions. These more complex salts taste better too.
Making your own broth means choosing your own seasonings and avoiding weird additives like MSG, thickeners, and “natural flavors” (which usually means something soy- or corn-based, and very likely GMO). The recipe I’m sharing only includes salt and fresh parsley as seasoning. I chose to add in parsley mostly because it’s plentiful in my backyard, but also because parsley is a fantastic super food. It boasts a rich vitamin and antioxidant profile and helps mitigate inflammation, balance blood sugar, and improve immune function.
It’s more accurate to call this a set of instructions than a recipe. Basically, you throw everything into either your large slow cooker or your biggest stock pot, and fill it up with filtered water. Here you see three large carrots, 2 small yellow onions, 1/2 a bulb of garlic, 7 or 8 small celery stalks from the garden, a giant bunch of parsley, and 2 freezer bags of chicken and turkey bones. I chopped nothing but the onions in half and thoroughly scrubbed the dirt off of the carrots. I threw more parsley in about 30 minutes before I turned off the fire to enhance the flavor and add in even more beneficial micronutrients.
Once the pot is filled, add in a few splashes of raw apple cider vinegar and about a tablespoon of either sea salt or REAL salt.
Let that sit for about 30 minutes before you turn on the heat.
Turn the stove or slow cooker on low, and let simmer for anywhere between 8 and 24 hours. If you’re uncomfortable leaving your stove top on unattended, a slow cooker might be better for you, as there’s no reason for you to be in the kitchen during this process. I usually set this up on low heat, go to sleep and work the next day, and take it off the fire when I get home. If you see a weird film on the top, skim it off with a spoon or your small strainer.
Once it cools as bit, use a slotted spoon or strainer of some kind to fish everything out until you’re just left with the broth. Or you can pour the broth through the strainer into the jars. I use a tiny one that works quite well.
Store it in jars in the freezer until you’re ready to use it.
Sometimes for a recipe like this one, it’s easier to have everything listed out in bullet points in a simple, one-sheet guide. Lucky for you I have just the thing!
**to learn more about the health benefits of broth and traditional ways of eating, check out the Weston A. Price foundation.