An In-Depth Look at Making Bone Broth

bone broth 101As I mentioned last week, I was recently struck down by a nasty stomach bug and forced to figure out the best way to heal while sticking to my AIP regimen. One of the very first things I did was get a pot of bone broth simmering on the stove. Why you ask? Well, you’re about to find out.

Today I want to give you an in-depth look at one of the world’s simplest and most nourishing foods, bone broth. While many in today’s world are unfamiliar with the world of meat bones, the concept of using bones in cooking has never been foreign to me. Every winter my mom could be found using the bones of our Thanksgiving turkey or a mostly eaten ham to make soup stock. This is commonly thought of as a way to make your grocery dollar stretch, as it means getting many more meals out of one piece of meat than you could if you were only eating the meat itself. However, that is not the only benefit to cooking bones… bone broth is one of the most nutrient dense and healing foods one can consume.

This flavorful liquid is made by boiling the bones of just about any vertebrate, (typically poultry, beef, pork, bison, lamb or fish) in water for anywhere from 12-48 hours depending on the type of bone. Vegetables, herbs and seasonings can be added for flavoring. I typically add sea salt, garlic, bay leaves, onion and carrots. When you’re broth is ready you strain out the bones and vegetables and throw them away and you are left with a beautiful source of liquid gold, filled with valuable minerals and nutrients.

One of the most valuable nutrients found in bone broth is glycine. According to Sarah Ballantyne in her book The Paleo Approach,  “Glycine is a key component of connective tissue “the biological glue” that holds us all together.” Glycine is a primary component of connective tissue and, “ is essential for healing, not only when it comes to gaping wounds but also when it comes to the microscopic damage done to the gut barrier, blood vessels, and other tissues by inflammation, infection, and the dysfunctional immune systems of those with autoimmune disease… glycine is known to regulate both the innate and adaptive immune systems… without adequate glycine, the immune system is more easily activated.”  Over activation of the immune system is part of what leads to the symptoms and discomfort associated with autoimmune conditions such as ulcerative colitis.

While some may be hesitant about the idea of drinking bone broth, it is truly a delicious savory beverage that is really just like drinking soup stock and it is one of the best and most inexpensive things you can do for your health.

cooking bone broth 101After thinking back to my early days of making broth and asking some of my fellow whole food eaters I have tried to compile a list of some of the most common questions people have about making and drinking bone broth, here it goes:

  • How long do I cook my bone broth for? How long you cook your bones has to do with two things. First, your personal preference. How much nutrients do you want to get out of the bones? Are you only using your broth as the base for a soup or are you drinking it as a healing beverage? The longer you cook the bones the more nutrients you will extract from them.  Second, the type of bones you’re using dictate how long they need to be cooked. As a general rule of thumb, beef bones should be cooked for up to 48 hours, chicken or poultry bones for 24 hours and fish bones for 8 hours.
  • Can I use my crock pot? Absolutely! This is my preferred way to cook broth because it is more energy efficient, it doesn’t heat up your kitchen too much, and you can comfortably leave your crock pot on when you go out of the house or to bed, unlike the stove. Just put all of your ingredients in the pot, turn it on low, cover it and leave it alone. (here is the link to a great inexpensive 7qt crock pot)
  • Why is my bone broth gelatinous? Gelatin is largely made up of the amino acid glycine, the primary healing nutrient found in bone broth. When that glycine is extracted from the bones and becomes part of your broth it can cause your broth to gel when cool. Gelled broth is a great indicator that you made some good stuff!
  • My bone broth didn’t gel is it still good? Yes! There are a long of factors that go into whether or not bone broth gels, ranging from the bones you use to the temperature of your stove or crock pot. A lot of people want their broth to gel just for the reassurance, but broth that has been cooked for the recommended amount of time is great for you whether it has gelled or not.
  • Can I skim the fat off of the top? Yes, this is a matter of personal preference. I you are trying to get more fat into your diet than feel free to leave it. However, many people prefer the taste of broth without the fat. To skim the fat, simply let your broth cool and then skim the layer of fat off of the top with a spoon.
  • My broth does not taste good what can I do to make it better? For many, the taste of bone broth is an acquired one. However, once you get used to it is can be comforting and delicious. I like to add some sea salt to mine to make it taste more like soup broth. Other people puree vegetables and add it to their stock to make a thicker more soup-like food. However you prefer it, is just fine!
  • Should I add apple cider vinegar to my broth? The easy answer is sure why not. It is thought that the acidity in the raw apple cider vinegar helps draw the nutrients out of the bones. I usually add about 2 TBS of vinegar to an average sized pot or crock pot full of broth. I don’t think you absolutely need it but apple cider vinegar has so many of its own health benefits that it certainly isn’t hurting anything.
  • Bone broth vs powdered gelatin: A few weeks ago I wrote a post on the benefits of gelatin and suggested the use of Great Lakes grass-fed powdered gelatin. So, some of you may be wondering why you should go through the process of making bone broth when grass-fed  gelatin comes in a can?  Well, while glycine is one of the primary nutrients found in bone broth, other nutrients found in broth include calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. While powdered gelatin can act as a great supplementary way of getting glycine and gelatin into your diet it does not supply those nutrients in the context of a whole food, which may affect absorption, and it does not supply the other valuable nutrients that broth does. I think high quality gelatin in a great thing to incorporate into your diet, but it should not be a substitute for broth.

Now that you have all of the information go find some good quality bones, a big crock pot and some water and get cooking! Healing awaits and it looks like broth! 

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